Christians and The Oscars
My son writes and plays his own music. He’s also an illustrator and cartoonist. He shows great potential as a writer, and also won the ‘Best Actor’ award in a local inter high school drama festival. I asked him recently if he had prayed about and considered attending film school. I was thinking that a set of gifts like that would lend itself well to film where these gifts all often come together. His response was negative. Not because he didn’t have the desire, but because he has a negative view of what Hollywood represents.
What does Hollywood represent? I have often thought it ironic that some in Hollywood attack the Christian right for being so conservative, and yet are sympathetic to Islamic extremists. Those in Hollywood seem to think that the extremists dislike us (legitimately) because of our bad politics. What I believe is ironic is that the actual reason extremists hate America is because they see us as Hollywood often represents us: as completely secular, atheistic, immoral and as promoters of immorality. The battle between ‘terror’ and ‘the war on terror’ as seen by a suicide bomber is not a political battle, but a battle between the godly and the godless.
I don’t believe that the majority of us in North America are as secular, as atheistic, and as immoral as we are perceived to be, or as Hollywood sometimes paints us to be. Unfortunately, there are many in Hollywood who are this way, and they often use the stage they’re given to try and make the rest of us fall in line.
Last year (2009), the controversy between the right and the left at the Oscars was huge. People protested the Oscars because of the movies that were nominated and what they saw as the movie’s messages. Controversy was stirred up when during the awards broadcast, Shawn Penn—who won Best Actor for his portrayal of a murdered homosexual activist in the movie MILK—belittled California voters for supporting the real definition of marriage. Then controversy was stirred up again when an Oscar was given to Kate Winslet for playing an illiterate escaped Nazi war criminal and pedophile that seduces a 15-year-old boy. And once again when actress Marisa Tomei, who plays a stripper in THE WRESTLER, was applauded for showing that “a stripper doesn’t have to lose her dignity when taking off her clothes”. Later in the show, it didn’t help matters when Bill Maher railed against religion saying, “Someday we’ll have to confront the notion that our silly gods cost the world too greatly.”
Christian and Muslim fundamentalists would have agreed together to turn the show off at this point.
So what do we do? Protest the Oscars? Boycott it and watch a rerun of ‘Extreme Home Makeover’ instead? Perhaps we should stop going to their movies and start ‘Christianwood’? Actually, I think the solution is quite simple and as a group we’ve already been silently implementing it for years.
The bottom line in Hollywood is the bottom line. In 2009 there were big fears that the movie industry would be affected by the economy and the credit crunch. Everyone started to tighten their belts. Whenever the black “money-loss-monster” rears its head, the studios are gripped with a sudden desire to only make movies that they know will make money. Our strategy has been a simple one. Since the love of money is the root of all evil, we need to starve that root and only buy tickets to movies we can—or somewhat can—support morally.
When you compare the money made from four movies released in the same year, it appears that our message is in the money and Hollywood is getting our message. The worldwide take for Maher’s ‘Religulous’ stands at only $13.6 million and Milk’s is at $54.4 million. Whereas ‘Prince Caspian’ has grossed $419.6 million and even the low-budget ($500,000) ‘Fireproof’ has taken in $33.4 million to date.
I don’t know if it’s a money-coincidence or not, but there’s far fewer extremely controversial films lined up for this years Oscars then there were for last year. Movies in production with Christian and/or family values are apparently on the increase.
Even the Oscars respond to the bottom line. In 2008, the viewership for the award show fell to a record low. It was concluded by many in Hollywood that the reason for this was simple. There seemed to be no correlation between movies that we the people saw and loved, and the ones that were nominated for best picture. Who wants to watch an award show about a bunch of movies you have no interest in and/or you can’t agree with because of its message or content? Many have speculated that this is the reason why the Academy expanded the best picture category to include ten nominees.
Here are the top ten:
Avatar, The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, The Hurt Locker, Inglorious Basterds, Up, Precious, A Serious Man and Up in the Air.
I remember past years when I hadn’t seen and/or wouldn’t see any of the films nominated for best picture. This year I’ve seen Up and Avatar and I’m planning on seeing the Blind Side… three out of ten. Here’s a link to a blog on a Christian movie review site that gives you a synopsis of each of the ten nominees from a Christian perspective.
There were obviously no movies in Bible times, but there was theater and Jesus made reference to it when he used the word ‘hypocrite’. The greek word for hypocrite denotes someone acting out the part of a character in a play. In Greek theater, the actors held masks, painted to be the character they were playing the part of, over their faces. When Jesus used the word hypocrite he was comparing wicked people, who pretend to be religious, with actors.
When we as Christians watch movies that our consciences tell us we shouldn’t watch, we join Hollywood not only by supporting them with our dollars and helping them misrepresent us to the world, but also by joining the ranks of the actors, professing our Faith but not living it.
I’ll be watching the Oscars this Sunday with my son when he gets back from the play he’s performing in. He may, or may not, join the many talented people in helping to change what Hollywood represents. But for now, we are both looking forward to seeing Sunday night’s results. I’m also looking forward to seeing what Hollywood will look like if we keep voting with our ticket and movie purchases. Perhaps the world, who is watching us through the eyes of Hollywood’s offerings, will one day get a better idea of who most of us are.
If you want to see all the nominations for the major categories of this years Oscars, click through to this video.