Here we go again: Ridley Scott’s Exodus and “accuracy”

Longtime readers of this blog will know that I’m no fan of the expression “biblically accurate”. It’s not that I don’t like analyzing biblical and historical epics to see where they deviate from their source material; I do that sort of thing all the time. Rather, the problem is the way that phrase has been turned into a weapon, signifying little more than whether or not a movie has earned the approval of the person who uses that phrase.

Just in the past year and a half, we have seen people call The Bible and its big-screen spin-off Son of Godbiblically accurate” even though that miniseries was full of embellishments and got many details wrong, and we have also seen people condemn Noah for its alleged lack of accuracy even though it tackled lots of obscure biblical details that many people never think about. One film was “accurate” because it gave the audience what it wanted, and the other wasn’t because it didn’t.

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Do Bible movies need to be “accurate” or “exciting”?

Last summer, Mark Burnett, producer of the upcoming mini-series The Bible, made a surprisingly candid remark at an event called the Family Entertainment and Faith-Based Summit. Speaking of his passion for the subject matter and emphasizing that The Bible was more to him than just another TV project (his other shows include Survivor and Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?), he said: “I couldn’t give a shit about the business model. This was about love and faith.”

Needless to say, he hasn’t said anything quite that frank in the last few weeks, as he and his wife, co-producer Roma Downey, have made the rounds to promote the mini-series to religious groups. But I sometimes wish he would, just to shake things up a bit. Instead, we get utterly predictable interviews like the one that appeared on the Canadian TV show 100 Huntley Street last week (full disclosure: I worked at 100 Huntley Street for a month back in the summer of ’85).

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