Memo to Hollywood execs: Visit more Hispanic churches

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By now, many dedicated bloggers who are following news developments about “The Passion of the Christ” have seen the acidic Steve Martin memo from the New Yorker, pretending to offer advice on tweaking Mel Gibson’s screenplay.

It’s nasty, but hilarious, with this chatty opening: “Dear Mel, We love, love the script! The ending works great. You’ll be getting a call from us to start negotiations for the book rights. Love the Jesus character. So likable. He can’t seem to catch a break!”

And then there is this memorable series of bullets:

* Love the flaying.

* Could the rabbis be Hispanic? There’s lots of hot Latino actors now, could give us a little zing at the box office. Research says there’s some historical justification for it.

* Possible title change: “Lethal Passion.” Kinda works. The more I say it out loud, the more I like it.

But one of those chuckles probably isn’t very funny for Hollywood insiders and the entertainment-industry wing of the Democratic Party. Everyone (even the New York Times) knows that Gibson has a smash out there in Red-State Pews and that Hollywood is having to rethink the future of biblical epics and faith-friendly films. But what is slowly sinking in is that this blockbuster is knocking down some high walls in American culture.

Take, for example, the divide between the Hispanic audience and suburban Protestants. The Los Angeles Weekly headlined this phenomenon: “The Republicans’ Passion Play — GOP knows Mel’s movie is la bomba for Latinos.”

In fact, according to exit polls:

… The Passion of the Christ is attracting a gargantuan 40 percent Latino audience in the cities tested. Until now, there has been only anecdotal evidence that Latinos, as well as Asians and African-Americans, are flocking to the film. The research shows that Latinos are rating Passion higher than does any other ethnic group, and 76 percent say theyre inclined to pay to see the movie again. Not only do 86 percent of Latinos say the film is excellent, but 80 percent say the movie is better than they expected. And while a whopping percentage of the overall audience say they would definitely recommend it, that figure among Latinos is a startling 91 percent.

Now this trend is probably not a shock to veteran God-beat reporters who have walked through the doors of Roman Catholic sanctuaries in Hispanic neighborhoods. Stunningly literal images of the Stations of the Cross are the norm and the prayers of the Rosary are recited far more often than in the typical Anglo parish. Suffice it to say that most Hispanics will recognize that the Rosary provides the central structure of Gibson’s film, even if most film critics and journalists did not.

What are the political implications of all this? Reporter Nikki Finke continues:

So here’s Mel, not just pulling in Latinos but even Latino families. He did what no one else has been able to. Frankly, it never occurred to the godless Hollywood liberals — as the folks at Fox News Network and wacko right-wing Web sites refer to us — to use religion as bait for Latinos. And it never occurred to the Democratic Party, pal of most Hollywood filmmakers, to embrace Gibson or his movie. Big mistake. Huge!

And the Hispanics are not alone. Research indicates that African-Americans and Asians are highly pro-Passion. Thus:

In one fell swoop, Republicans established a strong bond with the most religious members of those ethnic groups who are supposed to vote Democratic. … Is that enough for Bible-thumping Latinos, African-Americans and Asians to change political sides? It may not matter: Just having made such a significant inroad could be enough for conservatives to build on in the future since Latinos are expected to grow to 14 percent of the nations population in 2010, and half of that population is younger than age 26, and 40 percent is under 18.

P.S. Mr./Ms. noname is back!

interesting also that the democrats during the last dnc attempted to attract young latino voters by hosting a big bash for latinos at the playboy mansion. this was an embarrasment to gore and ultimately to clinton who had just been through the monica lewinsky scandal and the bash was later called off.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • noname

    interesting also that the democrats during the last dnc attempted to attract young latino voters by hosting a big bash for latinos at the playboy mansion. this was an embarrasment to gore and ultimately to clinton who had just been through the monica lewinsky scandal and the bash was later called off.

  • Anonymous

    That’s so true!

    Another great Christian movie, if you’re interested is ‘GONE’

    [url=http://www.GoneThefilm.com

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