Faith offending?

team-america-photoThe Los Angeles Times had an interesting feature recently. It’s a look at the 13 of the most “faith-offending films.” Reporters Patrick Kevin Day and Jevon Phillips write:

Hollywood and organized religion seem to be in a perpetual game of whack-a-mole. Just when the ire generated by one film has died down, anger from a different denomination flames up for a different studio.

In 2007, Catholic groups were up in arms over New Line Cinema’s “The Golden Compass.” By late spring of 2008, it was a Hindu group battling Paramount pictures over the perceived slighting of the Hindu faith in the Mike Myers comedy “The Love Guru.”

Meanwhile, “Falling,” the first post-Mormon film from writer-director Richard Dutcher, faced an uncertain reception from the community that once embraced his films.

“Falling,” “The Golden Compass” and “The Love Guru” are far from the first films to be greeted with stern disapproval from the faithful. In fact, just about every world religion has been up in arms over a movie. Here are some of them.

The other films they look at include “Angels and Demons,” “The Da Vinci Code,” “The Passion of the Christ,” “September Dawn,” and “Bowfinger.” I really enjoyed Bowfinger but I can see why some Scientologists didn’t.

For each film, the reporters explain which religious group was offended and why. So, for instance, it says that Jews were offended by “The Passion of the Christ.” And yes, this approach tends to treat each religious group as monolithic in its response to movies. But that’s not why I highlight it here.

The list also included “Team America: World Police” and “Tropic Thunder.”

I have seen both of those films. I loved the former (never has a movie so perfectly encapsulated my foreign policy views) and enjoyed the latter. There is really no religion in either of them.

So which religious group do the reporters say was offended? Here’s “Team America’s“:

Who was offended? Lots of red-blooded Americans, least of all a certain Mr. Sean Penn

What was their beef? Trey Parker and Matt Stone are known as rabble-rousers, but even with their “South Park” antics, their over-the-top portrayal of war, dictators, puppet sex and some people’s indifference toward voting — especially so soon after 9/11 — raised the ire of the noted Hollywood activist and others.

Um, first of all, I don’t think the movie was known for offending red-blooded Americans, whatever that means. At the very least it’s debatable — I just heard a crowd singing the anthem from Team America (the title of which isn’t fitting for a family web site) on the 4th of July — it’s post-ironically patriotic. Secondly, and most importantly, red-blooded American is not a religion!

And what about “Tropic Thunder“?:

Who was offended? Disability groups.

What was their beef? It was supposed to be a fake war that turned into a real one in the movie, and off screen. One speech, or one word really, stirred up a storm of protests by advocates of people with disabilities. “Retard” was bad enough, but it was followed by “moron,” “imbecile” and “dumb.”

While some disability groups did indeed protest the film, it must be said that “disability groups” is not a religion either.

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  • FrGregACCA

    Secondly, and most importantly, red-blooded American is not a religion


    Civil religion?

  • Theresa K

    The writer could have chosen “Most Offending Films”, since faith isn’t the focus of the article , but then the article would have become a book. Nearly any film, esp a good one, is offensive to someone.

  • Jettboy

    They picked “Falling” as an example of Mormon disfavor? Seriously, that one? Why? When Dutcher left the faith this production fell off the radar. Not only am I not clear if it has even been released yet, but not one word has been spoken about this in any Mormon gossip circles or official channels. According to this reporter a falling tree with no one around does make a sound.

    A better example would be “November Dawn,” about the infamous Mountain Meadows Massacre, that did draw some negative response. Then again, it was widely panned by movie critics as offensive to anyone without a particular bias. I just don’t understand the motive of the reporter for this article or if its just plain deadline laziness.

  • Deacon Michael D. Harmon

    Mollie: You were in a public place and a crowd was singing the Team America anthem? Who? Where? When? (Not to forget Why? What? and How?).

    Fascinatedly yours,

    Dcn. Mike

  • Martha

    *dons tinfoil hat and prepares to be mooniest of moonbats*

    “While some disability groups did indeed protest the film, it must be said that “disability groups” is not a religion either.”

    Maybe it’s a trend – as per this site’s post on bioethics and the views of Peter Singer on disability and healthcare rationing – to see all “equality of life” issues as religious.

    Thus, opposition to embryonic stem cell research can be turned into a simple dualism of ‘religion versus science’ and the administration can say it will make policy decisions based on science (which is factual and objective and neutral, rather than icky feelings-based religion which would force us all to wear burqas and have twenty children each).

    And so advocating for the disabled can be included in ‘religion’ because it’s not ‘scientific’ to say disabled people are equal to able-bodied people. And so anything which moves us along the path of aborting before, and euthanising after, the birth of those with disabilities is science, and any objections are religion, and science trumps religion.

    *doffs tinfoil hat*

    Well, how was that for a conspiracy worldview?

  • Davis

    My guess is they were trying to include films that offended mainline protestants and religious liberals. Since this isn’t a group that spends a lot of time churning out press releases of indignation in the name of religion, they had to stretch things.

  • Jerry

    Hollywood and organized religion seem to be in a perpetual game of whack-a-mole. Just when the ire generated by one film has died down, anger from a different denomination flames up for a different studio.

    That’s nice, emotion inducing couple of sentences but it’s not accurate. Sure there are cases where some film offends someone but people can find movies that are very religion friendly. For a recent example, a lot of religious groups are very happy with the morals in the Harry Potter movies because they depict good versus evil in a very clear way.

    So more balanced stories would present not a battle between the movie industry and religion but a more complete and complex picture of how the two interact.

  • Julia

    Maybe the very fact that disabled people are allowed to exist is considered a religious concept. That and the religious requirement to be “nice” and not call people names.

    “Red blooded American” conotates a he-man very different from Sean Penn. He’s been charged a number of times with domestic abuse and other physical assaults. Wikipedia lists no religious affiliation. Can’t see as how he represents religious sensibilities.

  • Robert

    I agree that people with disabilities are impossible to quantify as a “faith”, but “red-blooded Americans” does have its logic:
    Red-blooded Americans = Red-state Americans = Bible-belt Americans = Southern Baptists and other ultra-conservative evangelicals.

  • Mollie

    Sure — but the example they provide is of Sean Penn . . . so the logic fails there.

  • Peggy

    Funny that you highlighted “Team America.” The huz and I went to his company’s Christmas party last Dec. It is a defense contractor at an AFB. So, he worked with lots of retired/former military guys. There was open Christianity and prayer before dinner–more evangelical, not Catholic, though the native population of our metro area is more Catholic as are we. An 50 y-o evangelical man did not appreciate the humour of “Team America” mocking “Rent” when I brought it up. Others who saw the film laughed. Whoops! Not funny to him. So, I don’t expect that man to check out that film.