I got into the business of writing film reviews partly to combat the only kind of “Christian perspective on film” available to me at the time … and that narrow, judgemental, overly legalistic, and hypocritical style is best manifested by the movie reviews at Movieguide.
Most of you who have read my rants and raves over the years know my pet peeves with Movieguide. I have, in fact, been trying to go forward as though they don’t exist, focusing on the brighter side of Christian engagement with the arts. But in order to do my job well as a columnist on the subject of faith, art, and culture, I cannot ignore their ongoing high-visibility activities (along with the activities of many other Christian press review sites).
I nearly choked on my cold cereal when I came across this week’s latest missive from Movieguide’s head honcho Ted Baehr. It’s worth reading if only for how beautifully it sums up the problem there.
Notice: It’s an article by Ted Baehr, referring to Ted Baehr in the third person, and quoting Ted Baehr as a figure of authority.
This sums up my primary peeves with this kind of Christian media. Remember, this is the same fellow who publishes his work under a banner that says “The Standard By Which Other Reviews Are Measured!” (Wow. Christian humility at its finest.)
This appears just a few weeks after Baehr took credit for a decline in teen sex, implying that his movie reviews have made the difference.
An online friend of mine, after reading the linked article above, observes, “Here’s another thing: If Kinsey’s $9mil earnings versus estimated $11mil budget is “pitiful,” what does that make Gods and Generals $12mil earnings versus estimated $56mil budget? (Using IMDB for source)”
Good point. If Baehr insists on judging movies by their financial failures, why doesn’t he hold the same standard to movies he was paid to promote … like Gods and Generals? Baehr promoted G&G with rave reviews … while collecting money from the sales of a book he’d written promoting the film, and refusing to admit there was a conflict of interest there.
When other Christian film critics found fault with the movie, he bashed them as being disloyal to the faith.
This is standard Movieguide practice: to praise their own products above and beyond those that they claim to be “reviewing.” Oh, and of course, when they’re criticized by other film review magazines, they answer by both denying that they are “film reviewers” at all, AND criticizing those other magazines for being “un-Christian” by competing with Movieguide. The contradictions and unprofessional behaviors there just boggle the mind.
I’ve received several emails over the years from former Movieguide reviewers who testify that their reviews were changed by Baehr before they were published, to reflect Baehr’s opinion of the film instead of their own, and yet their own names were still attached to the reviews. And that just scratches the surface.
For more on the spectacular antics of Movieguide, read Tim Willson’s “Movieguide Meltdown” at Looking Closer in the Articles section. Otherwise, you can join me in being thankful that the last five years have seen the rise of a whole new family of Christian film critics devoted to treating film as art, devoted to discussing and exploring it instead of judging it by a checklist of select ingredients and condemning it.
Of course, you have to take what I say with a grain of salt. After all, a few years back, when I appeared on Dick Staub’s radio talk show to discuss meaning at the movies, Baehr came on right after me and accused me and my colleagues of “not reading our Bibles” and “being blinded by the glitter of Hollywood.”