Ted Baehr on Ted Baehr on Ted Baehr

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.

Here’s the latest article by Ted Baehr.

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.”

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  • BethR

    Maybe Moonves missed the tanking of “Tru Calling,” another show about a teen who could see dead people? Not impressed.

  • mark

    Speaking as someone who admittedly doesn’t understand the ethics of your profession I found very little difference in the way Tim Wilson attacked Ted from the way Ted attacked Tim. Other than, of course, Tim can writes at something above the Junior High level. Speaking strictly for myself and about myself, I don’t care if the reviewer (advocate) is taking money secretly or publicly. I will listen to his reviews if they make sense and will look elsewhere if they don’t. I’m funny that way.

  • Anonymous

    Well, it’s not an article, it’s a press release, and it is appropriate to refer to oneself in the third person in a press release. The idea, of course, is that newspapers will pick up the release and run it with as little rewriting as possible.

    Of course, loading up a press release with hubris (“Christian movie expert,” “in spite of Baehr’s urgent pleas,” “DR. Baehr” [it’s a JD degree, right?]) and loaded terms like “vile” and “pathetic” would seem to predestine the release for the bottom of the trash can.

    Those are the problems here, not so much the fact that he refers to himself in the third person.

    Thinking of movies in terms of shareholder value is an interesting approach. Of course, there are lots of very successful films that Baehr would find “abhorrent” (Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom, anyone?).

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Like I said … my job requires me to monitor things published by Christians in the media. Thus, it’s pretty difficult to *ignore* Baehr. In fact, since he’s so outspoken, I *need* to include him in my thoughts and responses to fairly represent what’s going on in Christian media and culture.

    Secondly, you’re right… there is a difference between printing my own name at the front of an official Web site representing my publications (something that Baehr rightly does as well) and writing an article about myself, quoting myself, and identifying myself as an authority figure. If I *ever* cross that line, just shoot me.

  • Anonymous

    I dunno … seems to me there’s a fair amount of third-person references to Jeffrey on your own Web site.

    (But none as egregious as Baehr’s. I can see the difference, but I’m not sure I would give someone like Baehr any excuse to call me a hypocrite.)

    Have you ever had any dialogue with the guy? It seems he’s more successful at ignoring you than you are at ignoring him.

  • Jeremy Landes

    After reading Ted’s article, I found it so ridiculous that I found it difficult to believe that he wrote it himself. Seemed like it was written very poorly by a college intern ghost writer. Or does this fall in line with more examples of his writing? I enjoy your blog very much.

  • mark

    I would never accuse you of not reading your Bible or being blinded by the glitter of Hollywood; however after reading your letter to those people who liked the passion, and your discourse here on Ted and those like him, I don’t think there is a straw man anywhere who can go 10 rounds with you.