The Passion of the Christ inspired speculation—in Christian and mainstream media—that things might be changing for Christians in Hollywood. Some used stronger language, declaring that the gate of Hollywood were swinging open wide for faith-focused filmmakers. Some Christians began to speak with an Obama-level fever for CHANGE in Hollywood.
So, here we are a few years later. What have we seen happen?
We’ve debated the merits of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Bella, and Facing the Giants. We’ve noted powerful figures of faith in movies from non-Christian filmmakers (best example: Sophie Scholl). We’ve pondered whether Expelled should be described as a “Christian movie.” And we’ve observed the subtle de-emphasizing of C.S. Lewis’s Christian convictions in both Narnia films.
We’ve seen a bunch of films from Walden Media, heralded as a promising surge of “family friendly” filmmaking, but criticized for consistent mediocrity.
We’ve seen a growing crowd of Christian film critics offer a wide range of perspectives on box office hits. More and more began recommending ways in which Christians can cleverly engage the culture with art and entertainment. Some dug in their heels and stuck to their “We must clean up Hollywood!” speaking points. They praised movies that blatantly glorify Christianity and America, and condemned those that portray sinful Christians or misguided Americans.
One organization went so far as to declare an intention to eliminate all R-rated, and even PG-13-rated “content.” And yet, many argue that artists are working in an R-rated world, and that meaningful art will often reflect R-rated realities.
Some argued that the box office success of G-rated family fare should point us in the right direction. Others answered that box office success and excellence have very little in common, and that money should not have much influence over the decisions of artists… especially those who are creative in the name of Christ. And other Christians in the industry just kept doing their jobs, striving for excellence on whatever movie they’d been hired to craft.
There’s been a lot of talk. A lot of activity. But do you think that The Passion really improved things? Or did it just spark increasingly divisive debates? Has it prompted a more volatile “culture war,” or a fruitful cultural dialogue? (Or both?) What difference, ultimately, did it make?
Those are some of the questions I’ll be discussing with Dick Staub and others at a live edition of The Kindlings Muse tomorrow night. But I’m interested in your thoughts:
- Did The Passion really open the door for good things?
- Or has all the sound and fury represented what is really just more of the same?
- Or are things worse all around?
Bonus questions: Are you hoping things will change at the movies? What kind of change are you hoping for? A “cleaner” big screen? More “religious” filmmaking, and if so, what kind? More documentaries representing different worldviews? What movie would you hold up as an example that could inspire Christians in filmmaking to bring us better movies in the future?
Your thoughtful reply might end up on tomorrow night’s live show.