Reader mailstrom, 8/15: “Learn to Think Critically” about “There Will Be Blood”

Welcome to Reader Mailstrom, a chronicle of stand-outs from the daily maelstrom of Looking Closer email. Most of these letters are real. Some of them are amalgams of a variety of messages. Some of them are what I read between the lines of the things readers really wrote.


In response to my review of There Will Be Blood:

You have a staggering misconception about the world around you if you can watch a movie like There Will Be Blood and not see it as a critique of your faith. If you have not read the book Oil!, work that it is based on, then you should probably do so before making wild conjectures about the similarity between this movie and the teachings of Jesus. Upton Sinclair surely turns in his grave every time someone draws similarities between his work and Christianity. Have you never heard of communism?

Learn to think critically, please.

Wow… where to start?

First of all, I was paid to review the film, not the book.

Secondly, even those familiar with the book admit that the film is only loosely based on the premise of the book, and launches off in its own direction, conveying different ideas and telling different stories. So flogging me for misunderstanding the intentions of the novelist is a bit off-topic, don’t you think? Perhaps you should be asking Paul Thomas Anderson rewrote the story.

Third, well… I’ve already written a lot about whether or not Paul Thomas Anderson is guilty of bigotry against Christians. (Read this, and please save me the trouble of restating what I’ve already offered.)

But I would like to know what in my review qualifies as “wild conjecture” about “the similarity between this movie and the teachings of Jesus.”

Would you deny that the film gives us some inkling of the soul-hollowing effects of reckless ambition? Would you deny that the preacher in this film has strayed far from the teachings of Christ in his methods, his abuse of his family, and his ego? The film portrays sinful behavior as a horror. Anderson himself called it “a horror movie.”

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet has two passions: writing fiction, and celebrating art — music, cinema, photography, literature — through writing and teaching. He is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” — Through a Screen Darkly. And his four-novel fantasy series, The Auralia Thread, which begins with Auralia's Colors, was published by Random House. He speaks at universities and conferences around the world about understanding art through eyes of faith. He is earning his MFA in Creative Writing at Seattle Pacific University, where he has worked for 11 years as an editor, writer, and communications project manager. His work has been recognized in The New Yorker, TIME, The Seattle Times, IMAGE, Ravi Zacharias International — and Christianity Today, where he served as a film journalist for more than a decade. He recently began a weekly column called "Listening Closer" for Christ and Pop Culture.

  • gordonhackman

    The part that gets me the most is the absolute rudeness of the last sentence, which seems clearly meant to be personally demeaning to you, not just an admonition to practice critical thinking. Of course, the review comes right out of the starting gate being rude and condescending, so I guess that last sentence is just in keeping with the tone of the whole thing. Is this person someone who claims to be a Christian? If so, the behavior is even more shameful.