UPDATE: Christianity Today Critiques Movieguide’s “Hollywood Stimulus Plan”

In a display of uncharacteristically poor judgment, The Wall Street Journal has published the “Report to the Industry” by Movieguide’s Ted Baehr and Tom Snyder.

Did the editors there actually read the flimsy claims being made?

Film enthusiasts and critics everywhere, Christian and otherwise, went… huh?!

Mark Moring at Christianity Today has posted a response today,

but not before these had appeared: Dan SavageJim Emerson, and Glenn Kenny.

Granted, some of those mainstream critics are just going to use this as another excuse to bash Christians. But if Christians keep putting nonsense like this out as our response to culture, I say we deserve the ridicule. If we want to participate meaningfully in the arena of art and culture, we’ve got to speak more truthfully, more accurately, more thoughtfully, than many of those voices that have been representing “a Christian perspective on movies” to the rest of the culture.

NOTE: If you are glad CTMovies decided to address the Baehr/Snyder article, please let them know by posting a comment on that blog post or writing a letter to the editor. That might help them cope with the lashing they’re sure to take for daring to question Movieguide.

It’s a challenge to respond to such incompetence with the necessary reproval and yet to show grace. We must speak the truth, and sometimes that calls for strong language. But we are also called to speak the truth in love. We need to hold each other to high standards, and not stoop to the level of cheap shots that the rest of pop culture tends to take. (That’s why I posted this, after seeing the widespread celebrity mockery spreading onto Christian pop-culture websites without any pause to question its propriety.)

(Earlier: Testimonies from folks who used to work at Movieguide were included in one of my reader-response posts a few months back.)

What bothers me most about the focus of Baehr and Snyder is they are trying to encourage cleaner, more family-friendly fare by baiting Hollywood with money, by focusing on the box office, as if the box office has ever had anything to do with excellence.

Since when does “What Audiences Want” point to what is good, excellent, honorable, and worthy of praise?

If I based my diet on what food sells best, I’d be dead in a week.

UPDATE: Screenwriter/playwright/former-Movieguide-employee Sean Gaffney responds to the article by Ted Baehr and Tom Snyder that run in The Wall Street Journal.

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  • linds

    *sigh* Movieguide strikes again. I knew they were trouble from the moment Tom Snyder rewrote my review and when I objected told me to read “Successful Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulation” (an evil answer to the prescient “Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger”).

  • It’s kind of difficult to say that Indiana Jones “reviles communists” when his first instinct, on losing his job thanks to McCarthyism, is to take a job at a university in Leipzig … which, at that time, was in East Germany.

  • Damon Titus

    This line from the WSJ Journal article cracks me up:

    ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,’ where Indy reviles communists and their impoverished ideology is exposed;

    Somehow, I doubt people flocked to Indy to watch him beat the communists. People flocked to Indy because, well, they enjoy watching him beat anybody, and it was the first indy movie in like 20 years. Those man eating ants could have probably been the only bad guys, and people would have gone to see it.

    Also, I don’t really remember anywhere in the movie where they even focused on the communist’s ideology…It not like in TDK, where the jokers ideology is front and center and is poignantly shown to be impoverished. Indy is just pretty much a straight up chase movie where the communists are the bad guys because it fits the time period the movie is set in.

  • Oh man…they (WSJ) actually took them seriously?
    LOL! RAMBO was on the list of ‘conservative, morally upright” movies…ironic considering movieguide is generally hypersensitive to gore..and rambo is the most extreme gore this side of Saw and Hostel….

    Aside from the aforemention statistical lies (as benjamin franklin would say : “facts are stubborn things: but statistics are more pliable…) the logic is rather pathetic (and arguably anti christian, as CT pointed out…at least in terms of shunning the poor and opressed because of ‘anti-americanism’ *cough*

    I find the comments on all the blogs quite funny…most line up with my POV.
    So I shall leave it at that

  • Update #2: I guess I didn’t get my comment thanking them in on time. The post no longer shows up on the blog home page. You can see it when you follow your link, Jeffrey, but when you try to post a comment, it says, “No such entry.”

  • Audience wants as the indicator, now there is an interesting idea. When it comes to websites, if I recall correctly a huge proportion of the audience wants are not exactly very morally uplifting. But it’s what audiences want.

    I looked at Sean Gaffney’s blog… Besides the nice article, I found that he’s the son of a good friend of my mom, his parents attend our church. Very nice folks.


  • While I agree with their assessment that “family-friendly” movies, neutral or favorable to conservative ideals, will probably make more money simply because most moviegoers don’t like overt propaganda clogging their entertainment (and yet Hollywood keeps churning out tired anti-war flops…why?), I can’t see how the rest of the article supports that tagline. On purely economic merits, sure, the plan’s pretty solid I guess. But are they prescribing a cleaner Hollywood or a more rightist Hollywood? And to what cultural end? The two do not necessarily go hand in hand. I mean, did Baehr and Snyder actually see An American Carol?

    As someone with an enormous amount of love for Iron Man, I’m kind of…bewildered that unrepentant playboys like Tony Stark even make the “clean, family-friendly” list at all. What, we just gloss over Iron Man’s sexual liberties because he’s pro-capitalism and that’s what’s important, but we condemn the salacious protagonists of Brideshead Revisited?

    To be honest though, I’m not sure that the Brideshead remake deserves any defense on account of its butchering the book.

    Love what CT said about pro-communism people vs. pro-love people. Burn.