Rick Santorum: Hollywood mogul

Former U.S. senator and Republican primary runner-up Rick Santorum has a new job: CEO of Echolight Studios, “a faith-based film company.”

“I often say that culture is upstream from politics,” Santorum said, “and I know entertainment also can be strength and light for people who want to be uplifted and reinforced in their values.”

Here’s part of Santorum’s announcement to his followers on “Patriot Voices”:

If we are going to make a positive impact on our country’s cultural challenges, we have to do it by reaching the masses often through entertainment. For too long, Hollywood has had a lock on influencing the youth of this country with a flawed message that goes against our values. Now, we can change that.

EchoLight Studios has the resources and commitment to produce, finance and distribute faith-based and family friendly films.

So what, exactly, is EchoLight Studios?

Pretty much what you might guess: A low-budget studio producing aggressively “wholesome,” mostly direct-to-DVD films featuring struggling former TV actors who further struggle trying to transcend material that also couldn’t cut it on TV.

I haven’t seen any of these films, but I’ve now watched all the trailers that EchoLight has online. A few of these look like they might actually be not terrible. But only a few.

The Redemption of Henry Myers looks like a World Wide Pictures version of Shane-meets-Witness. It’s a decent, if unoriginal, premise, and they get bonus points for trying to bring back the Western. But they lose points for including a prayer-of-anguished-repentance monologue. Spiritual intimacy, like sexual intimacy, is almost impossible to film without reducing it to pornography. Christian filmmakers need to learn when to fade to black.

• “Seasons of Gray is a modern-day retelling of the story of Joseph and his coat of many colors.” That premise seems cleverly executed — and Andrew Cheney seems a likable, Rob-Lowe-ish screen presence. But the film — from 2011, but still awaiting theatrical release — also seems to reduce the biblical story of Joseph into a moralistic little fable about “the power of forgiveness.” The actual story is much stranger and more problematic. It is, among other things, an origin story — “How Pharaoh Became a Despot Owning Everything and Everyone.” The alleged happy ending of the Genesis story comes about by Joseph exploiting a famine to oppress an entire nation, which doesn’t so much suggest “the power of forgiveness” as it does the will-to-power of a psychopath who sees the vulnerability of the poor as his divine right to prey on them and take what is theirs for his own enrichment. The trailer for “Seasons of Gray” is intriguing enough to make me wonder how they handle that horrific ending in this revision of the story.

• Corbin Bernsen wrote, directed and stars in 25 Hill. The Soap Box Derby flick has a professional cast (including Psych co-star Timothy Omundson, who’s always good) and seems like a pleasantly wholesome, familiar story, albeit one that’s kind of, well, coasting.

• Bernsen’s 3 Days is a Christmas comedy that promises a “heartfelt message” — some pious platitudes — layered onto a frazzled-father family farce with a bit of Home Alone tossed in (Christmas burglars foiled!). Think of it as National Lampoon’s Vacation Bible School.

• Bernsen also wrote and directed Beyond the Heavens. Who knew Henry Spencer was an auteur? This looks like an unholy mess:

Oliver is a bright 12-year-old who lives in the shadow of his parents’ loss of their first son. His family appears fine on the outside, but is broken behind closed doors. As they work out their faith, Oliver is left to grapple with his own belief in God and the answers to life’s biggest questions: Why am I here? What happens after death? Who made us? An angel disguised as a quirky traveler is sent to help him bring the pieces of the puzzle together. As Oliver’s struggles cause him to mistakenly look to science for answers, he discovers God is found by faith not by sight.

Those first two sentences are movie No. 1. The horrible false dichotomy of faith and science is movie No. 2. And the “angel disguised as a quirky traveler” is movie No. 3 — one that has no business anywhere near movies 1 & 2.

• I Am Gabriel is another angelic visitor movie. It’s notable mainly for the Kent family reunion of Jon Schneider and Dean Cain, but not even Superman could save this thing and its treacly advocacy of the so-called prosperity gospel. Yes — the prosperity gospel, meaning this one doesn’t so much look wholesome as, well, evil.

• In church youth group we went to evangelistic events by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes — a display of athletic prowess, followed by an awkward segue into an altar call. We saw that same formula in a host of similar events: Christian magicians, Christian weightlifters, Christian break-dancers, and of course Christian rock concerts. Foolishness is a video version of exactly the same thing, this time with skateboarding. EchoLight and director/skateboarder Brian Sumner seem to misunderstand that simple formula. The trailer showcases the altar call while downplaying the attraction and the hook: skateboarding. There’s nothing in this trailer I couldn’t see done by the kids at the local skatepark, and it all seems filmed in an attempt to make it seem even less impressive.

This doesn’t look like a movie that’s even trying to “make a positive impact on our country’s cultural challenges.” It looks like the kind of movie that will be shown in church basements by youth ministers who desperately hope that it will make the kids in the youth group think they’re cool.

• “She was broken, betrayed, and finished with life. But life wasn’t finished with her.” That’s EchoLight’s summary of 1 Message — which looks indistinguishable from countless disease movies on basic cable’s Lifetime Movie Network. It stars Ashley Kate Adams as Meredith Baxter Birney.

Clancy is “an inspiring story of one girl’s hope.” But wait, it gets worse:

Clancy is a little girl with a big heart. At the tender age of 11, she takes to the streets to dodge social workers in hopes of returning to her mother once her home life improves. In the grit of the city, she latches on to Nick, a homeless war veteran who wants little to do with life—much less a runaway who won’t leave him alone.

• Clancy gets to live because that movie is about her and not about her parents. When the focus is on the parents, EchoLight movies seem to like killing children. Here’s their summary for The Potential Inside, which focuses on a professional cyclist:

When an unexpected tragedy takes the life of his young daughter, Chris finds his own life changed in an instant. After years of climbing rugged trails, he hits rock bottom. Now, estranged from his grieving wife and consumed with guilt, Chris struggles beneath the weight of his selfish past. But when he surrenders everything to Christ and begins living for others, Chris finds peace where once there was only pain – and resolves to rebuild his life and serve his family as God intended.

Romans 8:28. You keep quoting this verse. I do not think it means what you think it means.

The best thing that can be said for The Potential Inside is that they at least refrained from having the child-killing car accident happen on Christmas Day. The trailer also features prayer-porn.

• And then there’s Undaunted: The Early Life of Josh McDowell, a biopic of the pop-apologetics evangelist and favorite convincer of the already-convinced. It chronicles McDowell’s awful childhood living with an abusive, alcoholic father, potentially providing theological insights for the audience that seem to have escaped the film’s subject.

That last film shows why all of Santorum’s talk about making “a positive impact on our country’s cultural challenges” is hogwash. EchoLight doesn’t make movies that aspire to influence the wider culture. It makes movies that will be deemed safe and permissible within the subculture. These are tribal movies produced by and for members of the tribe.

And who is that tribe? White evangelicals — the kind of people among whom Josh McDowell is a top celebrity.

That tribe loves Rick Santorum and Rick Santorum loves that tribe. But Santorum has never been a part of that tribe. He shares their opposition to feminism and LGBT rights, but beyond that, he doesn’t share their religious culture any more than Opus Dei shares the religious culture of Campus Crusade.

Look again at all the “family friendly,” G-rated melodrama described above. Not one of those films is about abortion or homosexuality. And once you stray from those subjects, Rick Santorum doesn’t have a lot to talk about with the white evangelical tribe. (School prayer, maybe, but they’ll wind up arguing over whether or not state-mandated school prayers should be in Latin.)

 

  • Daniel Björkman

    I think Andrew Lloyd Webber gave up on finding any sort of meaning in the story and made it into a cheery comedy about silly people instead. It might have been the wisest decision.

  • Jenny Islander

    The classic for me is the fuming over the 1st edition Dungeons & Dragons core rulebooks, which “obviously” endorse idolatry and/or demon-worship right on the cover. One book has a band of adventurers battling a big red horned guy, who happens to be an efreet, but in any case he’s the enemy. Another book has a group of adventurers in close contact with an idol, as in prying the gemstones out of it, but that’s TOTALLY the same as chanting hymns to Satan, guys!

  • Jenny Islander

    That was her? Awesome! I quote that all the time, but I had forgotten who said it first!

  • renniejoy

    “Jacob Have I Loved” was one of my favorite sad books.

    I think I’ll look for it at the library tomorrrow. :)

  • reynard61

    “And then we know Esau is the bad guy because God says he’s the bad guy, the same way we know that Er was wicked because God said he was wicked.”

    The same way that we know that Ray-Ray and Buck are “good” because God (or at least LaH&J) says they’re “good”, while Nicky Seven-Hills is “bad” because God/LaH&J say he is — even though through a good bit of three books Nicky wants to feed the World, stop nuclear war, try to end poverty and religious strife, etc. Now I know why they went with the whole “tell, don’t show” thing.

  • FearlessSon

    Incidentally, I once saw an awesome short AMV of Wolfwood set to Rufus Wainwright’s cover of “Hallelujah”.

  • Turcano

    He wasn’t “the” runner-up so much as one of many runner-ups. The 2012 GOP primary was one of the biggest greased-pole races I’ve ever seen.

  • Matri

    This studio will probably end up making Uwe Boll look like Stanley Kubrick
    Which would be quite a feat of nature.

  • Matri

    Wow, that’s just… Wow…

    I’ve met Internet trolls who weren’t even half as big an asshole as this guy.

  • alegrenaje

    Oh, man, that list up there is pretty much a shopping list for my parents. There is literally nothing on that list that they wouldn’t buy if the package advertised an affinity towards families.
    I’ve always rather hated this quality, but it sure does make holidays easier!

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    Wait! Winterlight…is that the computer from Neuromancer? No wait, that was Wintermute.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

    I have a headache, but I can’t help but laugh at this.

    It even works on a metaphorical level, what with the movies being masturbatory fantasies for those still locked in the bubble.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

    That… makes me incredibly stabby. As a child of divorced parents – I’m actually GLAD my parents got divorced, they were destroying themselves trying to make it work; particularly my mom.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

    Alright, I think this post has officially won the internet for the day., lol, too perfect!

  • The_L1985

    The question itself disturbs me. How the fuck do you know that? Doesn’t your god work in “mysterious ways?”

  • The_L1985

    Another creepy aspect of this is, as mentioned before, I was 5. I was not yet old enough for books without pictures to be of any interest to me–and most full Bibles aren’t illustrated. So I basically had my Bible lessons, and those illustrated “Children’s Bibles,” both of which were heavily sanitized.

  • The_L1985

    Sounds like my mom. Dad…doesn’t quite seem to notice that the women’s lib movement happened. :/

  • The_L1985

    From what little I’ve seen of the film version, I can’t but agree with you.

  • The_L1985

    “You’ve been dealing with this depression thing for a few years now. Snap out of it!”
    –My dad, who still doesn’t understand the difference between “clinical depression” and “feeling really sad.” He even used the “I was depressed after XYZ happened, but I got over it,” line.

  • The_L1985

    My parents are a bit odd about this sort of thing. They liked that one Christian football movie (can’t remember the name, but it has a big, weepy conversion scene on the bleachers around midway through) but can’t stand Christian romance. They were tricked into buying an audiobook of Christian romance because it was labeled as “Inspirational.” Mom was pretty PO’ed about the idea that conversion suddenly magically fixed everyone’s problems, because she’s been a devout Christian her entire life–which has had some decidedly rough spots.

    Both of us also read Beverly Lewis’s first Amish trilogy, too. Both of us agreed that it was annoying that every single plot development was telegraphed from near the beginning of the first book (seriously, Bev, can’t you give us a few chapters of suspense?), but what really got us talking was how the third book basically says, “Amish people aren’t really Christian because they follow additional rules. Unlike evangelicals, whose extra rules are TOTES BIBLICAL, YOU GUYS.” Neither of us liked the anti-Amish slur there. Given that Bev’s an ex-Amish woman, I’d say she’s waaaaay too bitter about her past and needs some distance from it before she writes any more books.

  • the shepard

    i agree.
    mom and dad’s divorce ended up being best for us kids and for them. misery is not meant to be the state of a marriage or family.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    I think laughter is probably the best medicine for the sickness that is shot through Fleshlight Studios.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Which makes you wonder why he even slept with her, after he realized that he’d been had.

    It’s not like Rachel proved infertile. And then there was Rachel’s slave girl.

  • Sereg

    I found that my Supernatural-viewing experience was much enhanced by skipping from about there to the beginning of season 4, watching until the end of 7, and then going back and watching the earlier stuff. (CAS CAS CAS)

  • Ben English

    Here’s the thing: Evangelical subculture has to be okay with victim blaming because they believe God is a victim blamer. Over two-thirds of the world’s population is non-Christian, deceived by ‘false religions’, yet they’re just as hell-bound as Richard Dawkins. To be rationalize believing in a God like that makes it easier to rationalize other suffering and victimization as deserved in some way.

  • Ben English

    For that matter wait until season six of Buffy where everything is horrible forever.

  • Ben English

    Did Jacob *have* any daughters?

    Also I never read the story as endorsing Jacob’s favoritism. It was the favoritism that made his brothers hostile towards him in the first place.

  • Ben English

    I never read it as Esau being worse than Jacob, but that Esau was the victim of Jacob and Rebekah. Jacob knows–and Isaac calls him out on it–that he’s done something wrong. He later has a perfectly reasonable fear that Esau will kill him, but Esau shows him remarkable grace.

    At the same time I think there’s a ‘just so’ element to the story explaining why Jacob/Israel was favored despite being physically weaker and less imposing, and younger, than the Hebrews’ tribal neighbors. There are possibly some ugly cultural implications in there, but not the same ones I think you’re suggesting. (IMO at least)

  • Ben English

    Wow…. just… wow.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Dinah. There’s a few paragraphs about her being raped (which might have been consensual sex for all we know) and her brothers slaughtering the town the man came from in retaliation.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I get the impression that that’s a rewrite of the story because we can’t have one of the great cultural heroes depicted as seducing (or raping) a woman he’s not supposed to be touching.

    Of course, David and Bathsheba, but that’s not quite the same thing. David had power over Bathsheba, Joseph none over Mrs. Potiphar except probably being physically larger and stronger.

  • Ben English

    Oh yeah, that. Because you have to make the punishment fit the crime. Why might the rape have been consensual sex? The latter doesn’t seem like something you’d kill a town over…

    …Not that anything does…

  • Ben English

    I believe he slept with her before he realized she wasn’t Rachel. Which… honestly makes me think he didn’t know Rachel all that well to start with!

  • EllieMurasaki

    Genesis 34 3-4: His heart was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob; he loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her. And Shechem said to his father Hamor, “Get me this girl as my wife.”

    Dinah’s perspective isn’t given. We’re told in verse two that it’s rape, in verse five that it’s defilement, but Dinah’s perspective isn’t given. Shechem had sex with Dinah; we do not know whether Dinah wanted it, only that Dinah’s father and brothers didn’t. And I prefer to think of this as a love story that ends tragically, that wouldn’t end tragically if the society it took place in weren’t so horribly sexist.

  • Lori

    Sleeping with her was initially part of the deal. Laban insisted that Jacob give Leah her bridal week before he married Rachel & started working on the 7 years labor for her. After that I’m sure it was a combination of convenience, wanting to give her children (to shut her up because of course women don’t need to be cared about as long as they have babies), and concerns about Rachel’s fertility.

    Rachel did eventually have Joseph & Benjamin, but it took long enough that they were worried that she was infertile. Jacob & Rachel had a big fight about it at one point and that’s how the 2 concubines with names come into the picture. Rachel gives them to Jacob to have children in her name so that she doesn’t have to tolerate Leah having anything that she doesn’t have.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Wasn’t one concubine Leah’s maid, not Rachel’s?

  • AnonaMiss

    That’s a hard perspective to hold on to if you accept the bit about the coat. A normal coat would be fine – but this was a coat dyed in many colors, including IIRC purple. That’s like giving one of your kids a Benz while the others are driving around in Pintos.

  • EllieMurasaki

    KJV says ‘coat of many colors’ and names none. NIV just says ‘ornate robe’. I think ‘red and yellow and green and brown and scarlet and black and ochre and peach and ruby and olive and violet and fawn and lilac and gold and chocolate and mauve and cream and crimson and silver and rose and azure and lemon and russet and gray and purple and white and pink and orange and blue’ is entirely the invention of Andrew Lloyd Webber.

  • Lori

    Jacob had at least 1 daughter—Dinah.

    The story certainly doesn’t condemn Jacob’s favoritism or cut the older brothers any slack for the fact that it was the source of their hatred of Joseph.

  • Lori

    I think the condemnation of Esau for supposedly “despising his birthright” undermines the idea that the story is presenting him as a victim of Jacob & Rebekah. That’s presented as the justification for what they do later. That and the fact that God chose Jacob (but somehow couldn’t manage to just arrange for the little shit to just be born first so he could inherit without all this subterfuge and ill-feeling).

    The entire story is clearly a post hoc justification for things people did and ways that history turned out. (Rebekah favored Jacob so much not because she was sort of a shitty mom, but because God told her that he was the important one. Jacob didn’t steal the blessing because he was a greedy, envious mamma’s boy, God wanted him to have it. Blah, blah, blah.)

    The reason that the whole thing bugs me so very much is that I was raised by people who ignore the obviously self-serving nature of the story and instead yap on & on about the goodness of God and Jacob as a Patriarch and hero. Behavior that would be considered clearly horrible in other circumstances is A-OK if God tells you to do it and blesses you for it. It’s the same attitude that causes people to celebrate the genocide and enslavement in Joshua and I think it’s fairly clear that it has implications for how Christians treat people even now.

  • Lori

    I thought they were both Rachel’s, which would make sense since the purpose was to give Rachel children to claim. However, considering how badly everyone treated Leah it wouldn’t exactly surprise me if her sister said, “Hey, I’m going to take your maid & give her to Jacob she that she can have a child for me. You don’t mind do you?”

  • EllieMurasaki

    No, Rachel didn’t have anything to do with that, apparently. Genesis 30:9: “When
    Leah saw that she had stopped having children, she took her servant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife.” This is right after the bit where Rachel gives Bilhah to Jacob so she can bear children in Rachel’s place.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

    Weirdly I JUST saw a book by David Poyer called Winterlight on someone’s shelf. Baader-Meinhoff Phenomenon!

  • Lori

    The story says straight out that Jacob favored Joseph.

    Genesis 37:3 & 4

    Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him.

    It doesn’t say that Jacob didn’t love his other sons. However, I think the fact that 9 of the 10 other sons went along willingly first with the idea of killing Joseph outright and then with selling him, says a great deal. This wasn’t a childhood tiff and Reuben was the only one who argued against it. That degree of bad feeling doesn’t come from nowhere.

  • Lori

    I had totally forgotten that. Geez, that does not say good things about what was going on in that household. Leah had multiple children. It strikes me as saying a great deal about her position that she still freaked out and went the maid route when she couldn’t have any more.

    As we’re noted many times, Biblical families were fair from being the wonderful thing the bigots try to play them off as.

  • Lori

    Oh yeah. How could I have forgotten that? It’s the source of the Jewish wedding custom of the bedeken*. It’s after that that Laban says, “Give her a week and then you can have the one you really wanted.”

    *I like the bedeken. It means that Jewish couples don’t have to contend with all that nonsense about the groom not seeing the bride before the ceremony. None of that flapping around about how you can’t go here or there because he;ll see you, ZOMG. Plus they can just go ahead and take pictures before instead of making everyone stand around after waiting for them.

  • Persia

    I know the woman who made that one, she’s amazed that people are still watching it.

    God, I love Wolfwood.

  • Persia

    This is why I had multiple cats instead of multiple children.

    Having said that, I have always thought of it more as ‘the youngest one got away with more, and Jacob had more money by the time Joseph came along, so his brothers got resentful ’cause Joseph had treats they didn’t get when they were kids.’

  • Lori

    Joseph wasn’t the youngest, Benjamin was. Jacob’s obvious favor didn’t transfer to him until Joseph was reported dead.

    Beyond that, we have that sort of age gap in our family. I was adopted (after mom & dad had a premature baby who died shortly after birth) while my brother & sister were in high school. My parents were way more relaxed & had way more money while raising me than they did with the older 2. I got away with things they never would have. I was plenty annoying. Somehow J & E never tried to kill me, put me in a hole or sell me. They were sometimes irritated, but they didn’t commit mayhem over it. Even allowing for the fact that Bible stories tend to be heavy on the drama, something more was going on there than just normal younger sibling stuff.

  • http://redwoodr.tumblr.com Redwood Rhiadra

    With SCOTUS striking down the Voting Rights Act, that may not be true…


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X