People get a little loopy when religion is involved.
A very silly tempest in a teapot happened Sunday night when folks on Twitter started noticing that the character of Satan in the History Channel’s The Bible bore a striking resemblance to our Commander in Chief.
Personally, I do think that Satan, played by Mohamen Mehdi Quazanni (see a picture of him without makeup here) looks a lot like Obama. It’s weird because the actor is light skinned and not of African descent, but he does have features resembling Obama’s and with the makeup, the similarity becomes striking.
But that’s where this whole thing should have died. With a shrug and a “isn’t life odd?” chuckle.
There is absolutely no chance that The History Channel and producers Roma Downey or Mark Burnett (read their response to the hubbub here) had any intent of making Satan look like Obama. None.
How do I know?
Well, the couple is too Hollywood to make such an error or statement.
That may sound like an insult, but it’s not.
Roma Downey, of course, was the lead angel in the TV show Touched by an Angel. Burnett is the mastermind behind such TV hits as Survivor, The Apprentice, and Shark Tank. I have spoken with Downey several times (here and here). She is many things: polished, intentional, even a bit slick. But she is a consummate professional and not somebody who would sabotauge her reputation by taking pot shots at the President. I have not interviewed Burnett, but if anything, he’s even more professional. In fact, there is no evidence that either one of them has anything but the highest regard for Obama. Burnett donated money to his election campaign, a common practice in Hollywood.
Furthermore, behind all the packaging and promoting, The Bible was a passion project for both Downey and Burnett. Downey spoke many times about her dream of bringing her faith to her work. She was thrilled to be in a position where she could choose projects that reflected her faith.
“I have reached a point in my career where I don’t have to work,” she told me, “I have a lot of gratitude. I have a choice. I can do projects that are positive and honor God.”
In case any of us have missed the memo, nobody gets kudos or enhanced reputation in Hollywood by being religious or doing religious projects, especially old-fashioned Christian projects. In fact, it almost always costs something.
Downey and Burnett have paid their dues in Hollywood, and then some. They have worked hard and built reputations and relationships. They’ve done the hard work of being successful in a town where success can be hard to come by. And they turned around and poured that capital they had built into a Bible project.
Kudos to them. We should all be so lucky. We should all be able to say we’d built something that mattered as they have.
So, no, no one involved in that miniseries intended for the Devil to look like Obama. They worked too hard and cared too much to throw away their reputation and the project’s reputation on a cheap potshot.
It’s a coincidence.
Everybody stand down.
And, whatever you think of The Bible, give Roma Downey and Mark Burnett a pat on the back for at least being in a position to bring such a work to the small screen. It’s much more than the rest of us can say.
For more on The Bible:
Peter Chattaway reviews the first episode of The Bible.
Peter Chattaway reviews the second episode of The Bible.
Craig Detweiler on how Hollywood underestimates religious audiences.