Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A rocky "Road" to Christian audiences?

There is a fascinating article in the current issue of Entertainment Weekly magazine about the marketing of the apocalyptic film, The Road, to Christian audiences.

Since the film is dealing with end of the world issues the readers of Revelations often contemplate, the makers of the film are attempting to lure in the Christian faithful. It makes enough sense, right? But what is interesting to me is the article's quite true statement that The Road's marketing to conservative Christians might be "counter intuitive." The Road, you see, is rated R.

What this has made me wonder about is the general state of faith-based entertainment. There is huge money to be from fundamentalist Christian entertainment these days, although the nature of this entertainment has often left me scratching my head. I have seen a number of films made for the Christian audience and I've read a few faith-based books as well. The most notable for me was Left Behind (only seen the film and haven't read the book) and The Shack. Both of these stories, as well as a few others of their kind struck me as a bit...well, sorry to say, lame.

OK, maybe Left Behind was a little better than the rest. At least there was some violence and killing there. I always enjoy violence and killing. If there would have been a little sex, it would have been even better. The flick, after all, was about the impure and the sinners "left behind" at the Rapture. So wouldn't these sinner commit, you know...sins? Maybe say a few curse words? Have a little sex before marriage?

Which again brings me to contemplate the state of "Christian" entertainment.

And let me pause here for a second and explain the quotes around Christian. "Christian" these days seems to exclusively refer to fundamentalist, ultra-right-wing conservative Christians. These are the ha-ha-you're-going-to-hell-and-we're-not (to steal a phrase from Stephen King's Under the Dome) evangelical Christians. "Christian," it seems, no longer refers to Catholics or Methodists or Episcopalians. Only to the folks who think Harry Potter is teaching witchcraft and devil worship, the folks who want to ban Halloween, who think the Catholic church is a cult and the Pope is the Antichrist, who believe that dinosaurs never existed but God, the great cosmic prankster, just littered the planet with big bones to mess with people and test their faith.

But what I wonder about is why can't there be any "adult" Christian entertainment? Religion, at its most effective moments, helps people cope with the worst the world can sometimes throw at them. Sure, organized religion can often offer circular, contradictory, or just plain illogical and impenetrable answers to the big questions of human existence. I think the best summary of what the Bible is all about came in the Arnold Schwarzenegger film End of Days. The Bible's message, according to End of Days: "Shit happens." Read the Bible closely and you'll realize that that really is what the good book boils down to.

But why can't "Christian" entertainment deal with issues like this? Why can't "Christian" fiction contemplate the rougher, the harder, the more difficult, ugly, unjust, and cruel aspects of existence, even if the only answers it might come up with is "shit happens"?

If one were to make a truly faithful film adaptation of the Bible, after all, it would probably be X rated. I would really love to see those scenes of Lot's daughters seducing him after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

But in the meantime, "Christian" entertainment remains little more than simplistic, shallow, singing-birds-in-a-flowery-meadow type of pabulum. And if this is the sort of things "Christian" audiences want, it sounds like they will be sorely disappointed by The Road.

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