It’s become a well-worn axiom among conservative circles in the last few decades: Hollywood hates Christianity. They make films where the worst villains are people of faith (Seven, Kinsey, Kingdom of Heaven, to name a very few) and television shows where Jesus says drug-dealing, homosexuality, and euthanasia are just alright with him (The Book of Daniel).
However, the last few years have shown chinks in Tinsel Town’s anti-religious armor. The Passion of the Christ blew the doors off the box office two years ago and the C.S. Lewis classic, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe repeated the feat again in the last.
Even if the entertainment industry as a whole doesn’t care much for reverence, it can’t resist the urge to bow down at the feet of the almighty dollar. Thus, studios are now offering big bucks for screenplays with a religious angle, and Christian/conservative entertainment press are receiving increasing invites to promotion events that attempt to sell faith-friendly films to flyover audiences.
Yet, despite the major commercial successes of The Passion and Narnia, film and television producers still can’t seem to get their arms around how to market to the crowd that made The Purpose-Driven Life the best-selling hardback book in U.S. history.
No doubt, NBC executives thought they were playing into market demand when they green-lighted Daniel and were likely shocked when it turned out that mainstream audiences, while interested in seeing religion explored on film, aren’t interested in seeing it assaulted (well, aren’t interested in seeing it on network anyway—the Comedy Central niche demographic being another story).
Unless Christians themselves are the driving force behind the projects, Hollywood appears at a loss when it comes to creating entertainment that touches on faith. They either end up with unfair, bigoted depictions on one hand or bland, ill-defined Touched by an Angel-type portrayals on the other.
But there is evidence beyond the two monster moneymakers cited above that it doesn’t have to be this way. To overcome its religious stalemate with mainstream America, the entertainment industry could as it has so many times in the past, borrow a page from the African-American community.
“Black-targeted” entertainment has always shown greater respect for Christ than more generally-marketed material. Even as gansta rappers offer up paeans to benjamins and hoes, momma and Jesus always remain sacred (think Kanye West rapping “God show me the way…Jesus walks with me” in one song and “There’s a party/who’s invited/you, your friends, and my ****” in another.)
Megan Basham is the author of Beside Every Successful Man: A Woman's Guide To Having It All
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