Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hollywood and Jesus, part 3248598: "Soul Surfer"

I've often remarked about the scarcity of portrayals of real-live, identifiable, genuine, 3-D Christians in the movies.

Leaving aside even questions of truth — there are, well, let's see: dozens of Christians in America. Hundreds. Thousands. Tens of thousands. Heck, maybe even millions!

But in movies and TV? Not so much. Nary a one. Quick: name one major ongoing TV show with a continuing, positive character who is openly and verbally and consistently a Biblically-faithful Christian. Just one.

On the other hand, name a TV show with a sympathetic homosexual character. Ooh, you could do that one. Now, which is the higher percentage of the American population? In other words, which are you likelier to find in any random lassoing of a group of Americans? Homosexuals, or Christians?

Do the same exercise for TV or movies for a character who is an amoral person, an atheist, an agnostic, a humanist, a Muslim, a Wiccan, a non-practicing Roman Catholic, a political liberal. Easy, isn't it? But Christians? Ah, again, not so much.

One of my favorite creative minds in Hollywood, Joss Whedon, can write credible monsters, murderers, nutcases, humanistic nihilists... but either can't or has no desire to create one identifiably Christian character. (I wrote more fully on that here, in case you're interested.)

If you do see any religion of even distantly-Christian caste, one or more of these will obtain:
  1. It will be Roman Catholic. Or, if not...
  2. If he is a hearty believer, he will be insane, a murderer, a hypocrite, or all three.
  3. If he is a good guy, he will be losing or seriously questioning his faith — or hopelessly vague about it.
  4. If he's a good guy and a sincere believer, he will be unable to give any rationale for his faith, and will lose every argument or debate, no matter how kindergartenish.
  5. If he prays, he will keep his eyes open, as if to signal that he isn't really talking to God.
Why is it so? Obviously, part of it is simply that Hollywood blends well with the world-system, and the world hates the real Jesus and His people, period (cf. John 7:7; 15:18; 17:14; 1 John 2:15-17; 3:13).

More charitably, I've simply wondered whether none of the big wigs and creative minds knows any actual practicing, card-carrying Christians. Maybe there isn't that presence simply because there just isn't that influence. That's my nicest thought.

So with all that, it's interesting to read this back-story about the making of the movie Soul Surfer. Evidently there were a number of fights during the filming, attempts to bar precisely those elements I single out above. Maybe the actors can be allowed to say "God," but they may not say "Jesus"; maybe they may quote from the Bible, but they may not say from where; and so on.

So you can't say Hollywood didn't want the story, and you can't say that Hollywood didn't have any direct, in-person Christian input. It was all there.

Hollywood just didn't want it.

Now, if it had been about some homosexual girl whose arm had been bitten off by a shark, how do you think her perversion would have been treated? It isn't a sure thing, but lesbianism is kind of "hot" today. Or if she'd been an abortion-clinic volunteer? Or Muslim? I think that would all have been different.

Meanwhile, I haven't seen the movie. It will probably be a Burger Night movie; Anna Sophia Robb is an incandescent actress, and the movie is doing well.

Have you seen it?

Michael Medved liked it... but, as Christian-friendly as he is, one of the things he liked about it was that the Christianity wasn't "in your face" (or some such expression).



Sir Aaron said...

I'd love to watch the movie inasmuch as I'd love to see a Christian shown in a positive light, but I'm not sure if it's a good idea for me to watch a movie featuring young ladies who wear less than what they'd normally wear under their clothes.

Frank Turk said...

That picture of the lady surfing is going to cause someone to sin.

At least it would at TeamPyro.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

Hah Hah Hah! (Oh dear!) Those first two comments are exactly why we don't see the kinds of characters you referred to, Dan. We Christians have a way of snibbling and dividing over things that Hollywood just doesn't understand, and THAT is the broad brush they choose to paint with.

I had heard the story about that girl, and was encouraged at her outright Christian testimony. I read that they were making a movie about it, and am hopeful that her Christian testimony isn't lopped off by Hollywood like her arm was by the shark.

My 9-year-old just bought a book about a shark attack survivor, and I told him about this movie that is coming out.
(sigh.) I hadn't thought about the swimsuits, though...

GrammaMack said...

I saw a brief clip last week when Carrie Underwood was a guest on a late night talk show. I hope it's not cringe-inducing in any way, but the clip wasn't that great. Carrie Underwood is reportedly a Christian (her husband, Mike Fisher, comes from a strong Christian--Brethren--family in my hometown that I know personally),and she was talking about God in the clip while counselling the main character.

Terry said...

It was a good movie with strong Christian themes. Faith, compassion for the poor, perseverance, and other good biblical concepts were important parts of the movie.

Sarah : ) said...

Why is it that in recent years most celebrity or famous Christian women are always pardoned for their risque clothing just because they profess Christianity? Compromise is definitely the language of the devil. We're losing our testimony when we live, act, dress, speak, or do anything else that goes against what we say we believe and what is clear in Scripture. Maybe that's why we can't get an accurate portrayal of Christians in movies or tv, because our orthopraxy isn't lining up with our orthodoxy. Just a thought.

Karen said...

I thought Shepherd Book from "Firefly" was both sympathetic and specifically Christian. I really wished the series had lasted longer, or that he hadn't been killed off in the movie, because I would have loved to have seen his backstory. Granted, he wasn't a viewpoint character in the series, and there was the implication that he had been a government bad guy before, but I think his tale could have been a good demonstration of redemption. Then again, Whedon didn't do any of those things, so maybe you do have a point.

DJP said...

I'm with you, in that I liked the character and wanted to hear his backstory.

But remember his saying to Mal in "Serenity" basically "I don't care what you believe, just believe." That surely is the opposite of Christian. Christianity sees no merit in faith as a thing in itself. There is an eternity of difference between a Baalist's faith and a saved person's faith.

Sir Aaron said...

I wish more Christians could ( oir would) express what you just said in two sentences.

JackW said...

Yeah, I actually thought that Whedon was anti-religion and actually used the Book character as a straw dog to get his little digs in. Like when River decided to fix his Bible with a pair of scissors.

Fun series to watch though.

DJP said...

Perfect illustration of my point. You'll recall that Book replied with some vague platitudes about faith... as no Biblically-faithful Christian pastor would do.

witness said...

What movie was the first image you used of the creepy lookig guy?

DJP said...

Poltergeist, and I think it was number 2 (certainly not 1).

threegirldad said...

I haven't seen the movie, and wasn't planning to based on this review.

The backstory is disappointing, but not surprising.

uriel said...

The David Shepherd character on "Kings" was a positive Christian portrayal, as was the Harriet Hayes character on "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" -- neither series lasted. Average viewers, despite being majorly Christian, don't seem to care if Christians are portrayed positively. I posted about your post