Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Working in Hollywood these days

[Okay, so I’m not actually IN Hollywood, and I really don’t have anything to do with movie production per se. But I am employed as a contractor by a company that produces movies (including “Holes” and “Ghosts of the Abyss”) so I think that pretty much makes me an expert on the movie biz.]

One of the challenges the movie company for which I work faces, is making entertainment that is both “family friendly” and has something meaningful to say. Few things could be simpler than cranking out more mindless pap, lacking swear words and sexual suggestiveness and any but vaguely implied violence. But, as Kirk Cameron discovered a few years ago, no one is actually interested in paying money to see that sort of thing.

But as soon as you show foul language, or sexuality, or violence—even when you cast those things in a negative light, and glorify them not at all—you immediately arouse the ire of a group who should know better: Christians.

Now, it doesn’t surprise me when the NEA complains about that sort of thing, because the NEA is a secular organization. As such, it has bought fully into the Materialist idea that we are nothing more than animals, and that we, like animals, can be trained to behave in certain ways, and that if we merely avoid showing our children racism, sexism, homophobia, drugs, violence, etc., etc., that these ideas will never occur to kids on their own. (I fully expect an “amygdala removal certificate” to be a school requirement, like vaccinations, before I die.)

But I am appalled, honestly, to find Christians in general and Catholics in particular buying into this nonsense. It is nothing less than heresy.

Christ came not because we were modeling the wrong behavior (hardly any need for him to die on the Cross, if that were the case). He came because we are broken, and no amount of effort on our own part is going to fix us. (Here’s an interesting thought experiment: if time travel becomes possible, how many “Christians” would watch—or let their children watch—the inevitable videotape of the Crucifixion one could buy? Would the USCCB movie guidance page suggest the video be shown or banned?)

Now, I agree with Christians who say that the glorification violence, sex, etc., is something to be condemned. But portraying it is not inherently glorifying, in a well-told story. And portraying it is one of the only ways of reminding people that it is not by our own efforts—not by the efforts of the Materialist circus trainers among us—that we overcome the problems of humanity.

The value of a thing, according to St. Thomas, rests to a large degree in the use to which you put it. (I’m paraphrasing.) A thing used for its intended purpose (intended by God) is good. Used contrary to God’s intentions, in abuse of free will, imparts a negative quality to the act and the actor—but not to the tool.

Violence, sex, language, drugs, alcohol. Admit it: when you see that list, you react negatively. “I’ll stay away from that movie,” you think, even though I merely put the words down on paper. But each of these things has a positive use. Violence in a football game can be magnificent to behold, and entirely blameless. Sex is a gift of God with an entirely blessed purpose. Language is a means of communication, and some communication is entirely appropriate. Heroin is potently addictive, but it also soothes the wounded. Alcohol is a social lubricant, seemingly approved by Christ himself, by its important role in the revelation of his miraculous abilities.

Hollywood’s problem is not the portrayal of these things, but the dishonesty of the portrayal. Their abuse does not usually connect with their inevitable consequences, and I will gladly join anyone who cares to protest this fact. But Christ hung around with the people who made the bad decisions, who abused their free will and had enough sense to see it, and regret. “Family” entertainment needs to be able to show the tax collectors and prostitutes sometimes, if only to be able to show even their salvation.

It is a horrible mistake for a Christian to make, to fail to see the denial of the necessity of Christ that the Materialists have sold us.


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