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May 04, 2005

Hollywood's Agenda?

Steve McCoy at Reformissionary – a great blog that you should be reading – passes along this article by Kelly Boggs, a relatively well-known Southern Baptist pastor. Boggs is arguing that Hollywood has an agenda it’s trying to push.

While I acknowledge that movies are often vehicles for political correctness and the occasional issue-based agenda (see Cider House Rules), it is intellectually vacuous to suggest that every non-family movie is trying to push an agenda. Is Boggs so determined to wage the culture war that he refuses to understand the difference between an agenda-based movie like the Contender and a movie like Mystic River that explores humanity and ultimately comes to a conclusion different from that of Christians? If a prominent film presents a series of conclusions that are at odds with Christian teaching, we should be willing to discuss the matter artfully and critically. We should not chalk it up to Hollywood's nefarious agenda.

I’m not saying we have to agree with everything we see. I’ve written before about the despair that prevails in a movie like Million Dollar Baby. But the conclusion of despair is not necessarily advocacy for it. Adaptation, despite its fantastic screenplay, directing and performances, is a very hopeless film. Yet it is not an endorsement of hopelessness. The movie simply is what it is. Ingmar Bergman consistently produced movies with existential undertones. It is likely that Bergman himself was an existentialist, but it is hopelessly naïve to suggest that he was promoting existentialism in the same manner that Michael Moore was promoting gun control or an end to the Iraq War.

I am not suggesting that Hollywood is innocent and free of depravity. And I also realize that many films’ ideologies are rooted not so much in agenda as they are the fallen worldview of the script writers and directors. Nevertheless, Boggs is simply off base. He fails miserably in his cultural analysis. At the risk of sounding like John Kerry, there is a serious need for nuance in this discussion. I pray that the culture war does not reduce itself to this sort of argument. If it does, we are sure to be defeated. Boggs’ analysis is terribly narrow-minded, no matter how well intentioned he may be.

For a more mature and critical Christian analysis of art, I would start at Looking Closer and then follow all subsequent links.

Posted by Matt at May 4, 2005 02:48 PM

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It might help if we stopped using the phrase "culture war" to describe what ought to be a civil public discussion. Is that too much to ask?

Posted by: s9 at May 4, 2005 07:56 PM