Saturday, April 23, 2011

They're Religious Movies, Just Not "Religious" Movies

Hi, we're the non-denominational Christian-like angels with plausible deniability just in case, you know, you don't swing that way - religion wise.

Being a life time non-theist (is that the right word these days? I swear every time I turn around it changes - I like good ol' fashion heretic myself), I've often found myself on the outskirts of religion much in the same way my Canadian brethren might find themselves feeling like a dog gazing through the window at overt Americanism. However, as much as I don't connect with religion, I find the new-age efforts at finding a happy medium far more annoying. From films like The Book of Eli to Adjustment Bureau, and even the first Chronicles of Narnia, there seems a strong trend in Hollywood to skirt any direct references to religion by denying their direct references to religion. "Are you angels?" "Cough, well, you know some people might say that, but I mean, you know, that's just *cough cough* what they say?"

To me it feels a bit like I'm being sold a used car from a shady dealer with a top hat, three gold rings, slick black peppered gray hair, and crazy Bill Paxton eyes (True Lies - represent *insert cool gang sign here*). And for some reason I find that almost insulting. As if they're afraid of their own religion. Now I don't hate religion, nor do I really care for it, but if you're going to take the time to draw most all the lines in the sand, go the whole 8 yards. I say eight, because if you go nine you end up with crap like this - and nobody wants that. Well, I say nobody....

Still, religion has never stopped me from liking a movie before. I've never watched It's a Wonderful Life and gone "this whole angel bit is stupid - why didn't he just meet a vaguely alien man with seemingly omniscient capabilities and wings but without a name or any form of identification!?" Mostly because if I did that, I would look like an idiot. And to be honest Hollywood, that's what you seem like to me. You've always been overtly Christian (especially that one time you made Keanu Reeves THE Buddha - talk about your low blows) much in the same way that you love to proudly wave the American flag - once for every twelve product placements I believe is the formula they go by these days - and so I'm OK with that. And if you want to make a movie completely void of religion, I'm fine with that too. But please, enough with the 'kinda-sorta-not really-but most definitely is' religion stuff. It's driving me bonkers.

Uni, over and out.

8 better thoughts:

The Mad Hatter said...

Sucks bein' on the outside, don't it?

Rich said...

Have you seen 'Soul Surfer' yet? It's based on a true story, and I read that the parents of the girl the movie is about had to fight to keep the religious elements in. Like for instance, the filmmakers would have an unidentified black book that kinda looks like a Bible but the parents insisted that it actually be a Bible. Stuff like that.

I have no use for religion either, but this sort of thing in movies doesn't bother me. Religion dominates American life to a disproportionate degree as it is; anything that indicates a concession to secularism is fine by me.

Red said...

Movies really should be more risky and just say what they mean. Films like The Mist or even an Easy A don't really hold anything back, and the film is better all the much for it. Oh boy did I want to jump into the screen and slap the hell out of Marcia Gay Harden in that movie.

Univarn said...

@Mad Aye aye, after your post, I start trying to think of different things I can relate too.

@Rich See, I don't mind the concession if I thought that was what they were doing. To me this is just a marketing ploy, and religion has more than enough of that bogging it down.

@Red Oh god, don't even remind me. I remember sitting there listening to my dad yell "just kill the bitch already" right in the middle of The Mist - honestly spit out my soda.

Tom Clift said...

You're definitely right that this is a recurring trend in movies these days - off the top of my head, PRINCE CASPIAN, BOOK OF ELI, THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU, KNOWING and TRON: LEGACY are all recent movies that I've seen with extremely Christian themes (although I'd argue that that was actually one of the more interesting parts of TRON...but I digress).

Honestly though, it only bothers me when it's in a bad or mediocre film. You mentioned THE MATRIX, a film filled with not-so-subtle quasi-spirituality. But I love that movie, so I let it slide. Same with THE MIST actually, which Red brought up (audiences in my theatre cheered, and I literally high-fived a random person in the row behind me when Marcia Gay Harden's character got what was coming to her).

Fletch said...

I prefer "heathen," personally.

Anyway, count me amongst the ones that this doesn't really bother. I'd almost rather have them seeking to eliminate the references as opposed to blaring religion at me. At least make me have to assume. Then again, if it were overt, or even feels overt (like Soul Surfer), odds are you're not getting me in the door, so I admit I'm not the best one to ask.

Besides, I'm not sure how hidden these references are in the first place. I'll admit that I was a bit hoodwinked with The Adjustment Bureau - I was unfamiliar with Dick's story and assumed it was more a tale about shadowy government types than spiritual guides prior to entering the theater. So on that front, I guess you could say that 'they' won; then again, I'm not sure it'd have kept me out of the theater had I know that anyway.

Oh, and I call b.s. on you (and Tom) including Book of Eli in this. It doesn't get much more overt than that - if anyone didn't know that Denzel was carrying around a Bible prior to seeing that, they need to get their head checked.

Univarn said...


@Fletch The reason I included Book of Eli, was not the way in which it hid its Christianity, but the way it tried to skirt the issue of Christianity's play on the end of the world. Multiple times throughout the film Denzel would spin off on a "well, they say this was the reason the world ended, but you know... *cough cough*... I mean, really *cough cough*... ummm, that's just people talk, you know?" It was an odd way of playing up the bible's importance in society, downplaying any negative attributes people had to associate with it. He relates heavily to the bible, but often simultaneously downplays its impact on him and plays up his impact on him. Honestly, it's some rather amusing dialogue. Which I also consider trying to skirt around any issues people may have with the religious following.

Fletch said...

I see what you mean, but at the same time, the "religion killed the world (more or less) in the first place" thing was right out there in front of us. In a way they skirted it, but they did bring it up. Certainly made for an odd duality to the message. And - whaddaya know...hypocritical!

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