Saturday, August 8, 2015

Why Do American Christian Movie Audiences have Bad Taste?

I've written before on the trouble with "Christian movies".   Much of what comes out of America's Christian film industry is terrible.  For an example of what I am talking about, see my review of Facing the Giants.  Why do Christian audiences have such bad taste in movies?  This is a complex question with at least a few answers that will be outlined here.

Christian audiences have bad taste in movies because we have many of the same issues that mainstream audiences do.  American Christians often do not consume media in a radically different way than our secular counterparts.  This includes, but is not limited to, the categorical refusal to watch black and white, silent, and foreign language movies.  We often watch whatever is in front of us or most marketed to us.  This will not leave room for expanding our palettes or cultivation. Sometimes when not doing that, some Christian households will go the other route and take a blindly judgmental tone towards the entire medium.  While we should be conscientious, some folks have a needlessly defensive posture.  Why would people have cultivated taste in media if their consumption is rare and extremely "safe?"

Catholic Christianity has a strong legacy with the arts.  Probably the best example of this is our beautiful churches.  While all Protestantism is fundamentally not Catholicism, some strains are very anti-Catholic and these strains are often anti-art as well.  They might see aesthetic enjoyment as a pleasure of the flesh akin to fornication.  They also have taught that art is a manipulative tool of the apostate Catholic Church.  While this hardline stance is admittedly rare, why would we expect great art or art appreciation out of a milieu that has taught that art is evil?

America is not the country it was sixty years ago.  In some ways, it is actually better.  Christians, though, have felt the sting of our severely diminished cultural standing.  America has lost much of its Christian identity and its broad Christian and natural law values.  Christian audiences are desperate to have their Christian worldview and perhaps even more their very specific cultural milieu affirmed on screen, even if this means putting up with bad writing, bad acting and blatant pandering, or extremely naive earnestness that looks like blatant pandering.  In fact, the pandering may well be a welcome feature rather than a tolerated bug.  These pandering movies are a respite from an increasingly hostile modern world, although there are actual good movies with Christian content out there that people don't know enough about.  These often affirm Christianity but not necessarily their brand of Americana.  It's been said and I tend to agree that "Christian movies" are a consolation prize for losing the culture war.

Another problem that has contributed to this is that for at least the past century, the liberal intelligentsia has co-opted our very notions of what art is.  They have used their platform to push forward the silly excesses of much modern art.  Of course, Hollywood is also known for being particularly liberal.  When we've been endlessly told that the Academy Award nominees are the best works of cinematic art in a given year and they are largely liberal agenda movies, what are conservatives and Christians to think?  The movie and art worlds are populated with many dismissive liberal elitists.  That being said, dismissive elitism should not be met with defiant philistinism, or worse, relativism.  Conservatives and Christians should be reclaiming art, not taking the nuclear option and rejecting the very idea of art like a bunch of nihilists.

Conservatives and Christians already have a great artistic tradition.  For centuries, all the West's major paintings were of Christian content.  The Crucifixion of Christ is the most compelling recurrent image in history while the Sistine Chapel is one of history's most iconic paintings.  In movie history, some of the greatest filmmakers have been Christians such as Frank Capra and Alfred Hitchcock while one of America's all-time greatest actors was American patriot John Wayne.

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