I’m a firm believer you can tell a lot about a culture by the entertainment it consumes. If the past two weeks at the cinema are any indication, ours is a culture starving for the truths we were founded on.
The past two weeks have delivered movies with highly charged political messages and have reigned atop the box office, but each bears a very different perspective. One seems poised to begin a franchise, the other looks like it’s going to sink (pun intended).
Last week in this space I wrote about "Divergent," which is based on a popular young adult novel series. Set in a dystopian future similar to that of "The Hunger Games," "Divergent" is even more overtly anti-statist. The movie is better at deconstructing the Democratic Nirvana of the Nanny State than anything to come out of the Republican Party in decades. It opened the weekend of March 21 without any major stars in the cast and made $55 million — good enough for the sixth best March movie opening ever. This week it fell to No. 2 at the box office, but after grossing $95 million overall, it already has made a profit and the studio has green-lit the sequel.
This week’s No. 1 movie couldn’t be any more different.
"Noah," starring Russell Crowe, bears no resemblance to the Bible story other than its title. The movie is ideological porn for atheists, which shouldn’t be surprising since it was directed by one.
In atheist Darren Aronofsky’s "Noah," the titular character is hardly a hero — more of a psycho like Jack Nicholson’s character in "The Shining." God, referred to throughout the film as merely “The Creator,” isn’t much better. He’s passive, moody, and contradictory. In fact, by the end of the film, you come to the conclusion that Aronofsky believes man would be better off with no God at all, which is what happens when you have a biblical epic masterminded by an atheist. The opening line of Noah is “in the beginning there was nothing,” and “nothing” is a pretty apt description of the movie.
Although it beat out "Divergent" for No. 1 this week, it made $10 million less than "Divergent" did a week ago. "Noah" is the first major, live-action biblical epic out of Hollywood since Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" a decade ago, but that movie did twice the business in its opening weekend and went on to gross more than $600 million worldwide. After audiences rated it only a “C” at Cinema Score, which tracks audience reaction to movies nationwide, it looks like "Noah" will drown when "Captain America" is released this week.
Apparently, the only people surprised that a movie’s target audience doesn’t want to be insulted and patronized by a filmmaker hostile to their worldview run Paramount Studios, which will be lucky to break even on the $130 million production of "Noah."
Similarly, the only people who seem to like "Noah" are the critics, most of whom are liberals. Which means it’s also not a surprise they don’t like the conservative-leaning "Divergent" while the American people do. Over at the movie critic website Rotten Tomatoes, 75 percent of the professional critics liked "Noah" but only 48 percent of the public did. Meanwhile, only 39 percent of the critics liked "Divergent" but 79 percent of the public did.
Caught in the middle of this tug-of-war between "Divergent" and "Noah" is a movie on its way to becoming perhaps the most profitable independent release of the year. "God’s Not Dead," about a Christian college student who stands up to his militant atheist professor, has finished in the top 5 of the box office for two consecutive weeks. Not bad for a movie made on a shoe-string budget, and that’s only appearing on about one-third of the screens that "Divergent" and "Noah" are showing on.
Last week "God’s Not Dead" had the second-highest per-screening gross in the industry, making about $7,500 per showing. Again, demonstrating the divide between the elites and main street America, only 20 percent of the critics like "God’s Not Dead," but a whopping 86 percent of the American public does.
So what does all this mean?
People ultimately vote with their pocketbooks, in politics and in pop culture. And based on people’s pocketbooks it appears the American people like the pro-liberty "Divergent," wanted to like "Noah" but after seeing what an atheist did to the beloved Sunday School story rejected it, and are willing to seek out "God’s Not Dead" in limited release.
Translation: Contrary to what our ruling class elites claim, God is not dead in America. And neither is liberty.
(Steve Deace is the author of “Rules for Patriots: How Conservatives Can Win Again.” You can follow him on Twitter @SteveDeaceShow.)