- - Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The first thing

“The actual content of these films, including the spiritual content, may be problematic, from the credulous spiritualism of ‘Hereafter’ to what seems to be a muddle of Christian and New Age ideas in the sexually explicit ‘Stone.’ … If there’s a trend at all, though, it’s a long, gradual one, not a recent surge. I can’t see that the current crop of spiritually themed movies is notably different from Hollywood offerings from the last several years. Hereafter is reminiscent of other (also mediocre) God/afterlife-haunted films like ‘Dragonfly’ and ‘Henry Poole is Here.’ …

“In the Christian movie scene, alas, the message comes first, and story and character are secondary considerations. That’s a recipe for mediocrity. Truth has to emerge from a commitment to the characters and their story; it may be messy, but it will be more convincing. Here is a story I love: Marc Rothemund, the director of ‘Sophie Scholl: The Final Days,’ is an atheist, but he told me, ‘I believed in God the whole time I was making Sophie Scholl.’ That is, telling Sophie’s story was what mattered to him, and he put himself and his beliefs aside to do her justice. How many Christian would-be moviemakers outside Hollywood even understand that principle?”

Steven D. Greydanus, writing on “Is Hollywood Rediscovering Religion?” on Oct. 20 at his National Catholic Register blog

Good intentions

“If anything, [author Peter] Gill remarks, ‘our expectations and promises have become grander’ since [Bob] Geldof recorded his charity single about starving children, ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ with its chorus of ‘Feed the world/Let them know it’s Christmastime again,’ and when, in the acerbic formulation of the Zambian-born neo-liberal economist Dambisa Moyo, one of the fiercest recent critics of the aid system, ‘Africa became the focus of orchestrated worldwide pity.’

“When New Labour came to power in Britain, [Tony] Blair declared that one of its goals was ‘eliminating world poverty.’ Bono, generally more sensible than Geldof (who does not seem to be able to imagine how any decent person could question either his motives or the effect of his initiatives), has popularized Jeffrey Sachs’ wildly over-optimistic view that poverty can be ended in our time — a theme taken up on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Ethiopian famine by the charity Christian Aid, with its ‘Poverty Over’ publicity campaign.”

David Rieff, writing on “Abused by Hope,” in the Oct. 28 issue of the New Republic

Double standards

“So here’s a quick thought experiment about America’s latest sex scandal: What if Karen Owen was pulling an Easy A? If you’ve been on the Internet recently, you already know that Owen — a 2010 graduate of Duke University — described her sexual relationships with 13 male student-athletes at Duke in a mock Power Point presentation, which went viral on the Net. And if you’re a teenager — or, like myself, the parent of one — you’ve probably heard about Easy A, the recent movie in which the adolescent female protagonist pretends to have slept with multiple boys in her high school.

“Easy A received critical accolades for its deft sendup of the sexual double standard, which censures sexual activity by women but celebrates it for men. Indeed, the adolescent boys in the movie are embarrassed that they are not having sex with girls. That’s why they pay the heroine — played by the actress Emma Stone — for the privilege of saying that they slept with her. They get to be studs, for doing what ‘real men’ do. But she is vilified as a slut … for doing exactly the same thing.

“So if it turned out that Karen Owen had invented her entire sexual history, like the girl in ‘Easy A,’ we’d surely congratulate her, too, for lampooning the double standard. But it appears that she was telling the truth. So the entire country is now condemning her as — you guessed it — a slut.”

Jonathan Zimmerman, writing on “Hester Prynne in the Internet Age,” on Oct. 12 at the Chronicle of Higher Education

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