- - Wednesday, December 13, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

In the Broadway megahit “Hamilton,” Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison meet together to decide on foundational policies that would still have major ramifications today… and all behind closed doors.

On the outside stands the excluded Aaron Burr, bemoaning that he’s not in on the conversation.

When George Washington asks, “What to you want, Burr?” Burr replies, “I wanna be in the room where it happens.”

To have our voices heard, to have the ability to speak into conversations that affect our lives, to be represented, all go to the heart of our democracy. However, in the media world — which consists of private, for-profit corporations — many decisions of cultural impact are being made, and often only the loudest voices get heard.

Second only to profits, perhaps the leading influencer that dictates what the world sees on its screens are the numerous, diverse voices representing many of the demographic threads of the American fabric. These voices speak for fragments of our culture divided by gender, race, political leanings, lifestyle, ethnic background or other special interests. Some are large and some small, but their objective is the same: to effectively urge, and often vehemently demand, that their factions be favorably reflected in TV and film characters and story lines.

However, America’s largest people group — followers of Jesus Christ — are all too often “not in the room where it happens.” (Seventy-five percent of Americans identify with a Christian religion says Gallup Poll, December 2015)

What is our voice?

1) An absent voice.

Why isn’t the Christian voice being heard? During the infancy of Hollywood, America’s Christian community was the deciding voice. But a few decades later, offended by what Hollywood was offering, many people of faith pushed back their chairs, walked out of the room and cocooned themselves in the sanctuary of our churches. The generations that followed were discouraged from going to the theater, let alone entering the media business. As the church relinquished the responsibility of providing or supporting positive, life-affirming films, the secular film culture filled the void.

So for many years, the term “Christian media professional” was an oxymoron. The Christian light in Hollywood became dimmed, in danger of being extinguished. But it didn’t go out. As a matter of fact, it grew and continues to grow into a massive flame. Countless Christian believers have entered the media professional ranks. The vast Christian community came back to the theater in record numbers. Over the past decade, the Christian audience has proven to be loyal, robust viewers of films that encourage and respect their values. Sadly, these kinds of “faith-friendly” films, while increasing, still remain disproportionately few, leaving the huge Christian audience foolishly underserved.

2) A needed voice

Life-affirming films, sometimes promoted as “the feel-good movie of the year,” usually are ones that touch our hearts, bring levity and purpose out of chaos, or make justice prevail. Films whose moving endings conclude with scenes of redemption (“Les Miserables”), self- sacrifice (“It’s a Wonderful Life”), good triumphant over evil (“Star Wars”), standing courageously by your convictions (“Chariots of Fire”), “right” winning the day (“High Noon”), or finding that which was lost (“Finding Nemo”) have inspired audiences and filmmakers alike.

Isn’t it interesting that all of these themes, which so resonate with the human spirit, are values of the Kingdom of God? They give us a glimpse of a world set right. We are reminded of how the world was supposed to be.

In looking at the top 100 highest-grossing films, a majority of the timeless, treasured films are those that inspire us to be our better selves. Now, more than ever, these films are needed as a positive influence on our culture. “The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in,” wrote late author and academic Harold Clarke Goddard.

Entry into “the room where it happens” is earned through compelling creativity, excellence of craft, and being a constant, genial, reasonable, beneficial voice into the hearts of the media’s decision makers.

I celebrate the young, passionate, talented generation that is rising up with the commitment to expand the Christian voice within the cinematic ranks. I applaud the Christian audience that is flocking to films that are worthy of their support. Media world, it is to your and our culture’s benefit that you open up a seat “in the room where it happens.”

Dan Rupple is CEO of Mastermedia International, an organization that for more than 32 years has served the leaders and influencers of the entertainment and media industries as a trusted life-changing Christian voice.


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