Hollywood’s new target audience is, apparently, the Christians of America. It is the success of The Blind Side, as a result of targeting “mega-churches” across the States, which has drawn Hollywood to this, where an estimated 8.8 million strong Christian audience helped the film makers to a $309m (£195m) box-office, making over a 1000% profit.
The film tells the story of a young black teenager who grows into a leading American Football star after being adopted by a Christian lady. Advertisers provided these churches, of congregations about 400 each, with clips, before the film was released, and a Bible passage to go with it for discussion or teaching.
It seems that this was such a success that Hollywood is tapping into this market big time, having planned similar advertising campaigns for the recent release Secretariat and next year’s Soul Surfer.
Randall Wallace, director of Secretariat, who promoted the film on HollywoodJesus.com, sees a parallel between Christianity and the cinema: “I believe the function of storytelling is clearly powerful in our society… [Jesus] almost always responded with a story.”
The message of Christianity does seem to ring true in the cinema, as Wallace said, and it’s not only in films with Christian directors and Christian characters where it does so.
Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan follows Captain John Miller as he leads a squad of World War Two soldiers through France to find and rescue one man, Private James Ryan. The story mirrors Jesus’ parable of the lost sheep (Matthew 18: 12-14), that in God’s eyes, everyone is equal and each person matters.
The soldiers argue during the film that it’s not worth risking the lives of a whole squad for just one man, but Jesus says that he came to seek and save the lost, those in danger, and it definitely is worth saving one person who may have got lost along the way.
One of the most famous and complex science-fiction films of recent times has been The Matrix series by Andy and Larry Wachowski. In the first film of the trilogy, Neo and Morpheus, two of the main characters in the series, meet and Morpheus tells Neo of the Matrix: “You are a slave… like everyone else you were born into bondage.”
He offers Neo either a red or blue pill to take, one which will keep him in ignorance and one which will lead to the truth: “All I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more.” In the Bible, Jesus offers the same thing to counter the bondage that all humans are born into (John 8: 31-36). He says that all are a slave to sin and that all who hold to his teachings will “know the truth” and “the truth will set them free”.
Finally, The Green Mile possibly has one of the biggest parallels to Christianity in modern cinema. Directed by Frank Darabont but originally written by Stephen King, it tells the story of prison guard Paul Edgecomb’s relationship with John Coffey, a prisoner on death row who can miraculously heal.
Coffey’s parallels to Jesus are numerous, even over the fact that he performs miracles: both are kind and loving, both are being punished even in innocence and both seem to take on the pain of others. Even the character’s initials mimic that of Jesus Christ.
It seems that while Hollywood is now aiming to promote its films in churches to a Christian audience, it’s not too hard to find the Christian message in film in general. It’s a chance for churches to use film to reach a new film loving public and it’s a chance for film lovers themselves to explore the themes of Christianity which turn up in films throughout cinema.Tweet