Is Hollywood looking to Christianity?

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. 


Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side. Photo: Ralph Nelson

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.”


Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) offers Neo (Keanu Reaves) a choice. Photograph: Warner Bros. Pictures

 

 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.

10 Responses to Is Hollywood looking to Christianity?

  1. Tom Fowler says:

    Pure hypocrisy.

  2. I like the idea that Hollywood is trying to get back to Christian values but somehow, through this article, they are reaching or rather hype extending itself in trying to draw a Christian audience with the Matrix trilogy and Saving Private Ryan. Both films have an R rating and not many Christian families will take their children to see them.
    The film Secretariat is a good example of trying to recover the values of morality and as well as The Blind Side, however you forgot to mention a film called The Rookie. This film was the last big budgeted G rated film and it not only had a good storyline but good plot and good characterization.
    Since Hollywood is trying to appeal to another audience,
    it’s going to take awhile for them to woo that audience back. They have taken a good step in the right direction but there are many more steps to take.

  3. Joel Murray says:

    I think Hollywood has just about realised that there is a large and passionate group of people to tap into as an audience in American Christians and are taking advantage. It is a good thing though!

    The three examples of films, however, were not aimed at Christians but have a Christian message of sorts. The article was trying to show the apparently expanding link between cinema and Christianity, inspired by the article mentioned at the beginning.

  4. Tom Bown says:

    The Blind Side is a terrible, terrible, borderline racist movie. LOL ALL THE WHITE PEOPLE ARE SURPRISED THAT THE BLACK MAN HAS TABLE MANNERS. The only message it preaches is “hooray for rich white people” so….well, I guess it’s no surprise American Christians responded so well to it.

  5. Joel Murray says:

    Thanks for reading, Tom!

    From what I’ve seen and heard of The Blind Side, it seems more that it’s trying to overcome the racial tendencies that rich white people have, rather than advocating them.

    Either way, an example of how the film has been used, as mentioned in the Telegraph article, is reflecting on taking in strangers, Matthew 25:35-36, which is a value that we should all try and keep, surely?

  6. Tom Bown says:

    The overall message is a decent one, yeah, but it’s diluted by the fact that every other black character is this violent/threatening gangster. It’s not advocating rich white people racism, but there’s a really patronising tone to it when it comes to race relations. It’s very self-congratulating and almost arrogant.

    It’s also cliched and predictable but that’s not really relevant.

  7. Joel Murray says:

    Hmm I see what you mean, although it’s based on a true story, the representation is probably biased to exaggerate the situation? Although I wouldn’t say the point of the film is racist and sure wouldn’t generalise American Christians as racist.

    The self-congratulation is quite prominent in most big, American, Hollywood blockbusters I guess but it’s about looking past that to the good virtues that are indeed present.

  8. John R. Bloxson Jr says:

    I think if a person think blind side is racist maybe they should look more deeply into their own soul because they may find that it is they who are truly racist. I have worked for years with the boys that get lost in the shuffle of todays world and can tell you that racism only exist in the minds of individuals and one thing is true if a Christian family adopts an orphened child and raises that child why would you say it is racist? A child is a child and the color barrier should not exist and if you a African American sees a white child in the terrible straights that young man was in and don’t lend a helping hand than my friend it isn’t the movie that is racist it is you personally. If that hurts maybe it will get you to rethink your own prejudice and chang your view. Christ didn’t come to save the healthy He came to save the sick and downtrodden, He came to save the lost and unloved, the prisoner and the Junky, the Jew and the Gentile. I do not see anything in the Bible taught by Jesus as racist and the story of the good Sameritan is an example of doing away with racial distinctions. At it’s core than true Christianity is in fact Color blind and true Christians don’t see in Black and White but through the lenses of Jesus like Him they see a lost enslaved person who needs a helping hand and not the back of the hand that young man was being dealt before they did what Christ told them to do help the lost and needy which is something the secular world is fast forgetting in their rush to please self without Jesus there is no true happiness hollywood shows us when we see infadelity, drug addiction, suicide money does not bring happiness it does not get rid of pain and inthe end it can destroy. Racism is a sad fact in some individuals be they red, yellow, black, or white and it is destructive to the individual who hold them more so than to the object of their bigotry, and predjudice.

  9. John R. Bloxson Jr says:

    I have read two replies and they truly trouble me the Racist in the movie were true characters not strereotypes but actual people. They none of them realy tried to give this young person a chance they should all be ashamed of their racist behavior. But these two missinterpretations of the film are a sad reality of racism in the commentors own thought much more so than the movie.