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How Conservatives Misunderstand Moviemaking

Getting Hollywood not quite right.

by
Andrew Klavan

Bio

March 19, 2013 - 10:30 am

From The Bible: Satan… or Obama… Like, whichever.

Daniel Wattenberg, the arts and features editor of the conservative Washington Times, wrote a piece last week chiding Hollywood for being confounded by the ratings success of the History channel’s mini-series The Bible. ”Blockbuster ratings for a compilation of bible stories from a reality TV producer taking his first crack at drama? Can’t be,” Wattenberg writes in the persona of a studio exec. “If there was a market for biblical epics, then Hollywood wouldn’t have long ago abandoned the genre. …  Makes no sense.”

No one can blame Wattenberg for taking a poke at Hollywood’s apparent reluctance to capitalize on the huge audience of the faithful. As I myself have joked repeatedly, if The Passion of the Christ had been about anything else, the Book of Acts would already be in the can.

But just for the record, no one in Hollywood is baffled by The Bible’s success. I think The Passion of the Christ blowout took them aback a little, but everyone gets it now: There’s a large audience of religious people who are tired of being mocked and put down by a small cadre of coastal sophisticates, but who will show up for solid, non-pandering faith-based entertainment. They’re not stupid; they’re not changing their minds; they’re not going away.

So why isn’t there more good work for the faithful? The problem is not Hollywood cluelessness, nor is it Hollywood evil. Conservatives tend to over-emphasize both.

“It’s a good script… it just needs some development.”

Just in the nature of things, you aren’t going to find a lot of stupid people succeeding in the entertainment business. It’s too competitive; the dumb die young. People in movies and TV have to invest tens, sometimes hundreds, of millions of dollars, plus a lot of time and sweat, on the off-chance of touching the hearts of the audience. No one knows what will work and what won’t. And even when you have a good property, there are so many moving parts — including a large number of temperamental and unreliable creative people like myself — that almost anything can go wrong along the way. You have to be sharp and lucky to stay in the game.

The people I meet in Hollywood aren’t bad people either. There are some true creeps, narcissists, and belligerents — that’s in the nature of a business in which huge amounts of money can be made through ego and fakery. But most of the people I’ve met are decent, funny, hard-working, and genuinely eager to entertain with high-quality material.

If conservatives and the religious are excluded, mocked, and even blacklisted in Hollywood — and yes, they are — the problem arises primarily through provincialism. The people who are attracted to the biz tend to be more left-wing and secular than the rest of us. The more they congregate, the more they tend to demonize people unlike themselves. Pretty soon, they become convinced that, while personally flawed, they are nonetheless one of the good guys, and that those who disagree with them are the bad guys. This feeling is encouraged by a small but powerful group of politically minded activists doling out rewards for right thinking and punishments for error. Believe me, I’ve seen these phenomena among conservatives too.

What’s more, no matter what you think you know, no one goes into the arts for money alone. Those who tell you Hollywood is about profit and nothing else either aren’t in the business or are in denial. In the old days, when Hollywood was run by businessmen, money more or less ruled. Now, that old order has been overturned. Creative people including actors, directors, and even writers have a lot more power. They instigate projects and can even push them down the road to completion. Money and profits are still important factors, but there’s a lot of other stuff in the mix. Prestige, awards, glamour, creative satisfaction, the respect of people you respect, pretty girls, whatever.

So… when a bunch of people who trend left and secular are making films to win the praise and respect of other people who trend left and secular — egged on by a handful of powerful executives and reviewers and stars and politicians who will go out of their way to praise them for leftism and punish them for speaking kindly of God, country, Republicans, or conservative values — you get the situation you have now.

The way to change that situation is for conservatives and believers…  to complain, yes…  but also to get involved — get involved as creators, executives, financiers, reviewers, award-givers, and as a vocal audience demanding what they want.

Do that — and The Bible will just be the beginning.

****

Cross-posted from Klavan on the Culture

Andrew Klavan’s newest novel is Nightmare City.

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Top Rated Comments   
There have been numerous studies showing that "G" and "PG" movies make much more money than the "R" and "NR" freakshows that Hollywood prefers, yet few to none are released every year. It is not profit involved here. Hollywood portrays Christians as : evil or stupid or hypocritical/wicked. No other religious group is so portrayed. Why? Academia is violently intolerant of religious belief, although only Christians -- Mohammedans are privileged on evey campus. The MSM is similarly anti-Christian on every subject except the minimum wage and open immigration (which benefits nonn-whites). These are specific venues which are hostile to Christianity. But we also have the ACLU persecuting Christians wherever they dare to raise their heads. So, who is the ACLU? Who runs Hollywood? Who dominates academia? At the end of every MSM broadcast, look at the names of those responsible. Who was Saul Alinsky? Who is George Soros? Talk about failure to connect the dots! Just as Big Chief O'bwana is trying to claim the same privilege as the Prophet Mohammed, in not allowing representations (although only negative ones) to be shown of his likeness, there are obvious restrictions on speech relative to certain, very small, ethnic groups in the US today. I was born in 1947, and I know what a white America was like. E.g., some DC matron complained to Bess Truman about POTUS Harry's references to Africans-in-America as "nigras'". Bess replied: "Good grief! It took me 50 years to get him to say 'nigras'." Orwell pointed out, about the year I was born, how language can be controlled to direct behavior and, ultimately, thought. America today is one big re-education camp. When thoughts and opinions that were ubiquitous within one man's lifetime disappear, you know a culture-war has been fought and lost. The 60s counter-culture has replaced American culture. That's a fact. But also a fact is that today's culture has no relation to Americans as a nation, and is in fact hostile to every aspect of American society and to every normal ethnic-American (read some 1800 census reports -- there was definitley an American nation). Again, 60 years ago this wasn't even a question, as WASPs still ran everything, as it always had been in America (I'm not a WASP, but I got along a hell of a lot better under the Cabots, the Lees, and the Saltonstall's, than I am under the Schumers, the Villagarosas, and the O'bwanas).
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
That's funny. I'm glad to hear your take. And I respect it. And I'm glad you enjoyed it. I on the other hand found it as irritating as fingernails on a chalk board -- sort of like watching Jurassic Park after reading the book.

And personally I get bored with the constant breathy rumbling voices of all the British actors they used. Especially the accent of the young Moses. "Hey, Mummy, why didn't my mums tell me who I was as she was breast feeding me for my first two years? Oh, that's right. She did. Then why did the producers write me in so that I didn't know? Hmm. I'm think developing credibility issues."

And moreover, they actually change the emotional motivations of just about every character in the vignettes they chose.

For example, the people of Sodom were not destroyed because they were violent, but because they had everything and gave nothing to those in need, and that they reveled in their ease.

And Samson was raised from birth to serve God as a nazarite, but somehow he's portrayed as a man spurred to lead a revolution because his wife was killed in a house fire due to racist prejudices, though this is not in the Bible, and is purely made up. Actually, I think the story of Samson is one of the more engaging in the Bible. So much is going on: seduction, intrigue, war, heroism, fatal failings, betrayal, and final redemption. None of this was even implied in the documentary.

John the Baptist was killed and his head literally served to Herod on a platter (hence the origin of the expression) not because of some philosophical argument about the messiah or concerns about a new Jewish king, but at the request of a dancer carrying out her mothers desire to be rid of John because he had denounced her marriage to Herod who was also her ex-husband's brother. Weird, memorable, watchable stuff. But it was there was it? (I was only half watching.)

There's a lot of other good stuff that the Bible actually contains that is integral to the story that the producers deliberately leave out or change. I don't know why they did it, but I do know there were many deliberate discrepancies built into their story that dilute it.

I would have loved to see David try on the armor he was given, and find it too heavy and untried, and chuck it all, pick up some smooth stones and whip out his sling on the run. According to the Bible, the stone sunk into Goliath's forehead, not just glance off. Goliath was dead before he hit the ground. Don't yuou think that would have been worth watching? The producers didn't -- and for reasons I can't figure.

This isn't The Bible story that they say it is; it's The Bible Lite. It's The Bible -- Based on A True Story.

Someday before I die I'd like to see produced a high-quality film of the Bible. You could make it as a trilogy like the Hobbit. But this is after-school special, she-killed-the-cheerleader -- inspired by a true story -- TV.

I'm glad you liked it but I suppose I was as disappointed as anyone who's already read the book.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
(Slightly off-topic, but you did use the picture.)

The most interesting thing about all the discussion about the face of Satan in this so-called documentary, is that when liberal Chrisitans get together and make a film about the Bible and they pick the face and form of the scariest, strongest, proudest, wisest image of evil they could devise -- it just so happens to look like Barak Obama.

And then all the liberal activists rage that Obama looks like the personification of evil.

Headline: Evil President's Supporters Angred that He Looks Like Satan
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (53)
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I wrote about Andrew Klavan's recent talk on conservative art here: http://clarespark.com/2013/03/22/traditionalists-on-the-culture-front/. To those who have commented about secularism, not all secularists are on the left, and all conservatives are not Christians.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I agree that we must do something rather than just complain. When I had it with the current crop of film critics, I started my own movie review website:
http://www.differentdrummer.cc/

Does this describe how you feel? Some of the films the critics disdain you enjoy with guilty pleasure, and the ones they rave about often leave you either cold, disgusted or both.

This excerpt from a review of Oz: the Great and Powerful will give you a taste of my perspective.

"When Michelle Williams later resurfaces as Glinda the Good, her virtue shines brighter than the jeweled Emerald City or its vast treasures of gold. Could it be that Hollywood, like the prodigal son staggering home after one too many reels of Bonnie and Clyde, Goodfellas, and the nameless spawn of heist sagas, is finally rediscovering the power of goodness"

DifferentDrummer
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
states with the larger conservative populace that goes to church and would be open to religious theme movies are also the leading states that purchase pornography. The fact that "wholesome movies" do good in the bottom line is because parents want their kids to watch it as well as the free publicity that such movies would get like The Passion. If you took away the tickets that are sold for kids, would those movies actually make money compared to movies that don't cater to the religious? That is the question. Most of these movies are geared for family but if your single why would you go?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"states with the larger conservative populace that goes to church and would be open to religious theme movies are also the leading states that purchase pornography."

Such 'facts' and its address of religious hypocrisy should be brought forth and recognized with far more consistancy! But then I suppose, the pretend puritans wouldn't much like such factual exposure.

Thanks!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You're incorrect: the blue-er the area, the more porn is imbibed. You'll have to find another reason to despise Christians!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The use of a obumma look-alike as Satan is playing to the Mick Jagger, "Sympathy for Devil" mindset...It actuallly is "cool" in terms of the collective psyche of Americans...It pays off on both sides of the Christian coin.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
That's what the "savvy" entertainment "professional" knows today And according to this article's toadyiism playing both conservatives and liberals for the suckers they are is just the professional accumen of the industry.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
That sort of "playing both sides of your auiendce to achieve the widest appeal" mindset is just what compels murderers like Jodi Arias...If she couches her homicide, as blatant as it was, in sypathetic terms, (abused woman, etc.)...She can sway an audience to forgive the offense...She knows her audience as crassly as the hollywood upstart looking to make easy money.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It is like this..If I have a product that is based on delusion I need a consumer base that demands more delusion...If that product base thrives in an environ that consists of consumers who are low wage workers or on government assistance...Than is in my industry's benefit to cultivate more consumers of that demeanor...Thus the trend towards socilaism thrives..(hollywood's boom years are always in the midst of war and depression)...The problem is that the government has given up taking action in regulating the power of culture So FDR has left the building.)....In the last 20 years alone more graphic sensantionalism an indecency has entered the market than in 100 + years of motion pictures.....It is a huge pay-off if you can be the first studio or distributor to bring something that has been prohibited like "full frontal nudity" to, say, public television..The widest market available...Those have become the "main chances"..And even the most "conservative" minds in hollywood, who would oppose such maneuvers, are thrown under the bus these days for that "liberal impulse"..Which is perversaely being couched in terms oif aesthetics...Take for instance the christ statue immersed in urine being fedserally funded by Arts Foundsations...The aetheic choice can, and I would suggest, DOES involve discretion..That is conversation...And art is a private conversation made public...There is no rule book in aesthetics that says "true" art is completely uninhibited..Ther is no rule book that requires art be "shocking"..But today that is where all the money is..Whether it be the evening news or Sunday morning television.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Remember it is just as "shocking" to get away with the most henious of lies such as the OJ Simpson trial...or perhaps the Jodi Arias trial...and if you have a consumer base that is incapable of discerning that being "shocked" is NOT a state of productivity or progress...but in fact, "shock" is being in astate debilitity...or unable to progress, or defend oneself...Than you have cultivated a mass market of social impotence.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Once you lower the standards, the precedent has been set..and in mot cases these days, these are legal precedents...The market becomes saturated with the same debased standards..cultivation.l
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Hollywood was always pluralistic and it was always pluralistic, its movies reflecting the populism of the mass audience. The suggestion that conservatives were ever shut out is ridiculous, but various "traditionalists" have made that argument. See http://clarespark.com/2009/07/31/more-on-the-abcs-of-staying-alive-and-preserving-the-planet/. If anything, movies have celebrated the heroism of the "common man", and also have fortified religion constantly. If there is too much sex for some, blame "the lower orders," not the moguls.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
May I suggest you read Ben Shapiro's Primetime Propaganda?

You cant be as clueless on this subject as you seem.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Sorry about repeating myself in the first sentence. I should add that social conservatives should think some more about horror movies and devil worship among the young people. Are they reacting to authoritarian, hyper-religious parenting?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
For today's young people, most of whom apparently are not as familiar with the Bible as us older folks, this movie gives a very twisted view of Judeo/Christian history. It got off on the wrong foot with me for combining Noah's Flood with the narrative paraphrase of The Creation story. Moses's excruciatingly slow and halting delivery of his speeches gave me the impression he was retarded, or maybe senile; and his appearance - dirty face, matted tangled hair, dirty threadbare garments - made me wonder how he got anyone to follow him. The episode where Jesus waded out to Peter's boat, up to his shoulders in water, then asked Peter in for help and His clumsy entry into the boat struck me as comical. The almost modern colloquial American dialogue in the conversation that ensued was in stark contrast to the slow, melodramatic utterance of a few of Jesus's well-known quotes from the Bible. Overall I can't see how a well-read Christian could like this movie.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"...who will go out of their way to praise them for leftism and punish them for speaking kindly of God..."

Isn't THAT an example of evil?

Okay... maybe it's not what "man" would describe as evil. Or even how man ranks evil. (It's not as bad as if they tortured and murdered young children.) However, God does not rate one evil less or greater than another. "For the wages of sin is death" says Romans 6:23. Notice how it does not say that the wages of some sin... or certain sin, or thsi or that sin... is death. while the wages of this other sin is merely a bad hair day. No, God says ALL sin is evil. And results in the same death. In Matthew 12:30 Christ said, "He that is not with for me is against me." And are not those who punish people who speak kindly of God against him?

Now I'm not trying to infer that I'm somehow better than these. In my humaness I too am evil. The difference being, that I have recognized my sin, confessed it and accepted God's forgiveness. And, because of my faith in Jesus Christ, God declares me righteous. "For what saith the scriture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness." Romans 4:3
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
When the New Hollywood came about in the mid 1960's, its hatred of Christianity and the family was explained as being because it was no longer for the general public. However, when television became anti-Christian hate media in the 1970's, the public went along with it. The truth is there are very few decent people left.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie were massively successful primetime dramas.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I started to watch the movie but got bored, I alteady know the story and the ending.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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