Almost on a daily basis of late, we’ve been receiving further confirmation for what we’ve already known — Hollywood is a cesspool of vice and corruption. From the Weinstein scandal to the growing pedophilia scandal, Hollywood is being revealed as an industry that should be steered clear of by anyone who desires to pursue God’s righteousness. The scandals aside, Hollywood’s product often violates the standards of righteousness demanded by God to begin with. One of the clearest examples in the past twenty years has been Boogie Nights starring Mark Wahlberg, who is a committed Roman Catholic. In fact, Wahlberg has admitted to praying to God and seeking forgiveness for his role in Boogie Nights.
Last week, while in Chicago to help Cardinal Blase Cupich in his efforts to bring younger people back to the Catholic Church, Wahlberg told Kim Janssen of the Chicago Tribune that “I just always hope that God is a movie fan and also forgiving, because I’ve made some poor choices in my past.”
When Janssen asked the movie star if he had sought God’s forgiveness for any specific movies, Wahlberg admitted, “Boogie Nights is up there at the top of the list.”
For those who haven’t seen the movie (and I recommend that you don’t watch it), Boogie Nights was a sleeper hit in 1997. With a production budget of 15 million dollars, the story of the rise to fame of a young man during porn’s “Golden Age” made over 43 million dollars at the box office and was nominated for three Oscars. It also propelled Mark Wahlberg, who played the young porn actor, to A-list movie star status.
As you can imagine, the movie is filled with explicit nudity and sex. In fact, it’s been reported that the writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson cast actual porn actors for background work in Boogie Nights’ “fake” porn scenes. Originally, Anderson wanted the film to be rated NC-17, but the production company intervened for marketing reasons.
While I’m aware that many professing Christians twist themselves into all kinds of rhetorical and theological pretzels to justify watching movies like Boogie Nights, it’s about as obvious as obvious gets that the movie is out of bounds for followers of King Jesus.
If Christians shouldn’t watch movies like Boogie Nights, what about starring in them? That’s a question that Mark Wahlberg is confronted with as a reportedly devout Roman Catholic whose job is acting in movies. And that’s a question Wahlberg has realized that he failed to appropriately interact with in the past.
At the event with Cardinal Cupich, Wahlberg told the audience of more than 1,000 that he generally goes to bed by 7:30 p.m. so that he can have plenty of time to pray in the morning. Whether his stated bedtime was hyperbole or not, it’s admirable that Wahlberg recognizes his need to come before God’s throne through prayer.
By no means do Wahlberg and I agree on important aspects of theology, much less Christian ethics (same-sex marriage is an important point of disagreement). However, I appreciate Wahlberg’s humility and willingness to admit that he made a mistake in accepting a role in Boogie Nights. I pray that by the power of the Holy Spirit he will continue to grow in his desire to honor and obey God in all areas, not just in the making of movies.