Friday, June 15, 2007

Hollywood Gets Religion?

I went to see Knocked Up, a tedious movie with a story so dull that Hollywood producers would have to love it. Is it my active imagination or is Hollywood turning religious?

First, this boring comedy struck me as almost a fantasy because any normal non-religious woman in the heroine’s situation would get an abortion. Now, I understand that if the heroine gets an abortion, there’s no story (not that there was much of a story anyway), but the movie did not feel the need to justify her decision to have the baby in any way. The woman’s mother wanted her to “get it taken care of” but the woman simply refused without giving any reason for her decision. The movie couldn’t even say the word abortion; the closest a character came is “shmashmortion.”

Second, two of the previews had religious themes: License to Wed and Evan Almighty, both of which look so unbearably bad that you couldn’t pay me to watch them.

Am I onto something here or is this just an atheist’s hypersensitivity to anything that smacks of mysticism?

If I’m right, what does it mean? Here are the choices:

A. Hollywood is changing and more religious people are making movies.
B. Hollywood is letting a few religious movies get made to keep the conservatives off their back.
C. Hollywood is going where the money is, making more religious movies because that’s what the ticket-buying public of America and the world want to see.
D. A little bit of all of the above and some other factors as well. (I include this choice for all you empiricist-minded complexity worshippers who get sweaty palms at the thought of identifying a principle.)
My answer is A. As America goes, so goes Hollywood. And the ominous fact is that America is becoming more religious. Hollywood is not so much a leader of culture as a follower. Any widespread philosophic changes will inevitably change an industry full of timid social metaphysicians who would rather copy a proven success than innovate. We're not talking about visionaries or titans of independence here.

It’s not the first time Hollywood has embraced religion. Some ‘40s movies are drenched in mysticism, altruism and sentimentality and they are unbelievably boring, as if pop culture was just trying to lull people to sleep in that tacky decade. Unless you need a soporific, avoid all '40s movies that involve priests, nuns, doctors or nurses, as these types are invariably portrayed as selfless idealists who sacrifice their happiness for humanity.

Instead of back to the future, Hollywood is going forward to the past. Forward to the past in bad way: Hollywood is rediscovering the worst traditional values while keeping the worst new age values, all the while still ignoring the lost art of romanticism.

(Other than religion the only other trend I see is the same one we've been living with since the rise of the blockbuster -- that is, idiocy designed for the lowest common denominator. I mean, Underdog? Remember when Hollywood used to make intelligent movies? Neither do I.)

UPDATE: Revision.


EdMcGon said...

Don't you mean your answer is "C"? If it was "A", that would mean the Hollywood powers-that-be had become religious and are trying to force it down our throats, which I don't think is your message, nor is it probable.

Myrhaf said...

I think the answer is A because the people involved sincerely believe in what they are doing and are not just cynically pursuing money. I think America is changing and that it's inevitable that Hollywood will reflect that change sooner or later.

I read a story once that there was a dinner in Hollywood around 1969 that had some old guys such as Henry Hathaway and Howard Hawks and some new guys such as Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda. One of the new guys erupted at one point, yelling something at an old guy like, "Your day is over! We're taking over now!" Well, the New Leftists are now the old guys and I believe some of the new young turks are probably religious. As in 1969, the old and the young represent two different world views.

Inspector said...

"Hollywood is rediscovering the worst traditional values while keeping the worst new age values, all the while still ignoring the lost art of romanticism."

Very, very true. Like they're trying to find some kind of monstrous Hegelian synthesis of religion and the disgusting hedonsim that is our culture.

Myrhaf said...

That's a good point, Inspector. I fear the synthesis of the New Left and let us say the New Right. Maybe this cultural synthesis is what we have to look forward to in the rest of our lives.

I hope you weren't offended by my sneer at Underdog. You could be looking forward to that movie. I myself might like it if I first drank a couple of six-packs.

Inspector said...

Implying I'm an Underdog fan? Oh, you.

Just for that...

Yes, a veritable Hegelian synthesis. Or should I say... Heiglian synthesis?

Myrhaf said...

Sorry. I was half-serious. I started thinking, "Oh, hell -- Inspector is probably looking forward to seeing Underdog and I was awful snarky." Then I felt bad, but I couldn't be serious so I was half-joking and I just dug myself in deeper.

Inspector said...

I think you picked the best path. I was going to throw that awful pun at you anyway, but now I don't feel so bad about it. :P

I figure you owe me anyway, for your Hasselhoffian nickname. Of course then, there was that whole Powerpuff Girls thing...

Oh, we have too much fun, me and The 'Haf.

Myrhaf said...

I hate to admit it, but the pun still escapes me...

Tom Rowland said...

I, too, think the answer is "A" but I'm not sure that America is changing as fundamentaly as I originally thought. I'm seeing a fundamental conflict here between epistemological forces that goes as far back as the progressive era at least, and this is its current manifestation.

In any case, the anti-choice crowd is aware of the situation. I've forgotten which site I saw it on but I read that they were heartened by the fact that a recent episode of House had a woman who refused to have an abortion treated positively.

Tom Rowland

Inspector said...

"I hate to admit it, but the pun still escapes me..."

Check the last name of the lead actress of the movie.

Jim May said...

Working in Hollywood as I do, I can tell you that I've not met any religious types who are in creative roles; the one notable Christian I know works in visual FX like me.

Based on what I'm seeing, the answer is C -- for now.

But down the road? More A as time goes along. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see some of Hollywood's leading leftists try to "co-opt" Christianity from underneath the religious Right, by doing religious movies that nonetheless emphasize its more Episcopelian side.

As for "B", I have a friend who is in the religious market, and while it's growing fast -- hence my primary choice being C -- it is nowhere near spawning any sort of "Jesuswood" anytime soon. So Hollywood isn't making one bit of concession to conservatives; they do not yet feel the need. Hollywood will go down the "A" road long before the circumstances that would mandate "B" will arise.