Like there are dirty limericks carved into the side of gas station bathrooms with more artistic and spiritual merit, and for anyone who doubts me I’d challenge you to watch God’s Not Dead 2, which premiered on the first of this month.
As much as you might pray otherwise- no, this is not some elaborate April Fool’s trick. This wretched, pandering slog of garbage is absolutely real, the hellspawn of 2014’s disturbingly popular (and obliviously sacrilegious) God’s Not Dead.
Look, as much as I’d like to pour out seven bowls of wrath upon this nasty, ugly product of a nasty, ugly franchise, I’m not going to. There are people who’ve already done so with more eloquence than I could muster, and I legitimately think I’d have a stroke if I tried to convey my repulsive and rage to this unholy dreck. If you’ve got a shred of artistic judgment or basic morality, you can see what makes this movie bad.
So let me ask this instead:
What would a good Christian movie look like?
Here’re some of my ideas-
That Dark Battle
The God’s Not Dead franchise has a habit of using death and disease to hamfistedly make its points. Is the prideful atheist looking down her Ivy-League nose at these simple, humble Christians? Smite her with cancer! Haha! She’s not so high-and-mighty now that she’s facing a slow and painful death! Thanks, God!
Think that’s a bit cruel?
It’s OK! She converted and has been miraculously cured! Because no God-fearing person has ever died of cancer and no atheist has died of anything else!
I **** you not- that happens in the first God’s Not Dead.
Mr. David A.R. White- On behalf of everyone who’s ever lost a loved one to cancer, allow me to say a heartfelt “****. You.”
A teaser for the new James Bond film has hit and I am more than a little excited.
It also makes me feel conflicted because so many aspects of the Bond franchise fly in the face of much of what I strongly believe as a feminist. Below, I’ve outlined a few issues I have with the Bond movies, and below that some reasons why I haven’t given up on the franchise altogether. At this point I’m required to warn you about spoilers, although I seriously doubt I will reveal anything you don’t already know about the films.
1) Women are constantly objectified in Bond films
It’s no secret that the James Bond franchise is all about eye-candy, from the cars and gadgets to virtually every women who steps foot on set. Not only are these women present to demonstrate Bond’s power of seduction, they are also present to be viewed by the movie-goer.
And if near naked ladies aren’t enough for you, they will throw in some naked lady silhouettes in the opening credits.
One of the only women to not be sexualized in her role was Judi Dench, who played M in the last seven Bond films. Unfortunately, although not surprisingly, she was killed off in the last film.
EVAN: The particular topic of discussion that comes to us today is more one that finds itself passed back and forth within Christian circles, and that is: “Why is Christian media so bad?”
GORDON: I think the problem is self-imposed by the religion (I use the term loosely) itself. We’re not talking about a lack of funding (we’ve got plenty of good low-budget films), or a lack of good directors (there’s plenty of decent talent out there), we’re talking about an issue that runs right down the core of it all.
“Christian” media can’t just be media- they have to drag in everything that goes with it.
EVAN: So basically what you’re saying, and we talked about this a little earlier, is that Christian media more often than not has an agenda, correct?
GORDON: I’d say plenty of it has an agenda, but no, I don’t think that’s the core issue- there’s plenty of other preachy movies out there.
EVAN: So what are you saying, exactly?
GORDON: I’m saying that “Christians” can’t make good media because they won’t allow themselves to. Every protagonist has to fit the moral code to a tee, so that they wind up as either Aslan 2.0 or the epitome of Christian morality: John Smith, the middle class suburban, patriotic family man. Which is why I keep putting “Christian” in quotation marks.
We’re not talking about Catholic peasants in El Salvador or the East Orthodox Church in Ethiopia.
EVAN: Okay, I like that a lot, this idea that those creators of Christian media [and primarily I think we’re talking about films] box themselves in. They’re telling the same sorts of stories to who they perceive to be their audience [and they’re not wrong]: white suburban middle class families.
To sort of break this up a little, I actually saw a Christian film that was reasonably passable at some point last summer.
GORDON: Was it related in any way to Steve Taylor?
EVAN: Is that any way related to “End of the Spear”? It was not, if that’s what you’re referring to.
GORDON: Steve Taylor is the only good Christian musician who ever has or ever will have existed.
But anyway, what was the movie you saw?
EVAN: It was called “To Save a Life,” and it stood out for a couple of reasons:
1) The cinematography was shockingly good for something produced and made by Christians. You can tell which movies they are within the first few seconds.
2) The “villain” of the piece was actually the pastor’s kid. Which was- refreshing, and kind of nice.
It kind of broke out of the whole stereotype you introduced earlier.
GORDON: Huh- interesting. I’ll have to check out the trailer. But let me ask you this:
Can a Christian make a James Bond movie?
EVAN: You mean a movie starring a suave, debonair British man who beds women and guns down henchmen as naturally as he dons his suit jacket every morning?
I’d say no, probably not.
GORDON: I think that’s the problem. It’s not just that you can’t have any explicit sex or graphic violence or excessive profanity (which are overused and abused as is), you can’t have anything even remotely sensual or rough or crude. It rips away reality and humanity in the name of not stepping on anyone’s toes.
EVAN: Well, I’d say the difference is that you can’t have a protagonist who glorifies such things as wanton sexuality-
I say that Christian filmmakers will never produce anything like James Bond because of who the character is.
GORDON: Did you like the movie “Fight Club”?
EVAN: I liked it a fair amount.
GORDON: Did you like “Ocean’s 11” or “Snatch”?
EVAN: I haven’t seen the latter, but I very much enjoyed the former.
GORDON: Did you like “Superbad”? “Kick-Ass”? “Ironclad”?
But I think you’re going to have to get to your point-
GORDON: Could a Christian make any of these movies?
EVAN: I think a Christian could, yes. In relation to “Fight Club”, at least, Christian author Ted Dekker has penned novels [sold both in and out of Christian bookstores] which offer a fairly decent psychological thriller aspect to the reader.
GORDON: Ah, Dekker. The whole reason he stands out as an exception is- I believe- that he grew up among Indonesian headhunters, and not in Middle America. Again, it’s about having that different perspective on life.
EVAN: And I think what he’s realized, as a creator of the arts, as someone who has a hand in shaping Christian media, is that you can have these other sorts of exciting, thrilling stories told with a faith-built worldview. People of every religion want a little excitement.
GORDON: Of that there’s no question. The heavy use of the video library at our school stands in testament to that.
But again I think the issue is that “Christian” self-imposed isolation inevitably leads to the vast majority of their work winding up as “White People Problems” or “Chronicles-of-Narnia-minus-the-good-stuff”…
EVAN: Or “Lord-of-the-Rings-but-way-more-heavy-handed.”
EVAN: I mean, we’ve talked a little bit about why Christian media can be bad [terrible production values, cookie-cutter story lines, sheer absurdity], but how could it be better [to harken back a little to our last talk]?
GORDON: They have to stop being terrified of the big bad world. They have to realize they can show characters with flaws- real flaws- not drunkard stereotypes and the occasional swear word.
Saying this will get you expelled from Liberty, Pensacola, and BJU
EVAN: I mean, a deeply flawed person who finds redemption is a much more compelling story than a white bread sort of guy with his middle class problems.
And they have to stop coddling their audience. Yes, Christians turn to Christian media for “better alternatives,” but the odd cuss word won’t negate an overall positive message; neither will a fight scene, or two guys sitting around enjoying a beer.
GORDON: There’s this one scene in a (Christian) movie Steve Taylor directed:
A character hurts his hand loading something into the back of van. He lets loose a cuss word and his buddy chides him for it, saying “God don’t like it when we cuss.”
Later on in the film, the buddy hangs his head and apologizes, saying “I’m sorry. I was upset that you cussed- I should’ve just been upset that you hurt your hand.”
EVAN: Wow. That is very, very good.
GORDON: That right there is the problem not just with Christian media, but with the whole religion.
EVAN: Misplaced priorities.
GORDON: More obsessed with present clean-cut paragons of middle class etiquette than anything really real.
That’s why we turn to “secular” movies for actual substance. The struggle for identity in “Fight Club”, the heroism in “Kick-Ass”, the friendship in “Superbad.”
EVAN: I think what’s really ironic is that Christian media-makers have a Christian-made work out there that’s immensely popular. “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” came out just this past December.
GORDON: I again reference an (alleged) quote by Steve Taylor.
“I’m not a Christian artist- I’m an artist who is Christian- it affects what I do.”
EVAN: Really well-put. And something that a lot of us [I speak for many in our graduating class] as writers, musicians, artists, et cetera would benefit from keeping in mind.
And that puts us more than a little overtime.
GORDON: Well, people, you know what that means. Time to vote on our subject for next week.
EVAN: My contribution this time around is . . . wow, I never think ahead . . . masculinity. You’ve done a post about “Manly Culture” in the past, but I want to talk about what it is at present, and how we feel about the shifts and trends and things.
GORDON: Interesting subject. I submit we speculate on the upcoming Star Wars movies.
EVAN: If you think you’re up for it, then yeah, cool. I’ve read quite a few of the post-original-trilogy books, so I know a reasonable amount about the subject.
And with that witty response, we’re out! Have a good night, everyone.
I have not seen Skyfall– I’m gonna kick things off by stating that right here and now. Nevertheless, I have been following the movie’s development for a while, and the apparent consensus from both the critics and the fans is that “at long last” Daniel Craig’s Bond actually gets back to the spirit of the rest of the series.
Let me break that down a bit.
See, the issue voiced by many Bond fans regarding Craig’s version is that the gritty realism often feels too much like something from the Jason Bourne universe. Many argue that Craig’s Bond lacks the feeling of the older movies, which were (comparatively) more lighthearted and glamorous than the darker and harsher installments we’ve seen over the past few years. This complaint, I’ve noticed, seems to come a lot more from older generations, usually from the 80s backwards, while my own generation seems much more comfortable with Craig’s version. It’s not that it’s about familiarity- after all, there were Bond films while we were growing up, however, I think the whole “New JB VS Old JB” contention really comes down to a shift in values.
I mean, let’s take a look at some of the old James Bonds.
They were off sipping Martinis, flirting with enemy spies, and driving classic cars that turned into planes or submarines or shot lasers and rockets. And all of that was a reflection of the time. The Space Age, where new and innovative technology was bringing us ever closer to a Jetson family standard of living. Those Bond movies were simply a reflection of that era. The same goes for the hedonistic Brosnan Bond of the 90s. The crazy (nearly to the level of cartoonish) villains and schemes, the deus-ex-machina technology (I’m looking at you remote-controlled muscle car) all reflected the materialistic culture that dominated the time.
In the same way, the new James Bond films are a reflection of our own age. The glamorization that marked earlier films would, if applied now, just look condescending. As the economic crisis drags on and as we become more and more acclimated to the issues of unemployment, poverty, and constant warfare, sympathizing with slick government agents in tuxedos driving luxury cars and infiltrating Mediterranean cruises gets pretty dang tough. The bloodied and battered, and ultimately more realistic, Bond that Craig gives us simply appeals more to us. He’s not so much a tour guide for us into the wild and fascinating world of espionage as he a full, tragic character struggling in a lousy situation. The whole divide is demonstrated beautiful in this clip from Casino Royale.
Even the Bond villains are demonstrative in a shift in values. Back in the 70s and 80s, the audience lived with the idea that all life on earth could be ended by a nuclear war. Madmen with doomsday devices simply made sense as the natural Bond enemy. Despite the hype over Iran and, a while back, North Korea, today the idea of a nuclear holocaust is relegated more to survivalist compounds. What are we worried about today? Shadowy cabals of wealthy warmongers manipulating our lives from inside our own governments. Even though Quantum of Solace was less popular as a Bond movie, it’s a perfect example of this similar shift in worldview. What were they bad guys after? A military coup in Bolivia in order to secure the rights to 90% of the country’s water. Even if it’s not too exciting, it’s still believable.
Now none of this is to knock any of the movies (barring A View to Kill, which was freaking awful), it’s simply to explain why there’s been a bit of contention over Craig’s incarnation. The simple fact of the matter is, Bond is going to evolve with time. Surely that’s something to be admired, not complained about…
In recent years there’s been talks of the possibility of fans seeing a black James Bond at some point. Do you have any personal favorites that you would consider for the role?
I didn’t realize that there was this talk and then I did a film with Idris [Elba] and he said that he met Barbara Broccoli [James Bond producer] and that it does seem like there is a possibility in the future that there could very well be a black James Bond. And I would have to vote for Idris because I just finished working with him and he’s a great guy. [Laughs]
Obviously this change would rile people [and racists] quite a bit, but it actually fits in with a very popular fan theory. The idea is that “James Bond” is a codename that’s passed on from one agent to the next, justifying the change of roles as the decades have rolled on, and the extreme personality changes in the character. Lee Tamahori, the director of Die Another Day actually espouses this theory, and thought it would be great if former Bond Sean Connery could make an appearance in his movie alongside Pierce Brosnan.
Idris Elba is an immensely-talented actor, and a shoe-in for the role. The London native has clearly thought long and hard on the issue, and although he appears to have had some uneasiness about it, the following quotes show that he now appears to be very on board with the idea.
I would do it, but I don’t want to be called the first black James Bond. Do you understand what I ‘m saying? Sean Connery wasn’t the Scottish James Bond and Daniel Craig wasn’t the blue-eyed James Bond. So if I played him, I don’t want to be called the black James Bond.”
I engaged in a recent debate with someone over the casting of Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin in the upcoming Iron Man 3, and the same argument I’ve heard time and time again popped up. “The person who’s best for the job gets cast.” Somehow, though, I doubt that those who believe this will be using the same logic in support of Idris Elba portraying James Bond.
In all honesty, the world probably isn’t ready for a Black James Bond. People are, in general, averse to change, especially when it comes to their beloved characters. While a film with Elba as Bond will receive a large amount of criticism [much of it racist], it may just be the beginning to a world that truly doesn’t see colour.