“If you don’t like Christian movies, you hate Jesus!”
Hopefully, no one has actually said that to you, but the sentiment can come across when a church friend or family member disappointedly responds to your disinterest in the latest Christian “blockbuster.” You yourself may feel ashamed to admit that you just aren’t excited for the next Pure Flix / Erwin Bros / Kendrick Bros movie for fear of coming across as less-than-spiritual – I felt that way when these movies first started coming out. But I don’t believe we should let social pressure be what drives us to the theater for any cause – even if it seems like a good one.
Christian movies are slowly improving and need to continue to do so, but their marketing campaigns also need a facelift (or a “FAITHlift!” Okay, I’ll stop the puns). I’m not talking about the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns, because they’re typically good at reeling in their devoted audience; I’m talking about the ethics behind them – their use of coercion.
When marketing Christian films, Christian companies typically encourage churches to buy out theaters under the guise of ministry. This helps inflate the box office numbers opening weekend. But doesn’t doing this make it look like the filmmakers are taking their inadequacy to create a compelling film and projecting it on the audience? Suddenly it’s up to us, the consumers, to “send a message to Hollywood,” rather than the message-makers themselves! Are we really obligated to show up to the theater to support a film just because it’s Christian?
I don’t think so. I know that marketing is a minefield for unethical mind-games, but it rubs me the wrong way when Christians use questionable tactics. We should be above reproach.
Thankfully(?), Christian marketers aren’t the only ones to use social pressure to sell their movies. Recently, marketers of subpar female-lead movies were quick to cry “Misogyny!” at any criticism their films received. The pressure to support feminism and the fear of being labeled as a misogynist soon became the selling point to go see these movies. The Ghostbusters reboot and Captain Marvel were two examples of this. I’m a female, and I didn’t enjoy Captain Marvel because I personally found her character unrelatable, and I had no desire to see the Ghostbusters reboot after watching the first trailer because it didn’t make me laugh. Should I be worried about receiving a label?
On this same token, I believe you can be a good Christian without having to spend your time or money on Christian movies. I’ll use a proverbial reverse card and put the pressure back on those making the movies:
Christian filmmakers, please use your time, money, and talent to make something beautiful that will inspire others to seek God via powerful storytelling and artful expression. Make good movies, and we’ll want to see them. We’ll show up, and we’ll support. But we’re sheep of one Shepherd, and that’s not you.
Fellow movie-goers, if someone ever questions your morality based on your disinterest in a poorly-made film, be patient, but be honest. For me, I’d say that if the movie was interesting and creatively-crafted, I’d happily see it. After all, don’t faith stories deserve the highest-quality storytelling, acting, and visual effects? Our parents taught us not to give in to peer pressure at school, and that also applies here. See the movies that capture your interest. If we’re a selective audience, won’t it force moviemakers to improve? Accepting their half-baked work simply because it presents a message we agree with only encourages filmmakers to keep doing what they’re doing, and Christian movies will never get better.
Episode 011 | Say Goodnight Kevin Podcast
Tyler Smith, film critic, podcast host, and director of the film “Reel Redemption”, joins Kevin for an exciting conversation about the history of Christian film and the state it is in today.
If you have never heard of Wakaliwood or seen their films, then you are seriously missing out. I’m about to introduce you to a whole new world.