Another Side to the Story

Lifeway and “The Blind Side”

There are always two (or more) sides to a story. And that’s the case with Lifeway bookstores and the “Blind Side.” Stay tuned to BreakPoint.

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Eric Metaxas

A few weeks ago, I told you that, in my opinion, Lifeway bookstores made a big mistake when it removed copies of “The Blind Side” from its shelves.

While I knew that some, perhaps many, Christians would disagree with me, I was surprised at the attention the commentary received, both within and without the Christian world.

Now, I still think that the decision was a mistake. But a friend of mine has shown me there’s a bigger issue surrounding the story, and in fairness, I think it’s important that you hear about it.

That friend is Mark Joseph, a film and record producer in Hollywood. Writing in The Huffington Post, Mark gave us a behind-the-scenes view of how things work out there.

While Mark took issue with my criticism of Lifeway (after all, he wrote, Baptists should be “entitled to carry whatever product they want for whatever reason they want”), his main point went the heart of the Hollywood culture.

“Why,” he asked, “do corporations like Warner Brothers, which produced 'The Blind Side,' keep filling their movies with words that millions of American filmgoers say they don't want to hear at the movies and don't want their kids to hear and emulate?”

Good point.

Mark tells the story about the kind of thinking that influenced the film adaptation of C. S. Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia.”  This is amazing.

As Mark has written in his book, “The Lion, The Professor and the Movies: Narnia’s Journey to the Big Screen,” Hollywood simply didn’t “get” Lewis, his books, or the people who loved them. Douglas Gresham, Lewis’ stepson, fought against efforts to “update” Lewis’s tales.

These included replacing the air raids with earthquakes and having the Pevensie children ask for cheeseburgers instead of Turkish delight. No, I am not making this up.

Speaking of the Pevensie children, things could have been worse. Much worse. According to Joseph, “early drafts of the screenplay for the first Narnia film included numerous profanities uttered by the children, inserted by writers who somehow thought that adding words that rhymed with ‘luck’ and ‘bit’ would somehow enhance this children’s classic.” Again, I’m not making this up.

This kind of “creativity” not only betrays ignorance of C. S. Lewis and his work, it also demonstrates total cluelessness about the audience the studio hoped would eventually spend billions on the films.

Another example of this kind of “enhancement” happened to a good friend of mine, Bob Muzikowski. Bob runs a Christian highschool in inner-city Chicago, and Hollywood based the movie “Hardball” on his life. Bob is a strong believer, and he started an inner-city baseball league in New York (and Chicago). In the movie, all the little African-American kids are cursing like sailors. But Bob told me that those kids never ever cursed in real life.

It seems that Hollywood can’t help itself. Instead of trusting in the power of a good story, it turns again and again to gratuitous profanity — even when that’s exactly what the audience doesn’t want.

In the end, Mark Joseph says the real question is not why Baptists are behaving like Baptists, but “why Hollywood studios aren't behaving like capitalists, and selling more product by either getting rid of the bad words to begin with or making alternative versions available to consumers like those represented by Lifeway who want great stories without the words that offend their deeply held religious beliefs.”

And that’s a fair question.

Further Reading and Information

Hollywood's Blind Side
Mark Joseph | Huffington Post | July 27, 2012

Eric Metaxas | BreakPoint.org | July 5, 2012

Blind Side DVD



Profanity in movies and tv
Someone somewhere SELLS the right to use a story to make a movie. Part of that sale is allowing changes to be made to story and control over how the story is made. Douglas Gresham did not sellout. Other Christians do. Simple.
Just don't get it
You just have to shake your head at how clueless some Hollywood/media elitists are. They seem perfectly content to traffic in egregious caricatures of life instead of taking the pains to examine situations contrary to their own and then portray them accurately. And this has been the case for a long time (remember the silliness of the "separate beds" of the I Love Lucy show?). Why not travel outside of their ivory towers and start genuinely listening to ordinary people. Maybe then life can truly begin to imitate art instead of trying to parody it for the sake of pushing propaganda.
Getting jobs in the industry
Josh, I hear you loud and clear. The Entertainment Industry is indeed a significant mission field. Ever hear of InterMission?

I am a fellow believer living here in Los Angeles County seeking to get into the industry and join you. I understand my initial best choice is to become an extra. Central Casting seems to be the place to head to for that. If you have any particular pointers, I'd love to hear them.

Also, if there is a way for us to communicate privately, I'd welcome a way to do that. Thanks.
you mean like dubbing?
"making alternative versions available to consumers like those represented by Lifeway who want great stories without the words that offend their deeply held religious beliefs.”

As I see it an honest filmmaker needs to be true to the real story and then should they feel the need to "dub" in the fowl words to appeal to the ticket buying dollars of an audience that needs them they can dub in the fowl words. Of course the actors actual spoken words will not be match with the dubbed in words and it will look silly, but isn't it time that these kind of versions looked silly instead of the other way around?
No Profanity Agenda
I live in Burbank and work in the film industry. I don't believe there's any sort of agenda regarding profanity. It's just simply the way people in the industry talk. They can't fathom anyone but the most right-wing Bible thumpers not speaking that way.

Most (but not all) of what we perceive as liberal Hollywood agenda is just them being wildly out of touch with mainstream America. People out here are shocked when they hear our kids say "please", "thank you", "yes ma'am", or "no ma'am". It's almost as if they think we're abusing our kids.

Unfortunately I don't see this changing unless they actually get to know real Christians who shatter their preconceived notions. And since they're not going to be moving to the Bible belt, I'd encourage believers to get jobs in the industry and join us in Hollywood! You couldn't ask for a better mission field! :-)
Taking God's name in vain
Words that rhyme with ‘luck’ and ‘bit’ are one thing but its remarkable how many Christian films - made by Christians - have at least one instance where characters take God's name in vain. Christian-made films avoid the F-word religiously, but don't seem to hold God's name in the same reverence. Why? I just don't get it.
Why Hollywood is not completely capitalist
Hollywood wants to make a difference.
And they understand the value of propaganda.
This is the explanation for why they refuse to make films that sell. They want to make films that influence.

"The modern master of the propaganda game was PR genius Edward Bernays, Viennese-born nephew of Sigmund Freud. Bernays took propaganda seriously for his career work: he combined individual and social psychology, public opinion studies, political persuasion and advertising to construct “necessary illusions” which filtered out to the masses as “reality.”

"Bernays proudly referred to this all-important social process as the “engineering of consent.” All of this had little, if anything, to do with real democracy. The objective for Bernays was to provide government and media outlets with powerful tools for social persuasion and control. As a matter of fact, so impressed was he with Bernays’ early works Crystallizing Public Opinion (1923) and Propaganda (1928) that Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels relied heavily upon them for his own dubious inspiration in the 1930s. Apparently, that Bernays was a Jew mattered little to Goebbels...."

read more..


So Christian filmmakers...time to step up!
Gratuitous profanity/Hollywood
Mark Joseph's insight is spot-on with my family's experience with Hollywood's choice of dialogue in movies.

My twin daughters played the role of Mae Mobley in the recent movie The Help. Our family participated in a significant amount of the filming and were treated wonderfully on and off the set.

However, to date, 2-yrs after filming, we have yet to watch the movie with our daughters (now 5) due to the uncalled for profane language. Frustrating! And, seemingly an opportunity for talented filmmakers possessing less of a tin ear.