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?”
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.”