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Christian movie madness

The good, the bad and the ugly

By Rebekah Hardwicke | Contributor

Graphic by Ian Proano

Graphic by Ian Proano

As a film major, I try to see the benefit of different genres and styles of movies. Christian films are unique in that everyone recognizes when they have seen one but no one can comprehensively define what they are. After the box-office hit “The Passion of the Christ,” a new market opened that people tried to tap into, usually unsuccessfully.

Christian films include everything from small independent films to big blockbusters. Some Christian films are excellent, but I will give my top four reasons why I usually do not like explicitly Christian films. This article focuses on the Christian films produced by smaller, independent studios.

1. Christian films primarily reach a small, targeted audience. Not only are Christian movies aimed at (you guessed it) Christians, but many Christians (myself included) are alienated by them. Perhaps this is because I want to see a movie, not hear a sermon. Film is a primarily visual art form. If I want to hear a sermon, I’ll go to church. But I go to the theater to watch a movie. Show the gospel, don’t tell it. The best acting and editing cannot save a preachy script.

2. Next, let’s talk character stereotypes. I realize people such as angry atheists who hate everyone or Christians with unshakable faith exist somewhere in reality, along with people whose lives have been changed instantaneously by God. It is not wrong to portray these characters, but when every character in a movie embodies these stereotypes, the film loses credibility. What about more complex characters who we don’t see in Christian movies—atheists who are more moral than Christians? Or Christians who struggle to stay afloat and whose problems aren’t solved after two hours? The characters in many Christian scripts surely aren’t based on characters in the Bible because the Bible has some of the most three-dimensional and screwed-up characters of all time—especially the Christians!

3. Many plot devices in Christian scripts are stereotypical as well. One key trope seems to be that if someone really believes in God, everything will be okay at the end. While it’s true that everything will be okay for Christians when they die, God makes no such promises during life on earth. Sometimes people watch movies to feel a little less alone in their problems; to know that, even if there is no clear solution, at least others have experienced similar situations. I’m afraid most Christian movies would leave these people feeling even more alone.

4. In addition to poor-quality scripts, the other elements that make up Christian films tend to fall short. Their cinematography is boring, the coloring is bland and the music is unoriginal. I realize the budget for many of these films is low, but some of history’s best films have been independent films with small budgets (“Memento,” “Requiem for a Dream,” etc.). Of course, these great films also had excellent scripts in addition to the other elements of production and post-production.

As I mentioned before, the Christian movie genre is broad. While I have many problems with the smaller, independent Christian films, there are other movies that could be considered Christian that reach wide audiences, have great scripts and production quality and use three-dimensional characters and plots. Those sorts of movies are generally about the influence of Christian characters or use Christian themes to spark questions. For example, in the movie “Room,” viewers are asked whether hope is ever missing, even in the darkest places.

All truth is God’s truth, and the Bible deals with the good, the bad and the ugly—a fact that many Christian filmmakers seem to conveniently forget. Movies that show the gospel instead of spelling it out are more effective at starting conversations that may result in lasting change.

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