Thursday, February 19, 2009

Figures Don't Lie; But Liars Can Figure

Thanks Jeff for pointing this out and getting me riled.

Let me start by stating my opinion: there should be more family friendly movies out there.

And there definitely should be more Christ-friendly films, and more Christianity-friendly films at our theaters.

However, there are forces out there working diligently to try and convince Hollywood to NOT make family, Christ or Christianity friendly films.

I am speaking, of course, of Ted Baehr and Movie Guide Magazine.

Ted, along with partner Dr. Tom Snyder, recently published an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, outlining why they think Hollywood should make more films that meet Biblical principles.

And by Biblical principles, they mean capitalism, patriotism (only the pro-America kind), faith and values.

I should note that the order of importance in that list is theirs, not mine.

First off, capitalism and pro-Americanism are not Biblical values. I’m not saying they are bad values, as I personally am a patriot who enjoys his paycheck.

They just aren’t Biblical values.

In fact (this will be a surprise to many of you), not only wasn’t Jesus an American, but the USA didn’t even exist when he walked the earth.

Of course, many will point to the verse in Matthew, where Jesus confides to Peter: “I only wish I wasn’t a foreigner. But then again, nobody’s perfect.” But that verse is taken out of context way too often.

Truth be told, it isn’t the if-it-fits-Baehr’s-politics-it-must-be-Christian attitude that bothers me so much as his sloppy math.

Baehr argues that the morally responsible position is this: one should make movies if they make money. (Really? That’s the morally responsible position? Let it go, Sean, let it go…)

To support his argument that his kind of movies are the ones that make money, he points out that the pro-capitalism films of “An American Carol,” “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” City of Ember,” and “Fly Me to the Moon,” took in an average of $71.8 million at the box office.

Pretty impressive.

What he doesn’t tell you is that only one of those four films actually made a profit (“Indiana Jones” made $317 mil; cost $185 mi.); and the other three were box office flops (“Carol” made $7 mil and cost $20 mil; “City” made $7.8 mil, cost $55 mil; and “Fly” made $12.8 mil, cost $25 mil.)

Baehr, in listing the evil pro-communism movies, labels their average of $7.9 million at the box office as “measly.” Even though their average is greater than two of his “pro” flicks.

Even though he had to balance out the wicked “Vicky Christina Barcelona” (made $23 mil) with obscure indie films to bring the average down low enough to justify his thinking.

The article is chock full of bizarre stretches to try and prove his point, both in film content and in math.

Okay, back to my opening opinion.

If it is true that I want more family friendly films out there, why should I care that Baehr is pulling numbers out of his fanny? Aren’t we ultimately on the same side?

I don’t think so.

You see, when Hollywood hears Baehr trumpet his numbers, they don’t take his math at his word. They add the totals up for themselves.

And when they figure out that he is messing with the figures, they assume that it isn’t just his numbers that are funny, but his whole argument, as well as any argument coming from the people that Baehr says he represents.

And Baehr says he represents Christianity.

If Baehr makes himself easily dismissible, then they can just as easily dismiss Overstreet, Nicolosi, Graham, Warren, Brewer, Keller, Gaffney and, well pretty much anyone else that loves Jesus.

Why not, since the number fudging Baehr represents them all, right?

Just my thoughts,



Cory Edwards said...

You're right... Baehr's article is a terrible witness. I had no idea he was putting that kind of statement out there. Too bad.

Apparently, analyzing ideology in film comes down to numbers... and numbers that make no sense. "Skewed" is right! Many of the films he mentions were some of the biggest bombs of the year. "Australia?" "Fly Me To The Moon?" Seriously??

What disturbs me most is how hardcore political he gets. By the end of his article, Jesus seems to get left behind (no pun intended).

What always irritates me about organizations like this is that they whittle down Biblical morality in a film to such a narrow interpretation. It's really more accurate to say that there are as many different "Christian" approaches to stories as there are Christian storytellers.

Aw man... now you've got ME riled.

Linds said...

*Must resist need to blog furiously about Baehr and Snyder's horrible and unethical business practices as a former employee*

Sigh. Sometimes I think Baehr's entire public presence is merely a tool of the Enemy to undermine what Christians are doing in Hollywood. I wish he would see that and just stop.

But that would mean not being able to give out those crystal teddy bear awards to mediocre films every year. :)

Omar Poppenlander said...

Just leads me to believe that we need to stop using Christian as an adjective and go back to being Christians (as a noun).

Anonymous said...

Ted Baehr is a joke. He is a liar and a fraud.

I worked for him for 2 years and you would not believe how he treats his staff, like slaves that should kiss the ground he walks on.

I feel bad for the poor people who actually believe his mindless drivel.


David Goulet said...

I'm confused why anyone would need to fudge the math to show that family friendly films are good business sense.

If you look at the biggest international box office hits over the past few years, most are animated films made by Pixar and Dreamworks. Ice Age 3 just set a record for pete's sake. Others are films based on comic book characters, the majority of which are rooted in the struggle between good and evil -- with good winning.

Looking at development pipelines, I don't see a big change in this trend.

But in the end, isn't it about the quality, not the quantity, of Christian films. Better to have one truly great Christian film per year (that also rocks the box office), than 10 flicks that never should have made it past script stage.

Gaffney said...

David --

Yeah, that's why I'm convinced something more sinister is afoot. Part of it is that it is neither family friendly nor moral films that this guy is limited to -- his list of values include several that have nothing to do with Gospel values.

I sometimes wonder if he is aware of how much damage he does -- and that is what he means to do.