It seems to me that the prevalent theme of this interview is the Christian's relationship to contemporary culture, what H. Reinhold Neibuhr portrayed (among his five "types" of Christian interaction) as "Christ opposed to culture" vs. "Christ transforming culture": practically speaking, do we abandon television and the cinema if they don't conform to our liking, or do we transform its content by working within these industries?
This issue came up in Barbara's discussion of the movie Therese, a project by an independant Catholic film maker. Those who are hoping and praying for the success of 'Therese' (as I have) might find themselves defensive when reading Barbara's extremely harsh criticism of the film -- but even so, I believe she offers some valid points that are worth listening to, and which may apply to other forms of media as well:
- "I meet people constantly who are lining up a few million dollars to make a movie to "show Hollywood." They've found foreign investors . . . and they're going to go off on their own and make a movie, and so on. It's a bad strategy; it's a bad business plan.
First of all, in the entertainment business you have to be able to support ten movies to begin to make a profit. You've got to figure that four projects will fail for every one that succeeds. So, in terms of a business plan, it's a bad idea.
Second, it's bad in terms of evangelization. The model of a group of Christians working by themselves in a little group, pumping out a movie, and then standing by waiting for the world to come to Jesus... it doesn't happen that way.
The problem with working only with people who agree with you 100% is thinking that what God wants is what ends up on the screen. It's not. It's the journey of the work itself, the opportunity to share our life, and what we know, with the creative people in the business.
[Regarding the development of 'Therese'], There you have thirty people or fifty people working together to make that movie. These are people who, if they were working in Hollywood, would have met 5,000 people. And they could have witnessed to them, and they could have been their friends now, and been part of their network. . . . Instead, we—I'm talking about orthodox Christians—stay over here where it's safe, because we don't want to be polluted by them.
Many Christians have advocated the abandonment and isolation of secular media, and given what is usually on these days I can understand the temptation. However, I agree with Barbara's questioning whether this is the appropiate strategy for the Church. If more Christian artists could join her in working with the industry to transforming the content of film and television, critics of the media would have a lot less to complain about.
Oh, and lest I confuse my readers by my earlier post -- excusing Barbara's lack of appreciation for J.R.R. Tolkien and Peter Jackson's films (*harrrrrumph*), I certainly appreciate her efforts to bring Christians into the mainstream television and film industry. Christians are called to be the "salt of the earth", and artists have a distinct role to play in the transformation of our culture (Barbara refers to Pope John Paul II's 1999 letter to artists).