Hollywood\'s Attack on Religion


The section that I have chosen to analyze from the book Hollywood vs.
America is "The Attack on Religion." In this part of the book, Michael Medved
discusses the shift in attitude Hollywood has made toward religion, from
acceptable to contemptible. He takes a look at the messages being sent in films,
music and television in the last 15 to 20 years and analyzes their effects. In
general, Hollywood depicts religion in an unfavorable manner, according to
Medved. Moreover, Medved also argues that, not only has Hollywood taken a
hostile stance toward religion, but it has paid the price, literally, for doing
so. All of Medved\'s arguments are well supported and documented, making them
seemingly futile to argue against. Yet, Hollywood, which includes films, music
and television, continues to disregard the obvious facts that Medved has
revealed.
In the first chapter of this section, "A Declaration of War," Medved
discusses the facts surrounding the protest which took place on August 11, 1988,
in opposition to the release of the motion picture The Last Temptation of Christ.
MCA/Universal, which funded the Martin Scorsese film, called the protesters a
"know-nothing wacky pack" (38). However, as Medved points out, the protest was
"the largest protest ever mounted against the release of a motion picture" (37)
and included such groups as the National Council of Catholic Bishops, the
Southern Baptist Convention, twenty members of the U.S. House of Representatives
and prominent figures such as Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Ken Wales, former
vice president at Disney studios. Even with such strong opposition from these
respected groups and people, the studio refused to listen and stood behind its
First Amendment rights.
MCA/Universal was even supported by the Motion Picture Association of
America, which stated that "The . . . MPAA support MCA/Universal in its absolute
right to offer to the people whatever movie it chooses" (41). However, Medved
rebukes this statement, arguing that "absolute right" wasn\'t the issue; the
issue "concerned the movie company\'s choices, not its rights" (41). He supports
this argument further by indicating that the MPAA would never support a film
portraying Malcolm X as a paid agent of Hoover\'s FBI or portraying Anne Frank
"as an out-of-control nymphomaniac" (41). By releasing The Last Temptation of
Christ, the studio positions Jesus, God and Christianity below these prominent
figures in history because it is portraying Jesus and other religious figures in
uncharacteristic situations that would never be associated with these historical
figures. This is supported by past experiences when movies were edited so as to
not offend animal rights activists, gay advocacy groups, and ethnic
organizations:

Leaders of the motion picture business showed more concern
with possible sacrilege against the religious traditions of
a single Hopi village than with certain offense to the faith
of tens of millions of believing Christians; the prospect of
being labeled "antiwolf" produced greater worry than the
prospect of being labeled "anti-Christ" (42).

Of course, the response to this is that the changes were made during the
production of the other films, not afterward. Again, Medved argues back,
pointing out that "Martin Scorsese and his associates kept their plans for The
Last Temptation a closely guarded secret from all church leaders" (43).
The press also distorted the movement against the release of the film by
"focusing on one utterly unrepresentative individual as the preeminent symbol of
that movement: the Reverend R. L. Hymers" (43). His predictions of impending
apocalypse, his violent outbursts, and his history of legal problems "lived up
to anyone\'s worst nightmare of deranged religious fanatic. Naturally, the press
couldn\'t get enough of him" (43). The press also misrepresented the movement\'s
main objections, according to Medved, by focusing on the "dream sequence" in
which Jesus makes love to Mary Magdalene, "and asserting that this image alone
had provoked the furor in the religious community" (44). However, Christian
leaders objected to more than that; they identified "more than twenty elements"
(44) that were offending to them. In other words, "the press helped to make the
protesters look like narrow-minded prudes" (44). As a result, Hollywood misled
itself and the public into believing that the protesters\' main objective was to
censor the film. As Medved says, "What they [protester] wanted from the
industry wasn\'t censorship; it was sensitivity" (45).
Besides the fact that The Last Temptation of Christ was so heavily
protested against, it was a bad movie, according to Medved, who is also a movie
critic. He even went on the record saying,

It is the height of irony that all this controversy should
be generated by a film that