Why Are There So Many Bad Religious Movies?

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Last week, I suggested that very seriously religious people shouldn't have to put up with movies with tacky production values, terrible writing, and massive characterization holes, particularly when it comes to faith, the issue that theoretically attracts them to the movies in the first place. Some of my readers disagreed, saying that folks who want, in particular, Christian entertainment aren't looking for serious questions about or characterization of religion. I'm not sure I entirely agree. I agree, though, that it's sort of depressing that folks might limit themselves to watching certain kinds of movies, no matter the production values or writing, simply because they have the right values.


But then, I feel the same way about people who keep defending television shows even after the writing or acting's gone entirely off. Or who defend every single project by a writer or involving an actor or a certain set of actors, out of loyalty to their past work. I certainly understand the desire to defend someone like Joss Whedon, who has had excellent projects canceled far before they'd been able to reach their full artistic potential. Such defense, however, should only come into play when a work is defensible—well-written, well-acted, good-looking on screen.

I suppose I'm a sort of lukewarm capitalist when it comes to art. I don't think that there should be some sort of artificial threshold of profitability required to keep a show going, or to get a movie made—we'd live in a poorer world if everything had to be as successful Friends or Avatar—though of course it makes sense that studios should want to make some money, and that they should be creative in doing so. Fabulously profitable junk can balance out some less viable art and entertainment.

But I think consumers should demand better. If we're going to pay $11 for movie tickets, Christians deserve vastly better than horribly-written, cheaply lit conversion stories. If cable's going to run upwards of $80 a month, basic and premium networks best be creative, and Joss Whedon should perhaps get over his Eliza Dushku obsession in favor of a better small-screen inamorata. We don't deserve to be held hostage by our pop culture, and whatever our perspectives on the world, we shouldn't participate in our own kidnapping.
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Alyssa Rosenberg is a culture writer with The Washington Post.

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