Build it… They’ll Buy It

By: Patti Bankson

I received an email entitled: “The Gospel According to Hollywood”, by John A. Murray, headmaster of Fourth Presbyterian School in Potomac, Md. Mr. Murray asks the reader to imagine meeting a person who had never heard of Easter; then asking, if you could use only one film produced in your generation to describe the real meaning of the holiday, which would you use and why? He then goes on to list one major blockbuster produced on Jesus per generation, in the last 85 years: “The King of Kings” (1927), “Ben Hur: The tale of Christ” (1959), “Jesus” (1979), and “The Passion of the Christ” (2004). Stories about these movies relate the major impact they each had on certain individuals, and in some cases, the entire world. As I read these inspiring stories, the movie that kept “hopping” into my mind was this year’s Easter movie, “Hop”. While Christians last Sunday celebrated Christ’s resurrection, others celebrated by watching what Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman described as “Alvin and the Chipmunks with only one chipmunk, and (if possible) even less fun.” Gleiberman continues: “… E.B., a rascally rabbit who’s reluctant to assume his role as the next Easter Bunny, escapes from his family’s chocolate-egg factory on Easter Island (are you laughing yet?) and lands in L.A.” E.B., apparently, just wants to play rock & roll.

How “inspirational”… how “uplifting”… how so like Hollywood. Obviously, those earlier movie makers got it. Just as obviously, this one didn’t. Have we come a long way, or what?

Actually, it’s not fair to pick on Hollywood and the movies they put out. They’re only doing the “job” that we’ve given them: They’re making movies they hope people will pay to see. They don’t have to be good, they don’t have to portray “heroes”, or inspire us to be better people working to make a better world. Nope… for the (high) price of a ticket, all people want is just to be “entertained”. Looking at some of what passes for entertainment now, that means just helping people stay in a trance of some kind, or stay ignorant, or putting things/behaviors under a microscope, that should remain private, or should be considered (omg), dare I suggest it?… “shameful”. Apparently, if a movie, or TV show, or music, does nothing more than help people tap into the worst parts of themselves, and eventually make them numbly detached, that makes whatever it is a Box Office Hit, or a Neilson ratings topper, or a Grammy winner. In other words, what some consider to be “great entertainment”.

Okay… Yes, I know Easter was last Sunday, and I know that “Hop” will soon hop off into the sunset, but our basic concept of what constitutes entertainment remains.

Hopefully, someone in tomorrow’s Hollywood will watch some of those earlier movies, and realize there’s much more to Easter than eggs, candy, baskets and “rascally” rabbits with no ambition, and even less character. Hopefully, someone in tomorrow’s Hollywood will decide to put out a movie with a real message for next Easter. Hopefully someone will realize that most people will watch good television, will go to decent movies, and will listen to listenable music if it doesn’t require constant bleeping. Hopefully someone will remember … “If you ‘build’ it, they will come.” Or, they’ll buy it.

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© 2011 Patti Bankson

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