The Christian Identity Through A Movie Makers Lenses

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From completing the Research Analysis Worksheet and the annotated bibliography, I have discovered the different ways that the Christian identity is portrayed in popular culture. In my research, I specifically looked for representations of the Christian identity in modern movies. I’ve learned that there are various portrayals of the Christian characters played in these films. Some forms of the Christian identity I found in these films are conservative, goody two-shoed, absolutely pure, sheltered, and insane. In result of this, our society has formed stereotypical perspectives of a Christian person that are often times over exaggerated if not inaccurate. After this realization, I believe that the movie industry needs to be more aware of how a film represents an identity. Movie producers must be conscious of how those representations convey to the audience.

After analyzing my three primary sources, I felt like I really exposed myself to a variety of films that incorporate Christianity and the Christian identity in different ways. I was able to critically think about the movie’s portrayals and the possible motives of these. In comparing and contrasting the three films’ representation, I believe that there has to be some medium where the Christian identity is represented accurately while still aiming to create a great film. In my research, I’ve come to find that in the film-producing world, there is a great issue with creating an interesting movie while also accurately portraying a Christian character to the real world Christian identity.Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 7.23.19 AMMy first primary source that I have analyzed is an example of a Christian film that targets a generally non-Christian audience. “The Invention of Lying” was directed by comedian and actor, Ricky Gervais. The producer, director and writers don’t identify themselves as Christians. The film stars many famous actors and actresses and is produced by powerhouse companies such as Warner Bros. Christian content is reflected throughout the film, but not in the way a Christian person would think about it. The movie is extremely humorous and pokes fun at the Christian faith (Atwood). To me, it seems like that this may just be a media technique to attract the general target audience. The producers and directors of the film may just only be aiming to please a particular crowd yet could still be aware of the unhappy Christian viewers (Nehring). Based on the content, I would say that the film is showing Christians in a negative light. In the film itself, a Christian character isn’t identified and ridiculed. However, throughout the film, the Christian faith was mocked enough to the point where a person who does believe in that faith could be considered idiotic. Although there are a lot of jokes made, I don’t think the director was attacking the faith. Instead, the reasoning for this is to entertain the audience. An example of this would be the scene from the movie that mocks the Ten Commandments and even God. Here is a link to the clip of the scene:

Overall, I think that the main goal of this movie was to attract an audience and make a profit. I believe that producers were not considering the effect of portraying the Christian faith in the way that they did. Film producers must be aware that this misrepresentation of the Christian identity could be considered hurtful to those who do identify themselves as Christians. This film is a good example of how media techniques are used in popular culture that are aiming to make money, while the identity of a person is forgotten in the midst.Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 7.24.12 AMThe second primary source that I have analyzed is an example of a Christian film that aims to please the Christian audience. Although this may be the case, I strongly feel that the Christian identity is still misrepresented throughout this film. A team of producers who mostly all identify themselves as Christians created the film “God’s Not Dead”. The target audience is the Christian community and Christianity is reflected heavily in the content of the film. Many of the scenes revolve around the main character that struggles with the problem of proving his faith to be real. To any Christian, I believe the storyline would be interesting because we could put ourselves in that character’s shoes. For other viewers, they might not be able to fully engage with the story (Carey). Based on the content, I don’t think I fully agree with the portrayal of the Christian character. I think the producers left out many aspects of the Christian identity. The producers seemed to have really shown the Christian person in a very positive light (Nehring). I wish that the main character had been illustrated as someone who struggles also with a personal issue with himself, not only an exterior problem with just his professor; this would have made the story of the film more realistic. The attribute I did like is that the producers illustrate the identity of a non-Christian and try to relate that to everyday people. That attribute of the film seemed the most effective and accurate. I just wished they’d tie that more with the identity of being a Christian and not segregate the two roles. Overall, the movie’s representation of the Christian identity construes that Christians are people who do not have to deal with personal problems. This is not the case in reality. The determination to better oneself and to have salvation from sin is the essence of the Christian faith and the movie fails to portray that.Screen Shot 2016-05-16 at 7.22.35 AMMy final primary source that I have analyzed mostly targets a general audience. Based on the content in the film, I feel like this movie most accurately portrays a person who identifies himself/herself as a Christian. Tyler Perry, who identifies himself as a strong Christian, produced this film, “Madea Goes to Jail”. He openly claims that he incorporates his faith into the work that he produces (Goodwyn). In the movie, I can see the many Christian values that Perry ties into the film. I think that Perry’s film reaches a vast audience and can be intriguing to anybody, both Christians and non-Christians. I admire that Perry doesn’t sugar coat the life of a Christian and that everything is picture perfect. He doesn’t necessarily portray the Christian life as in the “negative light” but he expresses that everyone goes through a struggle, both Christians and non-Christians. The reason I believe this film holds true to the Christian identity is because of the use of the character, Ellen. She is a minister/social worker who constantly works to get prostitutes off the streets. What I love about this movie is that Ellen’s character is not the stereotypical Christian that most movies would portray. A stereotypical Christian character in films are dogmatic, extremely compassionate, sometimes wise, and sometimes over-religious. In this movie, Ellen is kind of a hard ass. She knows that in order to make a difference with the women she’s working with that she has to be real with them. Her actions make me think of “tough love,” which breaks away from the typical portrayal of a Christian. Overall, “Madea Goes to Jail” is a prime example of a movie that is able to portray the Christian identity accurately while still producing a successful film. I believe that this film is really well rounded. It has a little bit of everything and aims to entertain a diverse audience; while at the same time represents Christians correctly while not boasting the identity. More Christian film producers should aim to create their work with similar attributes that Tyler Perry implements.

In conclusion, I was able to find primary sources that served as adequate examples of various portrayals of a Christian character in a film. In many films that depict Christians, I’ve observed a distinct pattern that occurs from movie to movie. First of all, for films that don’t specifically target the Christian audience, I noticed that the Christian character is often used as a mechanism to add humor to the film. This depiction is often stereotypical and just immense exaggerations of the Christian identity. On the other hand, in a film that is targeted for a Christian audience, I’ve noticed that the Christian identity is portrayed as a person who is pure, righteous, and law-abiding. This depiction is of the ideal Christian, which often enough is nothing like a Christian in the real world. Although these types of film convey a misrepresentation of the identity, I have also found evidence of a movie that is able to portray the Christian identity accurately. Overall, the film industry must remain conscious of how the Christian identity is represented in modern movies. Producers of such films must balance between accurately portraying the Christian identity while still producing great quality movies. I believe this is very possible.

Learning Moment

Throughout the term, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about the many different attributes of our popular culture that people are exposed to. I found it shocking when I realized that the topics in the course were all applicable to my everyday life! One significant learning moment that occurred this term was defining the term media literacy. Media literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media. I found this topic very revealing because prior to taking this course, I never really took the time to critically think about the media and how it influences me. Going even deeper, media literacy allows students to examine a form of media and decide for themselves what they personally feel, rather than being subliminally manipulated. Overall, I have developed my media literacy skill in this course and will be able to critically think about the many media forms that I am constantly exposed to. The second significant learning moment that occurred this term was discussing the topic of advertising found in our popular culture. In learning about advertisements, students got the opportunity to demonstrate media literacy. In doing this, students also got the opportunity to discover the various techniques that are used by the media to persuade viewers to feel, think, and/or act a particular way. Prior to this course, I never thought about the techniques used by advertisement producers. In discussing this topic in the course, I remember thinking that these advertisements are a bit manipulative. Overall, I believe it is important to be aware of the techniques used by advertisements in order to shield oneself from subliminal persuasion and manipulation. It is important to remember to always think about and form your own thoughts and ideas when exposing yourself to popular culture. Follow your thought process and analyze where your thoughts are stemming from. In demonstrating this, you’ll be able to confidently decide for yourself what information you choose to receive from popular culture. Ponder on this, it is better to know that you don’t know something, rather than believing you know something that is not true.

References:

Atwood, Blake. “The Invention of Lying (and Religion).” Relevantmagazine.com. RELEVANT Magazine, 04 Mar. 2010. Web. 03 May 2016.

Carey, Jesse. “The Way to Fix Christian Films: Add Ambiguity.” RELEVANT Magazine. N.p., 05 Apr. 2016. Web. 22 May 2016.

Goodwyn, Hannah. “Tyler Perry’s Keeping Faith Alive at the Movies.” CBN.com (beta). Christian Broadcasting Network, n.d. Web. 03 May 2016.

“Man in the Sky Causes Everything.” YouTube. YouTube, 19 Nov. 2010. Web. 4 May 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlX0Fk-701Q&gt;.

Nehring, Scott. You Are What You See: Watching Movies through a Christian Lens. United States: Rightline, 2010. Print.

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About joshuum

Hello, my name is Joshua Ramelb. I am currently a sophomore studying civil engineering and am also a part of PSU Pacific Islander Club. I was born and raised in Honolulu, HI. I enjoy most physical activities, especially if it takes place outdoors and/or it is a sport.

6 thoughts on “The Christian Identity Through A Movie Makers Lenses

  1. Hi Josh! I really enjoyed reading your blog post — it’s been a pleasure watching everyone develop their theses into polished final drafts! I liked the primary sources you chose since they have a great variety and look at the issue from different perspectives. I particularly like your blog because it’s relevant to me, who is a Christian filmmaker. I like your call to better portray identities in films in your essay. Your sentence “the determination to better oneself and to have salvation from sin is the essence of the Christian faith” and that movies fail to portray this is so true. Movies try to characterize what Christians are mostly like, rather than what it really means to be Christian. With something like religion, it’s sometimes hard to separate what we’re supposed to do, with what we actually do. The media tends to stereotype our actions/character, rather than what Christianity really dictates.

    Thank you for the great blog post! It’s been a pleasure sharing a class with you this term!
    -Julie

  2. Hi Joshua,

    I really enjoyed reading your post. It was thoughtfully written, and you used well-rounded examples. My favorite part was the clip from “The Invention of Lying”. I thought it was a perfect example of the criticism that non-Christians give as a reason for not believing. It was also a great example of how Christians view God in a positive way. It was interesting how that film made fun of the faith and not the people. Many stereotyping artifacts mock the identity by mocking the people that represent it, but this film did not. I liked how you chose primary sources that were not necessarily attacking Christians or overly stereotyping them. You made your point without bias.

  3. Hey Josh!!
    Great final blog post! I thought your blog overall showed great organization and flowed together nicely. I’d have to agree with Heather – I really liked that source of the video you decided to use. It was a good example and displayed how Christians viewed God and their religion nicely, giving a lot of good points towards you topic. I felt that your post was very good towards not coming off as offensive or bias – you did not shove your opinion down anyone’s throats and came across as a post I was intrigued to read. I wish you luck with your final grade and hope you have a fantastic summer!

    Zoe

  4. Josh-
    Interesting input about “God’s Not Dead.” Upon first watching it I also felt a little shaky on how they portrayed Christians. Although it’s nice that they showed the Christian like in such a positive way, it wasn’t a very realistic portrayal. We struggle like everyone else and we also endure church/God related struggles as well. The movie didn’t really show that, it was kind of sugar coated.
    I also like how you summarized the process of personally analyzing what is presented to you through the media. I also agree some of the advertising tactics are manipulate. It’s important to realize when they’re trying to trick you into something and when they are being sincere!
    Overall, awesome post!

  5. Hi Josh,

    I enjoyed reading your post, since I myself am a Christian and can relate. When I watched the ‘Man in the Sky Causes Everything’ YouTube clip, I felt a little offended at first, but I realized I had nothing to be offended about because, like you said, its main purpose was probably to earn revenue. It was also apparent that Pizza Hut was being advertised. We all deal with problems internally and not movies will be able to show that, especially with filmmakers who don’t understand what we Christians go through. But it’s always hard to portray the Christian identity, or any identity, since each of us have different views on it.

    I also agree with you on how much we’ve learned about advertisements and their techniques. I learned a lot in this class than I had expected. It was nice reading your post!

    Jeanel

  6. HI Josh,

    I really enjoyed reading your blog post! I think that you found some really good examples to use to back up your thesis. I saw The Invention of Lying a several years ago, and I remember thinking that it was very strange for a movie to have only one person who was capable of lying, and have the majority of those lies focused on the idea of religion. At the time, it was just a small thought that crossed my mind, but your post made me think about the movie and realize how the message in this movie could perceived as saying that religion is all a lie. I wonder if the people who were making the movie realized this, or if they were just focused on making an entertaining movie that would make money. I’m kind of surprised that there wasn’t a lot of attention drawn to this that I can remember. If it was released today do you think that it would be a bigger deal?
    Thanks for sharing! I hope you have a great summer!

    -Hannah

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