A reader writes:
“Mark, Someone told me you had written a piercing review of the movie NEFARIOUS.
I can’t find it online. Would appreciate your insights. Thank you”
I didn’t write about the film since I have not seen it. What I wrote about (over on Facebook) was the tiresome marketing scheme of telling Christians “You owe it to God and the filmmakers to see this movie.”
Apparently, there’s a new movie called “Nefarious” out. I have not read a single review of it and know nothing about it except that it’s apparently about demons or something.
However, I have seen several comments on it from intensely self-pitying right wing culture warrior Christians, offering pre-recorded denunciations of their enemies for allegedly “hating” the movie because “they” are reflexively opposed to “good Christian cinema” etc.
The only thing worse than “eat your spinach” word of mouth promotion of crappy Christian movies that command you to go see bad movies out of a supposed moral obligation to “support Christian filmmakers” is “eat your spinach” word of mouth promotion of crappy Christian movies that tell you the only reason people aren’t going to see the movie is because they are servants of the devil.
In the real world, outside this ridiculous bubble, people go see movies because they are good and don’t have to be forced to go see them out of moral obligation or by being accused of being bigots for not seeing them. People want to see good movies. So, for instance, nobody needs to be guilted or accused into seeing, say, CHARIOTS OF FIRE or THE MIRACLE CLUB, because they are good films and people go see good films.
The solution to the problem of crappy Christian movies is not to accuse those who don’t see them of being derelict in their duty to “support Christian cinema” or of being in league with evil, but to make good movies.
Here’s what I’m talking about:
Because they cannot find a critic to recommend this movie, the filmmakers get Cardinal Burke to command Good Catholics[TM] to eat their spinach and watch this movie even if it sucks. Because going to the movies should be like taking castor oil, not like having a good time or doing something you actually want to do.
Some demand, “Have you seen the film?”
Nope. I’ve seen the advertising. “Eat your spinach” ads never persuade me I need to eat my spinach. It’s the ads I’m critiquing, not the film. Though the ad tells me loud and clear that the film sucks.
Others complain, “That’s just your opinion.”
Yes. That’s what social media is for. Having opinions. And differing with the aesthetic judgments of Right Wing Culture Warrior Cardinals about movies he thinks I need to eat my spinach and see has absolutely zero to do with the Faith, my fidelity to it, submission to the Church’s teaching or anything else important. Catholics have got to stop imagining that when some Celebrity Priest sounds off about a purely lay matter having nothing to do with his office, anybody who disagrees with him is somehow an uppity rebel against holy Church. When it comes to movies, Cardinal Burke is just some guy.
Also, by the way, the film features Glen Beck, nutjob conspiracy theorist and right wing culture warrior and wack job. That he is cast at all is a hugely clear signal that the film is intended for culture war suckers and nobody else. He’s not an actor. He’s a signal to the MAGA cult that this is a film made by and for cultists looking for propaganda, not anybody who wants to tell a good story.
By the way, Beck is an apostate Catholic and Mormon. But that didn’t stop Burke from pushing the film, because culture war, not the faith, is the object of the movie, and Beck is an idol of the culture warriors. This will boost his numbers and profits as he sells idiotic conspiracy crap. And that, again, is the point of my objection to “You owe it to the filmmakers to support their work” advertising. I don’t owe them jack. i have seen Glenn Beck and know what he brings to everything he touches. For the same reason, I don’t need to have read Mein Kampf by the Austrian corporal or Justine by the Marquis de Sade to know that I don’t need to read them.
Do not let bullies perpetually create braindead shibboleths about aesthetic trivialities like “Do you watch the correct movies that my favorite Celebrity Culture Warrior says you should watch? Or do you watch godless liberal movies that give you cooties?
Again, my point is not that people should not watch NEFARIOUS if they are into that sort of thing. De gustibus. My point is that I object to moral strongarming from propagandists who tell me that I have to watch X movie or Y TV or my bona fides as a Real Catholic[TM] or a decent human being or whatever are vehemently suspect. Christian movies have done this advertising strategy for years and it is one more way in which they manifest their will to dominate by force rather than persuade or attract by beauty or love. My nose is now extremely sensitive to the stink of spiritual manipulation and naked power plays. I think it needs an exorcism.
Besides, when I want bad Christian cinema, I go straight to the motherload: