is hollywood evil?

Most of you don't know this about me, and some of you may be surprised: I am a born-again, evangelical Christian.

Lately, we've been getting a bad rap, and sometimes deservedly so. There is no excuse for bigotry, prejudice, or most forms of censorship, especially from a group of people who are supposed to be known for their love.

My personal goal is to stay true to my God and to my faith, while still loving those around me as He does. I have no desire to squash people or thoughts that are different to me; on the contrast, I revel in them. This may be why I love movies so much... they allow me to see the world from others' perspectives.

So I was taken aback a few weeks ago, during a night class held at my church. The speaker was talking about morality, and was using an illustration to show that all of us, by ourselves, fall far short of God's standard. He asked us to name some people we thought of as moral (Billy Graham, Mother Theresa). Then he asked us to name people we thought of as immoral, expecting answers like Saddam Hussein, Adolf Hitler, etc. One lady, however, shouted out "Hollywood!" I believe she expected full agreement, and no one contradicted her...

But I was really disturbed! I grew up in this evangelical Christian faith... As a kid, I heard many preachers decry the evils of Hollywood, and how we're all going to be corrupted by the horrible influence of the entertainment industry. But here, now, in 2008, do people still really believe that? Can you really lump everyone together who creates any kind of entertainment and call them the Great Satan, and go unquestioned? It seems like such a bigoted idea. My passion is movies... so am I passionate about evil, sin, and immorality?

I discussed this stuff with my friend David, who is also a Christian movie buff, and he suggested another perspective:

"I think when people think of Hollywood in a judgemental
fashion like that, they're thinking more of the lifestyles of
entertainers. It's the Paris Hiltons and the Lindsay
Lohans. I have a hard time believing that Christians
would condemn the entire filmmaking community...What
I tell people most of the time is something like this.
People in 'Hollywood' are put under a pretty scrutinizing
magnifying glass, and I challenge anyone to tell me that
under that same magnifying glass they would come out
looking like saints...most of the people they take issue
with are actors, and actors are just a part of the business.
Plus, most of the great actors you hear very little about.
When's the last time you heard about Morgan Freeman,
John Cusack, or Harrison Ford in any kind of major
trouble? Ironically enough, Mel Gibson, our very own
Passion of the Christ filmmaker, has had more trouble in
Hollywood than any of these folk. I don't know. Just like
the tabloids in the supermarket line, I wouldn't take any
of the comments too seriously (why do people have to
hate on Katie Holmes?!)."

In any event, whatever the comment meant, I'm taking a stand against bigotry. Hollywood's not perfect, but it's not the Great Satan either. Many in the film industry are worthy of respect, do great things for our world, and do not deserve to be categorized with Sodom and Gomorrah.
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20 Response to "is hollywood evil?"

  1. Jess says:
    January 30, 2008 at 2:40 PM

    I think your friend is right. It's the excess that Hollywood seems to get caught doing in their personal lives, rather than the movies they produce. And thanks to the wonder that is our First Amendment, they get the right to make any kind of movie they want, and more importantly we have the right NOT to watch them. I find using my rights to protect my faith the best thing about this country. And I don't think most movies are aimed at destroying god or faith, but rather to examine all kinds of ways people can and have lost their faith or use their faith (in whatever they believe) to rise above - even if not explicitly described as such.

  2. Fletch says:
    January 30, 2008 at 2:49 PM

    I probably couldn't be further from you on the "faith scale," but I think your thoughts (and your friends') alone are constructive. Great post.

    The person who shouted that "Hollywood" was evil was showing nothing more than their ignorance and intolerance. It's such a blanketed, uninformer statement that it can not and should not be taken seriously by anyone.

    For starters, "Hollywood" makes up A LOT of different viewpoints on 1000 different subjects; there's an opinion (and matching film) for probably all of them. As your friend recalled, lambasting Hollywood as a whole would also be lambasting "filmmakers of faith" and everyone in between.

  3. Nayana Anthony says:
    January 30, 2008 at 3:56 PM

    fletch... THANK YOU! You articulated my thoughts exactly. It was an ignorant statement. I don't even think I would have let it bother me so much if I hadn't grown up around opinions like that for my whole life.

    I guess I get concerned when that type of person becomes vocal... and then people on YOUR end of the spectrum could naturally assume that we are all ignorant and intolerant. :-) Thanks for the comment.

  4. Marilyn says:
    January 30, 2008 at 4:13 PM

    Thank you for coming to the defense of the movie industry, however flawed. I find it ironic that Michael Medved, one of the biggest haters of Hollywood, used to be a film critic on "Sneak Previews," a PBS show in Chicago that was begun by Siskel and Ebert!

  5. Chris Phoenix says:
    January 30, 2008 at 6:00 PM

    I think your friend is right. There's just so much negative publicity on Katie Holmes these days.

  6. Pat says:
    January 30, 2008 at 6:05 PM

    Thanks for a thoughtful post. I really appreciate that you are honest about your faith, but also very tolerant and thoughtful about other perpectives. I am a Christian, albeit a very liberal/progressive one (as you might guess if you take a look of some of the language I use on my blog!), and I struggle with some of the same things myself. Especially when talking movies with some of my more traditional and conservative friends.

  7. mikemachacon says:
    January 30, 2008 at 7:41 PM

    i love this post. i myself am a born-again Christian and have been taught to bless and not curse others. let's leave the judgments to the Almighty.

    like you said in this entry, we should not be squashing people or thoughts that are different from our own, but we should just respect and LOVE those around us as HE does.

  8. Nayana Anthony says:
    January 31, 2008 at 9:36 AM

    ok, Chris...aka "my friend"... you're hilarious.

    Pat and Mike...
    Thanks for your good wishes! I think when ignorant people like the lady in my church class start being vocal, that's our cue to stand up and reflect God's love. There's no reason the bigots should be the loudest ones in the room.

    I was talking about this with my Dad last night... He says that with many evangelical Christians, bigotry is ok... as long as you are bigoted against the "right stuff". It's true.... and it's horrible. Talk about removing the plank in your own eye before worrying about the speck in your neighbors'...

  9. Piper says:
    January 31, 2008 at 8:51 PM

    Nayana,

    Interesting thoughts here. I'm not specific to one religion, but I would consider myself very spiritual. I try to avoid organized religion for the situations you found yourself in - large groups of people passing judgment on others. Obviously Saddam Hussein and Hitler are easy targets, but soon it gets to be more specific and the area gets pretty gray.

    Anyway, you're right on the beginning of your post and its where religion tends to get so messed up. God is about love. How it gets confusing from there, I have no idea.

    So regardless of how the masses feel, you should go with what you love. I think there are obviously rotten people in Hollywood, but you can't make that judgment across the board.

  10. Fletch says:
    January 31, 2008 at 11:50 PM

    Very wise words there, Piper.

  11. Nayana Anthony says:
    February 1, 2008 at 9:35 AM

    Thank you, Piper.

  12. athens says:
    February 24, 2008 at 2:56 PM

    All media industries have as their main focus the goal of creating revenue from product sales. Art is stuck somewhere in the middle. The actual ticket price is meaningless compared to all the ad and product revenue that is generated. Research has indicated that sexual content in dramatic productions stimulate the production of adrenalin in the brain. This makes the introduction of the embedded post-hypnotic suggestions to purchase products work in a predictable statistical pattern. In prior times that simply meant that showing people naked pictures was profitable as long as the pope didn't find out.

    In terms of a negative reaction, this actually increases viewership dramatically. Conflict and controversey are the essence of the melodrama industry. Both the outraged opposition as well as the faithful follower can work to increase ratings. This was learned from the bible. It's the old, 'you can have any fruit but that one' trick. Still works to.

  13. Chick Young says:
    April 3, 2008 at 3:56 PM

    This is a very old debate that has been answered as far back as the 1930s with the Payne fund studies which hoped to get at some sort of causation in early, privative media effects studies. When someone yells "Hollywood!" at your church gathering, they are merely "scapegoating" blame for larger societal issues (that Hollywood actively participates in) rather than addressing what is inherently problematic to a MUCH LARGER societal discourse. It is far easier to "blame" a culture industry like Hollywood (Lord knows they are guilty of many sins) rather than address the real problems. People tackle this problem backwards, don't look to media for the causes or answers, they are just participating in the dialogue (or lack thereof). It is (to me) much more worthwhile discussing the problems inherent to the political landscape of media coverage - there's where I think the media is point of fact GUILTY or all sorts of sins. Sex and Violence in the movies destroying our moral fabric? No, people do that all by themselves. There is much good in this world! Hollywood is not evil, rather, the economics of global capitalism has a dark side.

  14. timtongyuphan says:
    May 21, 2009 at 4:47 PM

    I am a faithful Presbyterian Christian and have been since i was in my mother's womb. I have never doubted my faith at all. I also have a passion for films, and i've had the dream to become a filmmaker as long as i can remember. I think you are right. If we can become famous and successful but still come to church, I believe it's not a major problem.

  15. mike says:
    January 2, 2010 at 8:29 PM

    According to God's Word, we ALL have evil hearts outside of him. I am also a christian that watches plenty a' movies, and as far as I know, none of the movies I have watched were made in any of my friend's backyards! The approach to this is not "Is Hollywood evil?" but "Would you agree that there are somethings created in Hollywood that according to God's word would be considered to be Evil, and not recommended for a Christian to view?" and I would like to think that a christian would not just sit and watch Anything and Everything, right?
    I mean, I know people who do not subscribe to any kind of faith and have some sort of standard to what they will watch and won't watch.

  16. Marc Duncan Says:
    January 22, 2010 at 5:36 AM

    I'm sorry, but I think the person who called out in your church re evil in hollywood isn't too far away from the truth. I am an evangelical christian as well as you but just because I like something doesn't make it right. The more movies we watch (I watch a fair few as well) the more we become 'conditioned'. Virtually all the social evils in our Western world contrary to God's word are promoted in Hollywood especially in the area of morality.

  17. Nayana Anthony says:
    March 4, 2010 at 9:13 AM

    I'm sorry, too, Marc, but I believe what you're saying is simplistic. "Hollywood" just can not be lumped together as one big convenient EVIL wrapped neatly with a big Satanic bow. There has been so much good done through so many Hollywood (and otherwise)-produced films. People have been invited to stretch themselves--to be aware of realities like poverty, abuse, famine, and war that they otherwise might have been able to ignore. Of course there is trash mixed in with the rest. But that is why God has given us something called discernment... an ability which can atrophy if you just write off a whole section of our culture.

  18. Ti Says:
    April 27, 2010 at 3:34 PM

    I actually have a different perspective on this issue. In response to the lady who screamed out "Hollywood" during your session, I think we are being too literal in our interpretation of her statement. I personally do not think she meant Hollywood as a whole, but those elements of Hollywood that may be perceived as un-Godly. It would have taken all of your session plus ten more to name all of the things that are right or wrong with Hollywood. So instead of listing every offense one-by-one, she made a general statement with the assumption that others would know exactly what she meant. It's just like someone asking you to name institutions that are corrupt and you responding with "government." Of course not all government is corrupt, but most people would not question the validity of your answer. That being said, I do not feel that this woman was demonstrating ignorance or intolerance. Of course there is good in Hollywood, but there is also evil. One does not exist without the other.

    Also, I think that we are often unsure of the true definition of judgment. There is a difference between telling the truth and taking a deliberate moral stance, and passing judgment. Stating that promiscuity (a practice with overwhelming representation in Hollywood) is a sin is not the same as condemning a promiscuous person to Hell. God is love, but God does not love sin nor is He tolerant of it. He has a certain code that we are advised to live by. Do not be fooled into thinking that God is accepting of most of the things that pass for normal in this world.

  19. Anonymous Says:
    October 8, 2010 at 10:39 PM

    Hollywood has caused a lot of pain in peoples lives. For example the glorification of sex ouside of marriage. Also I do not find its movies very entertaining. They are full of P.C messages Overall I would say Hollywoods influence is more evil than good. Also I think that the Bible talks about judging people not institutions Ie Hollywood.
    May I suggest reading a good book

  20. Nayana Anthony says:
    October 13, 2010 at 11:55 AM

    Anonymous, you're painting "Hollywood" with an awful big brush. Granted, there has been crap that has come from our movie industry, but there's been a lot of really good stuff too. I'm not sure what you mean by "PC messages", but if you're talking about being more aware of the world around us and learning to understand those that are different from us... I think that's a good thing. Jesus did not ask us to be ignorant of our brothers and sisters! Remember, he hung out with hookers and thieves. He was all about "love your neighbor", regardless of whether you approve of what they're doing in their personal lives (i.e. sex outside of marriage).

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