Friday, March 25, 2011

Mistrust and Redemption in Hollywood - part 3

Nobody in 1967 could possibly have imagined the impact this new rating system would have on the American film industry. Within the first year, Bonnie and Clyde, The Wild Bunch and The Graduate shocked the Church. Filmmakers now had the liberty to create films without any restrictions, and they didn’t waste any time. The Wild Bunch contained violence that was unimaginable to the American audience. It depicted violence that was realistic and graphic, unlike most of Hollywood’s war movies from the 1940s and 1950s. Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate offered a new level of sexuality that had been never portrayed on the motion picture scene.

By 1969, shock had turned to outrage when Midnight Cowboy became the first X-rated movie to win Best Picture at the Oscars. This is the type of move Hollywood would have never made before the rating system. The story is about Joe Buck and Ratso, who are living on the fringe of society. Joe moves from Texas to New York City to make money as a male gigolo. Ratso is a third-rate con artist living by his wits to survive on the gritty streets of New York City. Midnight Cowboy is a journey into the dark side of human existence.

Without a production code in place, filmmakers had an opportunity to hit back at the Church. What serves as a basis for Joe Buck’s dysfunctional behavior is his relationship with the Church. He had been to church and had been baptized as a boy but had only frightening memories of the experience. As a result, he equates religion with disappointment. Midnight Cowboy does not offer a positive view of Christianity to say the least. Some people might argue that we brought this on ourselves.

Overnight everything changed in Hollywood. Christians were outraged. They felt betrayed. Over the next few years, Christians would begin a long process of withdrawing from the industry. Hollywood would be branded as the enemy. We would discourage our young people from seeking careers as filmmakers and media makers. Soon boycotts and protests would become the norm. And Hollywood, without a production code, would begin to portray Christians as idiots, fanatics, and hypocrites. As a result of our withdrawal, we have allowed Hollywood to become a dark place. That’s our fault, not theirs. We are responding out of our emotions not out of our theology, which states that we must love everyone and that we are called to reach the world, including Hollywood.

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