What does it mean to be a Christian...and an actor?

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josh p's picture

Focus on the Family has jumped the shark. Denzel and Wahlberg Christians? 

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I think "Christian" has become a generic term for anyone who is religious. Wahlberg is Catholic, for instance. 

Larry Nelson's picture

 

......portraying some decidedly anti/non-Christian characters:

 

"Munebraga (Bob Jones Jr.)

The ruthless Inquisitor General, Bishop Gaspar Munebraga, was sent to Seville to crush the Bible believers and ordered a number of them burned at the stake.

Dr. Bob Jones Jr. was largely responsible for the rich cultural education at Bob Jones University.  He played nearly every major Shakespearean character, from Hamlet to Shylock—whom he also played in the Unusual Films production Pound of Flesh.  In the highly acclaimed film Wine of Morning, Unusual Films’ first major production, he played Pontius Pilate.  He starred as General Richard Ewell in the Civil War epic Red Runs the River, and in Flame in the Wind, Dr. Jones played the memorable role of the evil Grand Inquisitor Munebraga.  His last major film role was in The Printing, as KGB General Smirov."

http://www.unusualfilms.com/flame-in-the-wind-about-the-actors/ 

Wayne Wilson's picture

The issue, I believe, is not acting. That is an art.  It is not a matter of playing the hero or the villain. It is whether or not one is using acting to promote or glorify sin. For that, the actor is morally responsible. Think millstones. 

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I think the issue here is when a movie has objectionable content, such as sexual situations and 'adult' language. 

It's one thing for an actor to depict violence, for instance, because they aren't actually hitting or shooting anyone. However, when they take their clothes off, they are literally naked. And while they may be 'acting' like they love the person they are simulating sex with, they are still literally kissing and etc. someone they aren't married to. 

Some actors and actresses have a 'no nudity' clause in their contract--which means a body double will play their part in those scenes. Not sure that's better.

Then there's the fact that when an actor signs up for a role, they might not know the specifics about the part they will play. Once they sign, they are under contract.

I can't imagine that a Christian could have a hugely successful movie career without making serious compromises. But if we watch any of those movies--even if they are edited with a filtering DVD player--what's makes us any better? Aren't we still supporting an ungodly industry?

This is usually where the whole movie debate thing starts. I'm not going to pretend that I don't love movies and tv. I'm a pop culture fan girl, and I'm currently binge watching Supernatural on Netflix. So there ya' go-full disclosure.

Bert Perry's picture

Wayne Wilson wrote:

The issue, I believe, is not acting. That is an art.  It is not a matter of playing the hero or the villain. It is whether or not one is using acting to promote or glorify sin. For that, the actor is morally responsible. Think millstones. 

OK, if this is indeed our criterion, would we be able to emulate BJ 2 and play Pilate or the Inquisitor?  Really, if you're going to have theater, I would argue that you've got to allow the villain to play the villain, no?  Somehow there's got to be a balance between showing too much and not making the point--and I dare suggest the "Golden Age" of cinema had a decent grasp on it.

The whole thing is really a hard question; Dr. Bauder notes that the early church was more or less united in opposition to theater at all for various reasons.  I don't share that conviction, but it is a perspective worth contemplating.  It's also worth noting that the "training school" for a great portion of Hollywood actors and actresses used to be vaudeville--more or less an often bawdy working class theater.  Great examples of their "graduates" are Donald O'Connor and Judy Garland.  So even when considering that "Golden Age" of cinema, we simply cannot go where they went.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Wayne Wilson's picture

You misunderstand me. I said the issue is NOT playing a villain or hero. Of course you often need a villain.  There are two issues, really. I boil it down to Message and/or Methods. If the work as a whole moves you to approve of evil, it has an evil message.  If actors are required to do things that are shameful or against decency (as Susan alluded to), that's an evil method. 

Yes, Golden Age cinema had a decent, though at times flawed, grasp on it.  Hollywood under The Code turned out some really great films.  

The early church was dealing with theater that had no such code, and the church fathers are pretty clear about what they objected to... making light of wickedness and direct appeals to the flesh, though I doubt even the Greeks and Romans could have conceived of what many Christians enjoy today as public entertainment.  

dgszweda's picture

Acting is a spectrum profession.  You have all kinds of acting, whether it is national or regional commercials, voice acting, acting in small parts of DVD, television or movies, or lead roles in Hollywood films.  There is also acting for training videos and other types of outlets.  All of the A-list, B-list or C-list actors is really at the end of the day a minority.  Is Hollywood bad?  Sure.  But if we were to isolate what industries were good and bad and where we should work, most people would be out of a job.  I did act in Hollywood film/tv shows back when I was younger.  The pay was not very steady, but in reality, I was not some kind of A-list actor, so I did not really know always what the movie was about.  In general it is not the best industry to get involved in, but there are opportunities for actors to be Christians and still operate under your convictions.

Ron Bean's picture

I have two sons. One is an officer in the Navy. The other supports himself with a day job but is enjoying some success as a professional stage actor with some commercial work as well.

A few years ago an old friend quietly pulled me aside and asked me how I felt about my son being around so many people with lifestyles contrary to our Christian values. I responded by saying that he knew what the Navy was like before he enlisted. 

 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Larry Nelson's picture

 

Ron Bean wrote:

I have two sons. One is an officer in the Navy. The other supports himself with a day job but is enjoying some success as a professional stage actor with some commercial work as well.

A few years ago an old friend quietly pulled me aside and asked me how I felt about my son being around so many people with lifestyles contrary to our Christian values. I responded by saying that he knew what the Navy was like before he enlisted. 

 

I laughed out loud at this......and am still chuckling.....    Smile

Bert Perry's picture

The big thing I would add--and I don't know that we would have any disagreement on this except perhaps in what movies we do or don't like--is that sometimes you've got to let the villian be believeable.  All too often, Christian movie "villians" have all the depth of Skeletor from "He-Man" because the director wasn't willing to let the bad guy have any redeeming qualities.  Like that Babylon Bee bit about Congress unanimously passing a law to prevent the making of "God's not Dead 3".  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Wayne Wilson's picture

I agree completely. The God is Not Dead movies fail in a major way on this point.  A lot of Christian kids are going to be surprised when they go to college and find out their atheist professor is a charming, warm human being. 

In more general terms, the best villains have real motivations for what they do. 

 

Jim's picture

http://www.cnsnews.com/blog/mark-judge/kevin-sorbo-hollywood-you-have-be...

GH: Do you think your faith has prevented you from opportunities in Hollywood?

KS: Oh, there's no question about it. If you could do an undercover video in Hollywood behind closed doors like those Planned Parenthood videos where those women discuss crushing baby's heads and pulling out body parts -  trust me - I mean Ben Affleck one time came out and said, "I will never hire a conservative Republican to do a movie with me." I was like, "How immature is that?"

I don't have a problem who have a different point of view than me, whether it's political or religious. I don't have a problem with most Muslims, because I know most Muslims are good people. I don't have a problem with most Jews, because most of them are good people. I don't have a problem with most Christians, because most Christians are good people.

But my faith certainly hurt me in Hollywood. I did Hercules for 7 years, it was the most watched show for a good number of years. But then, for me to get called into read for anything - it just dropped drastically when I came out of that conservative Christian closet so to speak. I used to read for a lot of pilots and TV shows, and it's very rare now.

Thank God for the independent film world, because I still get called to read for movies all the time; I've shot 48 movies in the last ten years, and most people don't even shoot 4 movies in their entire career as an actor. So, I'm very fortunate and I know that. Hollywood doesn't owe me anything. If they want to be that way, they can be that way. I can't stop people from their immature hate. Talk about calling people racist - I'm in an industry that screams for tolerance, but they have no tolerance whatsoever. They'll fight for their freedom of speech, but only if it's for what they say, only if it's their point of view. These people don't want to debate, they want to shut you down.