Thu. July 11
Rick Santorum’s Terrible Plan to Remake Pop Culture
I’m sure you’ve heard the axiom “Don’t shoot the messenger,” but in the case of former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum’s recent public pronouncement that he’d be overseeing the revitalization of a Judeo-Christian, conservative message in the entertainment industry, please do (shoot the messenger).
Not literally, of course, but can someone do me a solid and get a Tweet, text, or one of those message-transporting ravens from Game of Thrones to Father Rick to let him know that he’s quite possibly the worst choice imaginable to oversee a (legitimate) conservative foray into Hollywood?
Mind you, it’s not Santorum’s talking points that I dislike. The 2012 GOP presidential candidate is saying all of the right things surrounding the announcement that he’s taking over EchoLight Studios. The problem is that he is the one saying them. (And, as I’ll address before we’re done today, that anyone is saying them so brazenly to the press.)
From Religion Service News:
“For a long time, Christians have decided that the best way to fight the popular culture is to keep it at bay, to lock it out of their home. That’s a losing battle,” Santorum said in an interview at America’s Center Convention Complex. “With the pervasiveness of [media] right now, the content just seeps through. The only option is to go out into that arena and try to shape the culture, too.”
Santorum said one problem with Christian-themed films was that they’ve traditionally been aimed at just Christian audiences, rather than attempting to appeal to audiences that don’t necessarily share the movie’s messaging going in. He blamed that limited appeal on what he said were often the “hokey” and “cheesy” feel of such films, with all the filmmakers’ attention focused on the message and not enough on artistic quality.
Could not agree more! I recently wrote something on this very subject for The Acton Institute and in that piece I stressed the need for quality as it pertains to any content folks from the Center-Right may try to produce in the TV/film industry. We can’t keep churning out political misfires such as the dreadful Atlas Shrugged movies or, in the Christian realm, “hokey” piles of digital garbage like Facing the Giants and Fireproof, and expect to have any meaningful impact on the culture.
Certainly there is room for any and all comers who have the equipment and capital to produce whatever they’d like. It’s still a free country, and until the politicians—who are backed by the people currently running Hollywood—socialize the movie business like any good Western socialist utopia should, any church or religious group with some cash and the desire to preach to the choir is welcome to do so.
Rick Santorum is absolutely correct in his broad assessment of the situation. But the problem runs much deeper than the hiring of a prominent traditional conservative addresses.
For starters, the mere fact that EchoLight Studios and Santorum would go to such great lengths to broadcast their arrival on the movie-making block shows an utter lack of appreciation for just how loathed anyone with the moniker “conservative”—let alone “religious conservative”—is in Hollywood. I’m not suggesting that the only way to impact culture is to lie about your beliefs and subtly work references to the Founding Fathers or Pope John Paul II into the scripts you’re over-seeing for Sony Pictures. But trying to lure actors, editors, cinematographers, and Best Boys (who don’t share all of your beliefs) away from other, more prominent studios’ projects by loudly announcing you are the very thing everyone despises in this town isn’t showing gumption or backbone.
Which brings me to my next (and overall) point: Rick Santorum’s name attached to any TV or film project ensures that whatever it is—regardless of its quality—will be immediately written off in the minds of any American under the age of 40. Personally, I think he’s a quality human being with superb values. Publicly, and in the context of trying to shape popular culture, he’s a one-man public relations nightmare.
The real reason Hollywood is so influential is because it is cool. Quality content and embedded ideological messages play a big role in the long-term effects it has on society, but you can’t simply bypass the Coolness Cabal that runs Tinsel Town. It matters and it can sink even the best of ideas. You need better, younger, cooler faces of your movement.
Rick Santorum is telling the truth when he says religious conservatives need to re-engaged the culture, but as Winston Churchill once said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”
Same thing goes for sweater vests, Rick!