20th Century Fox To Release Christian Films
The New York Times reports that Fox have created a new division, FoxFaith, to distrubute Christian movies. “Many of the films, with budgets ranging from about $3 million to $20 million each, will be released straight to DVD. But the studio said that at least six a year would be released nationally in theaters by […]
“Many of the films, with budgets ranging from about $3 million to $20 million each, will be released straight to DVD. But the studio said that at least six a year would be released nationally in theaters by an independent distributor working with Fox, starting on Oct. 6 with ‚ÄúLove‚Äôs Abiding Joy,‚Äù a western based on the novel by the Christian writer Janette Oke about a couple facing the trials of life on the American frontier.
‚ÄúWhat we‚Äôre trying to do is create great movies that are story-driven, that happen to tap into Christian values,‚Äù said Simon Swart, the general manager of Fox‚Äôs North American home entertainment division. ‚ÄúThe genesis of the FoxFaith banner is that it‚Äôs a Good Housekeeping seal, a marketing umbrella for these pictures, so that people can have confidence the movies won‚Äôt violate their core beliefs.‚Äù
The move reflects the growing weight of evangelical Christians in popular culture. It is the latest in a series of incremental steps taken by Hollywood studios in recent years to capitalize on the Christian audience.”
“First, as some people have observed, there is a “cult of the family” in evangelical circles that is borderline idolatrous — as David Bruce once noted, some churches now even call themselves “family worship centres” — and the fact that “family” comes before “Christian” in FoxFaith’s self-description is very telling.”
To be fair, FoxFaith puts morally-driven before family-friendly. However, it does raise a good point. Equating famiy-friendly with properly Christian is problematic. Large swathes of the Bible are not family-friendly, they are morally complex – difficult to explain to young children. I’d love to see a film based on the life of Solomon or Hosea, but I wouldn’t want to watch it with my five year old daughter. Though, on the other hand, it would be good to face that as a parent.
Which brings us to the second of Peter Chattaway’s critiques, the potential for “dumbing-down” in order to pander to the evangelical market. I guess time will tell on this one. The film industry does a lot of dumbing down as it is (or mainstreaming) – there are not that many artistically bold films coming out of the big houses anyway. Chattaway asks,
“…a film like The Color of the Cross could certainly turn out to be somewhat controversial, even divisive — so it looks like FoxFaith is willing to take a few risks here or there. But just how far are they willing to let the enveloped be pushed? “
Good question. My guess is the answer lies in something hiding towards the end of the NYT feature,
“Fox has already built a network of 90,000 Christian congregations that receive regular information about its films, and that distribute promotional materials.”
FoxFaith’s marketing plan is built on that network, so in turn that network will drive the content. That’s the size of the envelope. The only way we are going to see FoxFaith produce more daring work is if we endorse and support the brand ourselves – join the 90,000.
Finally, Petter Chattaway raises what I think is the most problematic issue with FoxFaith, that it will further ghetto-ise Christian (evangelical) engagement with popular culture (as has happened with Christian music). He quotes some comments he previously made (while reviewing films like the Veggie Tales movie in 2002),
“Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of music that can usually be found only at Christian book stores. But there once was a time when magazines like Campus Life reviewed mainstream music as well as the relatively small number of albums put out by Christian artists. That was what Christian critics had to do if they wanted to engage the culture on some level.
However, in more recent years, as the Christian music scene has grown into the institution that it is today, it has become all too easy for we Christians to focus on our own little niche market and to ignore the larger musical world as a whole.
So far, movies are a different story. They cost a lot of money to make, and there just aren’t that many Christian films out there. So one of the joys of being a Christian film critic is that you have no choice but to constantly interact with the world outside the Christian ghetto. . . .”
It’s a good point I’ve made many times before. Films are one of the few ways that Christian communicators engage with mainstream popular culture. A lot of writers and speakers who seldom if ever cite other important cultural markers, like art, architecture, fashion, travel, economics, sport or even music, will make wide reference to essentially non-Christian films. However, with the advent of FoxFaith, this shrinks the need to see films outside the safe confines of the morals/family/faith mix. It has the potential to further isolate Christian thinking from mainstream culture. This is not only unfortunate, it is potentially disasterous.
[tags] FoxFaith, [/tags]