Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bad Entertainment

In an interview of Barbara Nicolosi, a Catholic screenwriter and professor, she says:
But in the end, which is more harmful: true words cast in an ugly frame, or untrue words cast in a beautiful frame? I think Hollywood will get people into heaven faster. Even if they have the message wrong, people in the end will turn off some of that. What will really impact them will be the harmony, the wholeness, the completeness of a work.

So for example, a show like Friends, which might make light of pornography, is ultimately not as dangerous because it's very well-produced, well-acted, well-written. It's funny. It works as a whole. Whereas you can have a minister in front of a Bible on CBN with a bad toupee, lit garishly, and saying lovely things, but the message is that Christianity is uncreative, banal, boring, undynamic, and irrelevant.

I’m just going to say it. Barbara Nicolosi drives me nuts. She always goes overboard in her defense of art, and often completely ignores the dangers of a work if it has some small redeeming value AND artistic merit.

I understand and agree with her major point: In order to evangelize, we need better art (movies, music, TV, etc.). As someone trained in graphic design, I complain about bad art too. But she always weights style over substance. There is a point to be made that there is a degree of substance to style itself, as beauty is a reflection of God. But there is something horribly wrong with thinking that appearances equal underlying truth.

Our greatest example might be the Crucifix. What is uglier than the murder of an innocent man, or worse, the brutal torture of God himself? The secular world often mocks this ugliness: the blood, the nails, our strange love for an instrument of death. I’ve heard atheists mockingly state, “I pray in front of an electric chair.” But to a Christian, the cross is beautiful. It is hope, it is love, it is our faith.

She sounds to me sort of like she’s saying, “Better a pretty whore, than a homely nun. Our nuns need to be way more attractive or else they’re doing more harm than good.” Yeah, I think that idea came out of the Sermon on the Mount, right?

Let’s also look at some Catholic magazines, like Family Foundations, First Things, or early issues of This Rock. Now that’s some unattractive graphic design, and in the case of Family Foundations, some repetitive and poorly written articles. We should boycott these travesties of art, and buy Playboy, which is renowned for its good writing and photography. We will certainly find more beauty there, and thus more of God, right?

Well, I’m done mocking. I understand that this isn’t the exact point of her statements. I know that Christian TV and movies are pretty bad, and don’t watch much of them (though I like some Christian music). I suppose her words are directed more at we believers, saying that we can do more by improving our art than we can do by attacking Hollywood’s art. But this is not how she comes across. She comes across as someone who would say, “Joseph Ratzinger’s writings do more damage than those of Ayn Rand, because Rand’s writings are widely recognized as being well produced, well written, and captivating.”

Oh, I should also note that if you read the whole article, most of it is far more reasonable than this quote.


Barbara said...

"But she always weights style over substance."


God bless -

Barb N

Nathan said...

Sorry, you're right, I've read other things you've said or written, and I know that you see the danger in the negative messages sent out by some movies. It was certainly hyperbolic for me to use the word "always."

My writing can be inconsistent, sometimes being hyperbolic, and other times making heavy use of qualifiers. It might depend a bit on my mood: Whether I'm feeling combative or feeling more conciliatory.

I suppose I could go two directions on this, I could argue that I didn't say that you don't weigh substance, just that you give more consideration to style (which could be because too many Christians give far too little weight to style, and you feel the need for an advocate on the other side).

But I could also take the hyperbole out of my statement, and rephrase it as, "But all too often she seems to weight style over substance."

I would consider either of these to better explain my meaning than taking my statement at face value.