Thursday, December 29, 2005

Our First Mixed Review

Here's a mixed review of Behind the Screen from the Acton Institute (Now, there's a name trying real hard to be "Act One"...).

The review is basically a thumbs up and for that I am grateful. Still, after noting that the book has "passages of real insight," the reviewers still had to get the following sadly defensive bit in...

If this collection of essays has one flaw, it is that it does little to recognize that there are those outside Los Angeles who have actively and prudentially considered how to create products that better society and engage culture.

Oh yeah, like what? No, really. Show me the movie or television show from Christians outside of Hollywood that deserves to be "recognized". Give me the name of one Christian writer who is as good at Grisham or Clancy or King or Wolfe. (Anne Rice doesn't count. She's one of those talented converts Jesus is bringing over to make art on our behalf.)

Now, I'll grant you that lots of Christians have sat around in rooms far and wide "prudentially considering how to create product," but if these efforts have come to nought, why should we pay them lip-service in our book? Part of the purpose of the book was to suggest that the "prudential thoughts" of Christians outside of Hollywood, don't do a thing to build culture. They are irrelevant to the folks who are showing up every day on the lots and in the offices of Hollywood, trying to get better stuff into your living room.

One of the points of the book is to say that we, as a church, are never going to get anywhere in the culture until we are ready to call a spade a spade. And the spade here is that our cultural forays have been marked by a lack of professionalism, depth and artistry. We have to stop the pretending.

However, as I said, the review still comes in that the book is worth your money by concluding,

And yet, this collection does one thing consistently well: it reminds the reader that the entertainment industry is a real industry where businesses and workers are subject to the same rules of excellence and quality performance as any other successful industry. Whether the matter at hand be the production of goods or the production of films, without refined technique, good intentions walk.

I admit. I can't help thinking it's a kind of benediction that we got our first mixed review from our fellow Christians.

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