Tag: hollywood

Bridge Builders

by Dan Rupple

In the 1989 Disney classic The Little Mermaid, the mermaid princess Ariel is dissatisfied with her underwater life. Spotting a reflection at the bottom of the ocean, a sunken fork provides Ariel a glimpse into a different world . . . a human world.

As she fantasizes about what it might be like “up there,” she longs to be “part of their world.” But it’s not until her father, King Triton, provides a way—a “bridge”—that she is able to cross over into a life above the sea.

We’ve all seen movies that introduced us to lands we’ve never known or human struggles we’ve never experienced. I’ve seen so many films, especially documentaries at the Sundance Film Festival, that have provided a “bridge” of understanding to a world of which I was previously unaware. These cinematic bridges made a new connection possible for me.

But despite this digital age of unprecedented global connectivity, as a culture we seem to be more divided than ever before. Movies may serve as bridges, allowing us to cinematically travel across the great divide from the known to the unknown. But oh how we need far more kinds of bridges built than movies can ever provide . . . bridges that connect two things that are presently disconnected, bridges that make a way where there wasn’t a way before!

Deep in the heart of God resides a bridge builder. Long before mankind put an insurmountable divide between himself and God, the Lord had conceived His plan to provide a way—a bridge—for mankind to cross back over the divide, reuniting  mankind to his Creator.

God calls us to be bridge builders as well.

Throughout the Scriptures, we see God’s people creating bridges that didn’t previously exist. Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well creates a bridge between ethnicities and genders (John 4). The Apostle Peter creates a bridge between Jew and Gentile when he enters the home of Cornelius (Acts 10). And the Apostle Paul crosses the divide between Jew and Roman when he appeals to Caesar (Acts 25).

I was asked recently, “If Mastermedia had a symbol, what would it be?” Without hesitation I answered, “A bridge.” Our mission is to bridge the gap between the Christian audience and the media producers who fill our screens, to connect the Christian community with the Hollywood community, and to create a respectful dialog about faith with the secular media professional. These are the divides that God has called us to bridge.

To whom has God asked you to build a bridge?

In the Room Where It Happens

In the Broadway mega-hit Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison are behind closed doors, deciding on foundational policies that would still have major ramifications today . . . and all behind closed doors.

On the outside stands the excluded Aaron Burr, bemoaning that he’s not in on the conversation. When George Washington asks, “What do you want, Burr?” Burr replies, “I wanna be in the room where it happens!”

“I wanna be in the room where it happens!”

To have our voice heard, for individuals to have the ability to speak into conversations that affect their lives, to be represented . . . all go to the heart of our democracy. However, in the media world—which consists of private for-profit corporations—many influential decisions are being made, and often only the loudest voices get “in the room where it happens.”

Second only to profits, perhaps the leading influencers that dictate what the world sees on its screens, are the numerous, diverse voices representing many of the demographic threads of the American fabric. These voices speak for fragments of our culture divided by gender, race, political leanings, lifestyle, ethnic background, or other special interests. Some are large and some are small, but their objective is the same: to effectively urge, and often vehemently demand, that their factions be favorably reflected in TV and film characters and storylines.

What is our voice? . . .

1) Ours is an absent voice. Why isn’t the Christian voice being heard? In a previous Median (Winter 2017), I chronicled how during the infancy of Hollywood, America’s Christian Community was the deciding voice. But a few decades later, offended by what Hollywood was offering, people of faith pushed back their chairs, walked out of the room, and cocooned themselves in the sanctuary of our churches. The generations that followed were discouraged from entering the media business.

As the church relinquished the responsibility of providing or supporting positive, life-affirming films, the secular film culture filled the void! So for many years, the term Christian media professional became an oxymoron. The Christian light in Hollywood dimmed and was in danger of being extinguished.

However, America’s largest people group—followers of Jesus Christ*—is all too often, “not in the room where it happens!” The closest we get to the decision-making process is when we decide whether or not to turn on our TV. (*75% of Americans identify with a Christian religion, Gallup Dec 2015) Christians will often complain that the “religious” people they see in movies or TV are either pious hypocrites or insane serial killers who claim that God spoke to them through their dog. Where is the portrayal of a compassionate, thoughtful, caring person of authentic faith?

There’s an old adage among screenwriters: “Write what you know.” So, what if the screenwriter doesn’t know any Christians? A good writer who does his research may be pleasantly surprised by what he finds. But a lazy (or perhaps already biased) writer may simply fall back on prevalent unflattering false portrayals . . . and the cycle continues.

From the screen, this image spreads throughout our culture, leaving many who are without a sincere Christ-follower in their lives to buy into the not-so-Christ-like stereotypes of Christians as portrayed in today’s media.

Jesus called us to be the light of the world . . . where is light needed the most, but in the darkest of places? We are the salt of the earth . . . where does righteousness need to be preserved more than in a powerful, often godless influencer?

 

2) Ours is an assumed voice.

“Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, [a man lame from birth] asked to receive alms . . . expecting to receive something from them. “But Peter said, ‘I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”’(Acts 3) As the lame man did with Peter and John, people often have an expectation of what they are going to get from a Christian. These expectations are usually based on preconceived assumptions. Some have a positive notion of a person of faith, much like this lame man did . . . that Christians are a generous, compassionate, giving people. But sadly, many have a much more negative perception of Christians . . . that we are a hypocritical, judgmental, mean-spirited group.

In the media world, the assumption adopted by many media leaders has been built by years of hearing a voice of anger bouncing off the pages of hate letters or the shouts of protest outside their office windows. But what if a kindhearted, thoughtful Christian voice displaced this erroneous assumption? What if the Christian voice, like Peter’s and John’s, offered something so much better than protest . . . something that was reasonable, affirming and beneficial to our culture, as well as their financial bottom line?

 

3) Ours is a needed voice.

Films are often promoted as “The Feel-Good Movie of the Year.” These are films that touch our hearts, bring a smile to our faces, movies that make us cheer or shout with glee! Films whose happy endings conclude with scenes of redemption (Les Miserables), self-sacrifice (It’s a Wonderful Life), good triumphant over evil (Star Wars), standing courageously by your convictions (Chariots of Fire), “right” winning the day (High Noon), or that which was lost is found (Finding Nemo).

Isn’t it interesting that all of these themes which so resonate with the human spirit are values of the Kingdom of God? It’s the way God wired us! These movies give us a glimpse of how the world was supposed to be! We are spiritually transported back to the reality of walking through a garden in the cool of the day, conversing with our Creator. Films that inspire us to be our better selves are not only successful, but think of the positive effect they have on our culture.

“The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in.” –Harold Goddard, U.S. Educator.

Entry into “the room where it happens” is earned through compelling creativity, excellence of craft and being a constant, genial, reasonable, beneficial voice. Mastermedia has been and continues to be that kind of voice into the hearts of media’s decision makers.

And we endeavor to expand our voice . . . to deserve our seat at the table . . . to always be “in the room where it happens!”

Share ways you or others have earned “a seat at the table” at feedback@mastermediaintl.org.

Actor Chris Pratt, Believer: The Real Deal

Mega-star Chris Pratt (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World, Parks and Recreation) is not  your typical “Christian celebrity.” Jesse Carey in Relevant magazine writes, “Pratt’s references to his faith have endeared him to pop-culture loving Christians. But, there’s something different about the way he carries himself and talks about Christianity.

“Pratt has no agenda. His faith seems sincere, because unlike some Hollywood stars turned religious poster-children, Pratt’s faith isn’t political. It’s also not part of his ‘brand.’ It just seems to be a part of who he is.”

Although Chris has been open about his faith for years, he credits prayers for his infant son, born prematurely, with “redefining” his faith. In a 2012 interview with People magazine he described what he and his wife experienced during the month his son was in ICU: “We were scared for a long time. We prayed a lot . . . . It restored my faith in God, not that it needed to be restored, but it really redefined it.” Since that time, he has been referring to faith on social media, even tweeting a prayer for one fan’s young son who was seriously ill.

Chris seems to be like a lot of his Christian fans who are conscientious about living out their faith day by day, despite making mistakes in behavior or moral discernment along the way.

“Faith is part of who [Chris] is, not part of a family-friendly brand based on exhibiting a certain kind of behavior . . . of how Christians are ‘supposed’ to talk or look.” (Relevant)

Our culture needs more of this kind of public persona from Christians in the media spotlight. Fans—believers or not—may not expect Christian celebrities to be perfect . . . but they want them to be authentic.