Will 'The Road' Be a Tool for Evangelism?
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Nov 25, 2009 at 03:00:33 PM EST
A. Larry Ross, a Christian-oriented PR man extraordinaire, has taken `The Road' to religious audiences in search of buzz and box office

Two movies with doomsday scenarios highlight this year's pre-holiday Cineplex fare.  "2012," a special effects spectacular starring John Cusack, is based on the Mayan calendar, whose end date -- not the end of the world most scholars agree -- is December 21, 2012.

In its first weekend at the box office it took in $225 million -- $65 million domestically and $160 million internationally. At the two-week mark, "2012" had brought in $110 million domestically and nearly $350 million internationally.

A hearty testament to the drawing power of apocalyptic movies!

The other film is "The Road," adapted from Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name. "The Road" opened in theaters on Wednesday, November 25. (McCarthy is also the author of such best-selling books as "No Country for Old Men" and "All The Pretty Horses.")

"The Road" is a complicated tale about a father and son attempting to survive in post-apocalyptic America.

A. Larry Ross, president of A. Larry Ross Communications -- a Christian media company -- was asked by the movie's production company to take the film to the faith-based community. Ross believes that since "The Road" has already generated significant buzz as well as Oscar chatter, Christians should get in on the action: "The impact [of this film] will not be in the theater but over coffee when discussions happen," said Ross.

And while few expect "The Road" to equal "2012"-type numbers, the film has certainly generated buzz, thanks in part to A. Larry Ross.

 

'The Road' is certainly 'open to interpretation'

"Like a lot of great literature, 'The Road' is open to interpretation," Rob Boston, senior policy analyst with Americans United (AU), which works to uphold the constitutional principle of church-state separation, told me in an e-mail.  

"In some ways, the book could even be read as a humanistic parable. The world depicted in 'The Road' is so nightmarish and unpleasant that one is tempted to ask, 'Has God abandoned humankind?'" he said.

"The boy (played by Kodi Smit-McPhee) and his father (played by Vigo Mortensen) are left to rely on one another, and the bond between them speaks to the undying love parents have for their children - a message that resonates with atheist parents as much as Christian ones," Boston pointed out.

"I suppose one could read the book as a metaphor for God's love for his creation, but to me that message was in no way obvious in the book. Literal-minded fundamentalists are not likely to make that reach," he added.

Even if the R-rated film contained "more overt religious messages", Boston could not envision "conservative Christians flocking to the multiplexes to see a movie about an apocalyptic wasteland populated by shell-shocked cannibals and somehow seeing that as an affirmation of God's awesome power."

An opening for a 'robust spiritual discussion' says Ross

However, for A. Larry Ross, president of A. Larry Ross Communications - a high-profile Christian media company - the film provides an opening for church leaders to "participate in a robust spiritual discussion".

Ross was asked by the movie's production company to take "The Road" to the faith-based community. He believes with the film generating buzz and Oscar talk, Christians should get in on the action.

The film presents "a unique entry point for those in the faith community to share the hope of the Gospel in a hopeless world", Ross said.

To that end, Ross has been instrumental in organising "advance screenings for church leaders nationwide." A website featuring "free sermons and discussion guides" has been produced, and "a special trailer with extra scenes underscoring the film's moral message" was developed, Entertainment Weekly recently reported.

Breaking ground with 'The Passion of the Christ'

Why did the film's producers call on Ross? "Over the past few years, I've noticed a greater emphasis on popular culture - especially film - at events like the 'Values Voter Summit,'" said AU's Boston.

"Clearly the Religious Right wants to use the medium of film to spread its message of how society and culture should be ordered," Boston added. "They want to go back to the days when movies were 'wholesome' and religion was never portrayed in a negative light - think 1950s with Spencer Tracy playing a friendly priest. The Religious Right used to rage against Hollywood; now they want to co-opt it."

Over the past few years, A. Larry Ross Communications (ALRC) has been involved with pre-release publicity for several movies. While some have not fared particularly well at the box office, others far exceeded expectations.

"Left Behind", a film based on one of a series of mega-best-selling apocalyptic novels by longtime Religious Right leader Tim LaHaye and his co-author Jerry Jenkins, fell flat at the box office. It did, however, sell more than three million videos. "Evan Almighty", starring Steve Carrell, was a high-budget film (175 million dollars) that grossed 170 million worldwide.

However, the success of actor/director Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" - whose budget was 30 million dollars and which took in more than 600 million dollars worldwide - trumps all the others, setting the stage for Ross's deeper engagement with Hollywood productions.

In light of the success of "The Passion", "some major studios saw there was money to be made by reaching out to religious audiences and producing more films with religious themes," Boston pointed out.

While Christian-based PR firms aren't new phenomena, Ross's group is among the few that have risen to the top in a crowded field. And while the groups, campaigns and individuals represented by Ross's client list are prestigious, it is "the Kingdom of God itself [that] is a client of sorts," the New York Times pointed out. "Publicity, marketing and branding are his ministry. So the real question becomes, Why does God need someone to sell him?'"

During any given week ALRC churns out numerous press releases - via Facebook, Twitter, as well as more traditional venues - for myriad evangelical Christian clients: it recently promoted "good, clean fun" in "The Cheesy Adventure of Captain Mac.A.Roni"; questioned health care reform on behalf of the Joni and Friends (JAF) disability ministry and its public policy initiative, the Christian Institute on Disability (CID); flacked for the Kentucky-based Creation Museum; and touted a series of websites run by Global Media Outreach (GMO) "dedicated to share the good news of Christ with the branches of the U.S. armed forces."

American United's Rob Boston allowed that he was not surprised to hear about the production team's plans "to promote" 'The Road' to a Christian audience. "They would pitch 'Saw V' to a Christian audience if they thought they could make money. The studios want as many people as possible to see any film."

And while Boston admits to not being "a film critic", he is "sceptical" that "The Road" "can be pitched successfully to a fundamentalist audience. Fundamentalist tend to be literal minded. They enjoyed 'The Passion of the Christ' because it was the straight-up passion narrative with all of the blood you could stand. I've read 'The Road,' and while there are biblical references in it, they are nuanced and cloaked in metaphor."

According to Entertainment Weekly, after watching an early cut of the film, Cormac McCarthy had "no doubt about" the film's "spiritual resonance." The film's director John Hillcoat said that McCarthy had only one comment: "He said, 'It would be great to hear the word God one or two more times."




Display:

WWW Talk To Action


Cognitive Dissonance & Dominionism Denial
There is new research on why people are averse to hearing or learning about the views of ideological opponents. Based on evaluation of five......
By Frederick Clarkson (89 comments)
Will the Air Force Do Anything To Rein In Its Dynamic Duo of Gay-Bashing, Misogynistic Bloggers?
"I always get nervous when I see female pastors/chaplains. Here is why everyone should as well: "First, women are not called to be pastors,......
By Chris Rodda (22 comments)
The Legacy of Big Oil
The media is ablaze with the upcoming publication of David Grann's book, Killers of the Flower Moon. The shocking non fiction account of the......
By wilkyjr (21 comments)
Gimme That Old Time Dominionism Denial
Over the years, I have written a great deal here and in other venues about the explicitly theocratic movement called dominionism -- which has......
By Frederick Clarkson (23 comments)
History Advisor to Members of Congress Completely Twists Jefferson's Words to Support Muslim Ban
Pseudo-historian David Barton, best known for his misquoting of our country's founders to promote the notion that America was founded as a Christian nation,......
By Chris Rodda (25 comments)
"Christian Fighter Pilot" Calls First Lesbian Air Force Academy Commandant a Liar
In a new post on his "Christian Fighter Pilot" blog titled "BGen Kristin Goodwin and the USAFA Honor Code," Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan......
By Chris Rodda (18 comments)
Catholic Right Leader Unapologetic about Call for 'Death to Liberal Professors' -- UPDATED
Today, Donald Trump appointed C-FAM Executive Vice President Lisa Correnti to the US Delegation To UN Commission On Status Of Women. (C-FAM is a......
By Frederick Clarkson (18 comments)
Controlling Information
     Yesterday I listened to Russ Limbaugh.  Rush advised listeners it would be best that they not listen to CNN,MSNBC, ABC, CBS and......
By wilkyjr (16 comments)
Is Bannon Fifth-Columning the Pope?
In December 2016 I wrote about how White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who likes to flash his Catholic credentials when it comes to......
By Frank Cocozzelli (8 comments)
Ross Douthat's Hackery on the Seemingly Incongruous Alliance of Bannon & Burke
Conservative Catholic writer Ross Douthat has dissembled again. This time, in a February 15, 2017 New York Times op-ed titled The Trump Era's Catholic......
By Frank Cocozzelli (10 comments)
`So-Called Patriots' Attack The Rule Of Law
Every so often, right-wing commentator Pat Buchanan lurches out of the far-right fever swamp where he has resided for the past 50 years to......
By Rob Boston (14 comments)
Bad Faith from Focus on the Family
Here is one from the archives, Feb 12, 2011, that serves as a reminder of how deeply disingenuous people can be. Appeals to seek......
By Frederick Clarkson (21 comments)
The Legacy of George Wallace
"One need not accept any of those views to agree that they had appealed to real concerns of real people, not to mindless, unreasoning......
By wilkyjr (9 comments)
Betsy DeVos's Mudsill View of Public Education
My Talk to Action colleague Rachel Tabachnick has been doing yeoman's work in explaining Betsy DeVos's long-term strategy for decimating universal public education. If......
By Frank Cocozzelli (11 comments)
Prince and DeVos Families at Intersection of Radical Free Market Privatizers and Religious Right
This post from 2011 surfaces important information about President-Elect Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. -- FC Erik Prince, Brother of Betsy......
By Rachel Tabachnick (25 comments)

Respect for Others? or Political Correctness?
The term "political correctness" as used by Conservatives and Republicans has often puzzled me: what exactly do they mean by it? After reading Chip Berlin's piece here-- http://www.talk2action.org/story/2016/7/21/04356/9417 I thought about what he explained......
MTOLincoln (42 comments)
Fear
What I'm feeling now is fear.  I swear that it seems my nightmares are coming true with this new "president".  I'm also frustrated because so many people are not connecting all the dots! I've......
ArchaeoBob (20 comments)
"America - love it or LEAVE!"
I've been hearing that and similar sentiments fairly frequently in the last few days - far FAR more often than ever before.  Hearing about "consequences for burning the flag (actions) from Trump is chilling!......
ArchaeoBob (18 comments)
"Faked!" Meme
Keep your eyes and ears open for a possible move to try to discredit the people openly opposing Trump and the bigots, especially people who have experienced terrorism from the "Right"  (Christian Terrorism is......
ArchaeoBob (68 comments)
More aggressive proselytizing
My wife told me today of an experience she had this last week, where she was proselytized by a McDonald's employee while in the store. ......
ArchaeoBob (15 comments)
See if you recognize names on this list
This comes from the local newspaper, which was conservative before and took a hard right turn after it was sold. Hint: Sarah Palin's name is on it!  (It's also connected to Trump.) ......
ArchaeoBob (21 comments)
Unions: A Labor Day Discussion
This is a revision of an article which I posted on my personal board and also on Dailykos. I had an interesting discussion on a discussion board concerning Unions. I tried to piece it......
Xulon (30 comments)
Extremely obnoxious protesters at WitchsFest NYC: connected to NAR?
In July of this year, some extremely loud, obnoxious Christian-identified protesters showed up at WitchsFest, an annual Pagan street fair here in NYC.  Here's an account of the protest by Pagan writer Heather Greene......
Diane Vera (14 comments)
Capitalism and the Attack on the Imago Dei
I joined this site today, having been linked here by Crooksandliars' Blog Roundup. I thought I'd put up something I put up previously on my Wordpress blog and also at the DailyKos. As will......
Xulon (16 comments)
History of attitudes towards poverty and the churches.
Jesus is said to have stated that "The Poor will always be with you" and some Christians have used that to refuse to try to help the poor, because "they will always be with......
ArchaeoBob (17 comments)
Alternate economy medical treatment
Dogemperor wrote several times about the alternate economy structure that dominionists have built.  Well, it's actually made the news.  Pretty good article, although it doesn't get into how bad people could be (have been)......
ArchaeoBob (16 comments)
Evidence violence is more common than believed
Think I've been making things up about experiencing Christian Terrorism or exaggerating, or that it was an isolated incident?  I suggest you read this article (linked below in body), which is about our great......
ArchaeoBob (17 comments)
Central Florida Sheriff Preached Sermon in Uniform
If anyone has been following the craziness in Polk County Florida, they know that some really strange and troubling things have happened here.  We've had multiple separation of church and state lawsuits going at......
ArchaeoBob (15 comments)
Demon Mammon?
An anthropologist from outer space might be forgiven for concluding that the god of this world is Mammon. (Or, rather, The Market, as depicted by John McMurtry in his book The Cancer Stage of......
daerie (15 comments)
Anti-Sharia Fever in Texas: This is How It Starts
The mayor of a mid-size Texan city has emerged in recent months as the newest face of Islamophobia. Aligning herself with extremists hostile to Islam, Mayor Beth Van Duyne of Irving, Texas has helped......
JSanford (17 comments)

More Diaries...




All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.