Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sex and the CT

Christianity Today has just waded into some very hot water after giving a favorable review to the new movie, Sex and the City:The Movie. For the uninitiated (which includes me), Sex and the City was an HBO television series (1998-2004) that won 7 Emmy Awards. The movie based on the television show (rated R) was released on May 30 with what the Chicago Tribune labels “outrĂ© fashion, casual sex and dubious cocktails” and “plenty of eye candy for the ladies (think naked men and haute couture).” Not your typical Christian movie.

Yet, Christianity Today’s Camerin Courtney wrote a fairly explicit and positive review, giving the movie 3 stars. Near the end of the review, we read that

All of this said, there is a lot of sex and nudity in the movie. Be warned: There's a threesome, a naked man in a shower, some steamy makeup sex. The sex scenes between married folk are somewhat less offensive, but there were too many times when it seemed that the producers were simply trying to shock.

At the very bottom of the page, CT manages to put forth this disclaimer in its Family Corner:
Sex and the City is rated R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity, and language. Take the rating very seriously. There are several scenes with nudity, including a brief glimpse at frontal male nudity, a brief guy-to-guy kiss, and several graphic sex scenes, including a threesome. The language is colorful at times, but not as problematic as the sex and nudity. This isn't a movie for children or teens, and due to the content, not even for some adults.
A sometimes contributor to CT responded incredulously here. A response by Focus on the Family is here.

Amazingly, CT responded to the criticism by standing resolutely behind the review (and the movie). The editors instead criticized the critics and essentially poo-poo'd the criticism by claiming that they were merely reviewing the movie. The editors responded by writing:

We totally understand why many people would have no desire to see Sex and the City, choosing to avoid it because of its portrayals of pre- and extra-marital sex and rampant materialism. I myself have no desire to see it, mostly for those reasons.

But to slam us for reviewing the film makes no sense. Our mission statement is to help readers make discerning choices about movies—not to make the choices for people. Our review clearly warned readers of the sinful behavior in the movie, while also noting some of its redeeming factors—like the universal longing for love and companionship, what it means to be a true friend, and more. . . .

It's good to sometimes enter into the minds and worldviews of others, even of those we completely disagree with. It's good to see what the world looks like through the eyes of even the depraved (all emphases in the original).

Then, in a very condescending way, they close by writing:
That, (emphasis in original) dear readers, is why we review "objectionable" movies. Because our eyes "are not enough for me." We will "see through the eyes of others" and yet "remain" ourselves. It is our own "experiment in criticism." If that kind of thinking is good enough for C. S. Lewis, it's certainly good enough for us.
No one disagrees with "that." However, "merely reviewing" the film is not a problem with anyone. People I know would appreciate a warning every now and then about the way culture is heading. However, the editors completely misread the criticism: the problem the editors do not seem to realize is that they did not merely review the film, they reviewed the movie positively (or, at least not negatively enough) and even seem to be promoting it! Did Carl F.H. Henry and Billy Graham (see below) ever envision the day when their magazine would promote a "randy" show filled with "soft-porn" (both CT's words). At least blush!

After all, the magazine gave the movie THREE STARS! Ironically, in channeling the words of C.S. Lewis, the same magazine gave Prince Caspian only two and a half stars. Perhaps a little more skin and extra-martial sex between Susan and Caspian could have saved Lewis' work in the eyes of Christianity Today!

It is not enough to merely point out the bad scenes and say "Cover your eyes at the 45:16 mark- it gets kinda steamy then." Denounce sin when you see it. Don't merely point sin out - encourage and exhort the reader to avoid it. Instead, the reviewer closes by saying, "In the end, I didn't quite heart SATC—but I certainly enjoyed this meaningful reunion with its beloved characters and their winning friendships."

HT: Shepherd's Scrapbook

NOTE: Christianity Today was founded in 1956 to be a journal of “international, interdenominational scholarship” with “the largest circulation in the world to the Protestant ministry and lay leadership" (Carl F.H. Henry, “The Mission of a Magazine,” Christianity Today, 12 October 1959, page 20).

1 comment:

Jim Pemberton said...

CT's discernment has been slowly eroding for the past several years. I've stopped reading it. They've taken to over-reporting some news items and can cause readers to normalize denominational issues rather than view them as anomalous.