Have We Lost Our Minds?
Editor's note: CT Movies has a clear mission statement, which includes "informing and equipping Christian moviegoers to make discerning choices about films through timely coverage, insightful reviews and interviews, educated opinion, and relevant news—all from a biblical worldview." Precisely how to accomplish that is something we're always discussing: What exactly does that mission "look like" in our coverage? A number of readers—including some media personalities—have raised some questions about our coverage, especially in the wake of our annual best-of-the-year lists, which often include some films that are not "family-friendly." Some have even questioned our Christian commitment. In the wake of these good questions, we need to stand ready with an answer.
One of our film critics, Jeffrey Overstreet, has written the following commentary, partly in response to some of these questions, and partly to explain his personal philosophy of reviewing movies. Even though Overstreet is speaking primarily for himself here, much of what he writes applies to all of us at CT Movies—and to what we're trying to accomplish. We think it's an excellent primer for anyone who wants to better understand how we think and operate.
Has Christianity Today Movies gone off the deep end when it includes R-rated—and decidedly non-family-friendly—films in its best-of-the-year lists? Are we missing something when we give good reviews to movies that depict sinful behavior—or when we give less-than-stellar reviews to "Christian" films?
Have we lost our minds?
And so go some of the questions we sometimes get from readers. They're good questions, and they deserve an answer.
I'll start by saying that all of us writing reviews for CT Movies are Christians, desiring to glorify Christ with our writing, and determined to write the best film reviews we can.
Other CT Movies critics can speak for themselves. But as for me, my review writing is:
- driven by a desire to celebrate excellence, because excellence reflects God's glory. (And that means I want to highlight it and celebrate it wherever I find it, even in the work of people who don't realize that their work reaffirms God's truth.)
- driven by a desire to expose mediocrity and encourage artists to higher standards, in order to better reflect God's glory and honor him.
- driven by a hunger for more storytelling and artmaking that is challenging, compelling, transcendent, even life-changing.
- driven by a dissatisfaction with, and weariness of, works that are simplistic, or sentimental, or manipulative, or preachy, or that misrepresent the world we live in.
- driven by a respect for "Sunday school lesson" storytelling, but also by a compelling desire to grow from "milk" to "meat." Sermons have their proper place and purpose, but art is something different. I want to encourage audiences to move beyond simplistic, formulaic gospel lessons into the magnificence of the gospel as it is revealed in the lives of our neighbors, in creation, in history, in aesthetics, in mystery, and in the darkest corners of human experience.
- driven by dissatisfaction with work that just "preaches to the choir" or that wraps up messages we already accept in packages that are cheap and derivative.
Applauding Evil on the Big Screen?
While I acknowledge that artists must often reflect back to us the world in all of its ugliness, portraying the vulgar behaviors of human beings like you and me and our neighbors, I do not praise portrayals that condone, glorify, or recommend vulgar behavior.