There's been outcry aplenty from Christians—and some Christian critics—about the teen satire Saved! But I'm not in that camp.
My husband and I recently went to see Saved!, and his words echoed my first reaction to the film: "This is the movie we wanted to make when we were in college."
We both studied film at Christian universities (Biola and Wheaton), we went to the Coalition for Christian Colleges and Universities' Los Angeles Film Studies Center, and we went out into Hollywood to make our difference. We've since found other callings, and Brian Dannelly, the director of Saved!, has filled in for us what we wish we could have done.
I would have been proud to have made this movie. It absolutely reflects my experience in all accuracy. And its message is exactly what I wanted to say to my friends in the pews. Is it possible that Christians wouldn't deride it if someone like me, a confessing Christian with the right evangelical pedigree, would have made the film? Would it then have been a "searing look into the faults of the church with a message that could stand to be echoed in the pulpit"? I wonder.
I didn't find anything in the movie to be over the top. I don't know where people are getting that. It's absolutely the way evangelical schools are, it's the way evangelicals act, it's the way we are in our bubble.
Every character in Saved! has several real-life counterparts that I personally have met. Maybe we don't realize how weird we look, and thus the accusation of satire. But I look around the church and the movie is what I see.
I personally related most to Jena Malone's wonderful mantra when she was worried she might be pregnant: "Please let it be cancer, please let it be cancer!" I remember, as a Christian teen, thinking nothing could possibly be worse, even death, than getting pregnant. And after seeing how my friends who got pregnant (three in youth group in one year) were ostracized, I saw I was right.
The thing I think that most critics are not getting is that every character in the film, except the Jewish girl, is in fact a Christian—or at least a seeker. There's no Christian vs. Non-Christian thing going on. They are all representing different people within the body of Christ.
Therefore, there can be no complaint of the Christians being the villains, because the Christians are the heroes too! In fact, I thought the most admirable Christian in the entire movie was Patrick. And he came out looking the best and got the girl. It's just like when Jewish groups complained about The Passion, and we all said "Duh! They're all Jewish! Not just the villains!"
Speaking of taking our own medicine, I'm so disappointed that nobody learned anything from The Passion. Christians were all up in arms about Jewish groups condemning the film without seeing it. I had a glimmer of hope that we'd learned our lesson about this. But no, here we are back to the idea that we can condemn a piece of art without even bothering to experience it. That's just ignorant.
Anastasia McAteer is Associate Director of Development at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication.
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