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Being a Christian Actor and Profanity


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So I know there was already a post about this in theater, but I was wondering how to deal with being a film actor and being asked to swear or do/talk about immoral things. Is it ok to do those things if it’s not real or you’re just portraying a character? I mean I’ve had to swear on stage, but it feels like it would be worse when it’s documented forever. Also I wonder if you could get very far in the industry if you refused to do stuff like take the lords name in vain or go nude. Anyone’s opinion in this?

sorry if this is already a discussion I couldn’t find it.

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Hi Harriet,

Welcome to the Arts & Faith forums. I am talking the liberty of replying here even though I'm not a Filmmaker since the various subforums get more or less traffic. As a bit of context, there is some general discussion on these topics at:

Creative Profanity

Christians and Swearing on Stage

A lof my thoughts on the subject in general aren't much different from discussions about being an audience member, which I talked about in this interview: 

Talking about...or reenacting/representing "immoral things" is a broad category, so I don't think there is a one-size-fits-all answer. There are things I wouldn't say or do, even in a dramatic context, but I suspect that line is different for different Christians. Similarly, "go far" might mean different things to different people. I' ve interviewed people in Christian productions, and I think it is possible to have a career while having some restrictions on what you will or will not do. By the same token, the glut of people who want to be in movies and the serendipity around getting parts would suggest a Catch-22 to me: it's hardest to make restrictions when you are breaking into any profession because that is when you have the least power and most competition. 

My opinion, since you asked, is that I think a film is good overall based on its merits and not exclusively on its content-rating, and I don't have a problem with Christian actors who depict behavior that they might not do in real life (drinking, smoking, swearing, promiscuity), particularly if the overall context is one that depicts these behaviors and their consequences in truth. But I also think, like Paul's admonition of meat offered to idols, that if someone truly things something is wrong, no amount of license from another will make it okay. Even if the underlying thing itself is not prohibited (eating meat to idols) going against one's conscience can be dangerous, since we always want to be in the practice of listening to our inner voice. That doesn't mean you can't get input from others. Advice, wisdom, or just hearing other's is never wrong. But one can talk oneself into doing things one is conflicted about by getting input from others, or, for that matter, talk oneself out of things one thinks are acceptable. 

Finally, remember that acting, like many professions, is public. So no matter what you decide, there will be people who disagree and who are happy to let you know it or make an example out of you. That kinda sucks, but ultimately you are answerable to yourself and a higher authority and not to just anyone and everyone who feels led to criticize you.

Good luck on your professional journey. 

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For some reason I am now reminded of that time a few years ago when I watched all the body-switching movies that I missed in the late 1980s (18 AgainVice VersaLike Father Like Son) and was treated to the sight of Kirk Cameron using four-letter words. (And his best friend in that film, Like Father Like Son, was played by Sean Astin, who has since starred in a few "faith-based" films of his own.)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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