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Ted Baehr, Tom Snyder, and Movieguide

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A couple of thoughts, re: Jeffrey's last post:

- I have to admit that when I recently watched TTT again, I wondered whether some of this film's popularity derived from its depiction of a war where the good guys are so clearly virtuous and the bad guys are indisputably evil, and that at this time in America's history, we needed some (largely unconscious) validation that our military actions are squarely on the side of virtue. Baehr's commentary would tend to validate my speculation, regarding some viewers anyway.

- Baehr's not a doc? IIRC, his website mentions that he has a PhD in literary studies or some such thing.

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Andrew, I'm sure you're right... the movie does strike a timely chord.

But I think of the war in LOTR as a metaphor of good versus evil. I would never reduce human beings to orcs... mutants who should be exterminated. And my heart aches when I hear a so-called Christian utter words about their eagerness to send ANYBODY to an early grave. Can you imagine Christ speaking in such a way? If the Lord of the Rings champions anything, it is the impulse of restraint, of mercy, of pity, and ultimately of the destruction of tools that would give US the power (rather than God or "the Secret Fire") to deal out vengeance. Remember Gandalf's words to Frodo on the subject.

And as for the "Dr." issue... if you find that information, please let me know. I've heard that the term relates to some sort of law degree, and that it is not the sort of "Dr." that you use in your general resume, but that it is only ethical to use it in certain situations. I'm forgetting the name of the title right now, but I'll find it. A colleague of mine once pressed Baehr on this point and couldn't get a straight answer.

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I agree completely with you, Jeffrey. I've probably watched FOTR eight or ten times by now, and Gandalf's words to Frodo still are powerfully moving to me. But, like scriptural interpretation, people will read into a film what they want or need to derive from it, sometimes with abhorrent results.

I'll see if I can relocate the info about Baehr's alleged degree tonight.

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Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:

And as if my Christmas list isn't long enough already..

There’s good news for MOVIEGUIDE

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Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:

: I would never reduce human beings to orcs . . .

Nor I, though some of Saruman's stooges in The Two Towers ARE clearly (if briefly, so briefly you might miss it if you blink) identified as humans who have potentially legitimate grievances against Gondor.

: . . . mutants who should be exterminated.

Not that mutants SHOULD be exterminated all the time, especially in this day and age of genetic engineering and whatnot. Have we forgotten the X-Men movies so soon?

: And my heart aches when I hear a so-called Christian utter words about

: their eagerness to send ANYBODY to an early grave.

Fervent agreement with you on THAT score.

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Ah, here we are...according to the 'About Ted Baehr' link at Movieguide.org (located above Mel's happy head on the home page), the esteemed Dr. Baehr 'graduated with a Juris Doctor from NYU School of Law, and finished his theological studies at the Institute of Theology.'

I'm not familiar with the different law degrees - perhaps Russell could help us there. I'm also not sure what relevance the law degree is to his ability to critique film. It kind of reminds me of how 'Dr. Laura' apparently believes her degree in physiology (not psychology) qualifies her to dispense snap judgments over the radio. But I digress... smile.gif

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BTW, Dr. Ted Baehr obviously isn't the only guy who thinks in such terms. Newsweek online quotes this prayer from a U.S. army chaplain in Iraq: "Lord, there are bad guys out there...Just help us kill 'em."

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Okay, I just heard from another writer who looked into this. He said:

The \"Dr.\" stands for Juris Doctor, meaning that Baehr has a law degree. I'm actually looking up legal opinions about it, and it's generally discouraged becuase it's misleading.

That's why all lawyers don't go around calling themselves \"Dr.\"

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(M)Leary wrote:

Wow. Great work SDG, a lot of detailed thought in that essay.

Thanks, (M). If nothing else, I'm grateful to Ms. Rowling for giving me the opportunity to reflect at such length on the way Christian authors like Tolkien and Lewis have dealt with the potential moral issues around imaginative use of magic as a safe and lawful pursuit in a fictional context. smile.gif

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Guest Russell Lucas

That's an abominable quote from Movieguide's reviewer. Embarrassing and shameful. Still-- in giving such sloppy thought exactly what it deserves (no more and no less)-- it is worth pointing out that the reviewer does not wonder whether we are doing enough to put all Muslims in an early grave (as your renamed thread title suggests, Jeffrey), but evil Muslim terrorists like Osama bin Laden, et al. A distinction without a difference to many of Baehr's readers, perhaps, but I think we need to be careful to avoid the sort of sweeping imprecise statements that characterize these hotheads. I disagree with the reviewer's statement both in the broad and narrow reading, but think it important not to attribute more sloppiness to them than they willingly admit.

Coincidentally, and this could go in another thread, Poland's column in today's The Hot Button discusses his viewing of the extended TTT DVD and extras, and he emphasizes how much is added to the emotional core of the film by the extra 43 minutes. He makes specific mention of the benefits gained by expanding the love triangle, and seemed to me to suggest that the film took on less of a "war movie and set piece" spectacle.

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Guest Russell Lucas

Okay, I just heard from another writer who looked into this. He said:

The \"Dr.\" stands for Juris Doctor, meaning that Baehr has a law degree. I'm actually looking up legal opinions about it, and it's generally discouraged becuase it's misleading.

That's why all lawyers don't go around calling themselves \"Dr.\"

I know a couple of hundred lawyers, and I don't know of a single one who refers to himself as "Dr." unless he or she also has a PhD.

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Sorry, Russell! :wink: Titled it, thought better of it, changed it, saw your post, laughed out loud.

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THIS NOTE WAS ADDED AFTER THE ORIGINAL POST:

Okay, I overreacted, and I apologize. This news story, on its own, is valid. However, I am still unsettled and discontent with the claim that audiences prefer "clean" movies with "biblical" content. Many films with harsh caustic content tell stories that are strongly moral and even "biblical."

- - - -

Sigh.

Once again, a "Christian film critic" trying to show us what is best by pointing to how much money it has made.

GOOD GUYS FINISH FIRST

Annual MOVIEGUIDE

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Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:

Once again, a "Christian film critic" trying to show us what is best by pointing to how much money it has made.

And now I will place my head on the chopping block by getting up to pinch-hit for the "Christian movie critic."

Is the above paraphrase quite fair? Is the writer really saying "These are best because they made a lot of money"?

Is he even saying that movies that fail to make a lot of money are obviously deficient -- in moral values, or in any other way?

Prescinding from the quality of the evidence and the standards used to identify movies as "Christian" or not in values, what's so wrong, in principle, about saying "People would rather watch wholesome movies than unwholesome ones, so it makes good sense for Hollywood to make wholesome movies?"

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The "Christian film critic" wrote:

Only four of the Top 10 Movies at the Domestic Box Office in 2001 and 2002, or 20 percent, had excessive or very graphic sex or violence in them, according to MOVIEGUIDE

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Prescinding from the quality of the evidence and the standards used to identify movies as "Christian" or not in values, what's so wrong, in principle, about saying "People would rather watch wholesome movies than unwholesome ones, so it makes good sense for Hollywood to make wholesome movies?"

Nothing... unless you are somehow claiming responsibility for these numbers, and he does, regularly, as justification for the continuation of his "ministry."

But what "people would rather" do is rarely a good argument for giving them more of what they want. Peoplwould "rather eat" big juicy hamburgers and fries than a complete nutritious meal too. This stuff makes me roll my eyes because I believe, as Christians, we should be leaning on more valuable information than dollars and popularity.

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I'll side with Steven here. I don't think Movieguide is suggesting $=quality. The arguement I see here is that if you want to make money, make "traditionally moral" fillms. Since those who make films are in it for the money, this is a goad to make what Movieguide considers traditionally moral films.

Questions I would have about the stats are whether it's talking about grosses or nets, and whether foreign and video revenues are included. I suspect that the stats are cooked in some way.

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...very strong Christian and/or redemptive content have outperformed movies with graphic violence, foul language, sex, and/or nudity 93 percent of the time [26 times out of a possible 28]. Meanwhile, movies with very strong moral and/or biblical content have outperformed such movies 89 percent of the time during that same period

I would also like to see evidence that the films with graphic violence, foul language, sex, and/or nudity DID NOT HAVE strong moral content or biblical content. A lot of films that take on very caustic subject matter have powerful moral lessons and whatever they're qualifying as "Biblical content."

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Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:

Nothing... unless you are somehow claiming responsibility for these numbers, and he does, regularly, as justification for the continuation of his "ministry."

And when and where he claims that, I'll be the first to jump on his head, but that doesn't seem to be the point of this piece, and I don't think it's fair to say "Here he goes again" when, in fact, he's isn't going there again in this particular piece.

But what "people would rather" do is rarely a good argument for giving them more of what they want. Peoplwould "rather eat" big juicy hamburgers and fries than a complete nutritious meal too. This stuff makes me roll my eyes because I believe, as Christians, we should be leaning on more valuable information than dollars and popularity.

But Baehr isn't addressing Christians, he's addressing Hollywood. His burden here is not "Christians, go see LOTR and not Gigli because look how much more money LOTR made!" but rather "Hollywood, make more movies like LOTR and not Gigli because look how much more money LOTR made!" When you are lobbying an industry and you believe the dollars are on your side, why would you not use that argument?

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AlanW wrote:

Actually, the math does work out: four out of
20
(10 x 2)
is
20%. And 11 out of 20 is 55%.

I could see that he was doing percentages of twenty not ten, but I couldn't see where he got the 20 from since he was citing the "top 10" films. I missed that the numbers were cumulative of two years. My bad.

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Darrel Manson wrote:

Questions I would have about the stats are whether it's talking about grosses or nets, and whether foreign and video revenues are included. I suspect that the stats are cooked in some way.

I suspect so too, but I think it's probably simpler: I think Baehr is more disposed to find strongly scriptural and biblical messages and themes in very popular and successful movies than in smaller movies. For example, his Christianized reading of Spider-Man was certainly overblown, and that of About Schmidt was at least debatable.

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Okay, I have gone back and posted an apology for my knee-jerk reaction on the original post.

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SDG wrote:

: And when and where he claims that, I'll be the first to jump on his head,

: but that doesn't seem to be the point of this piece, and I don't think it's

: fair to say "Here he goes again" when, in fact, he's isn't going there

: again in this particular piece.

I don't think we can divorce this article (which is just the latest in a long line of such articles) from its context like that, thoguh. I agree he is trying to impress Hollywood more than Christians with this piece, but he IS trying to impress both sides, and he is presenting himself as the person that both sides can turn to for ways to make even MORE money / moral movies.

: When you are lobbying an industry and you believe the dollars are on

: your side, why would you not use that argument?

Because perhaps you want to have a Christian witness that doesn't boil down to "Here is how we can help you to satisfy your greed."

: I think Baehr is more disposed to find strongly scriptural and biblical

: messages and themes in very popular and successful movies than in

: smaller movies. For example, his Christianized reading of Spider-Man was

: certainly overblown, and that of About Schmidt was at least debatable.

No kidding. The one that REALLY sticks in my memory is his preposterous assertion that The Grinch was a Christian film, despite its many un-Christian elements, simply because Ron Howard supposedly goes to church.

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