Friday, August 13, 2004

Roaring lambs

Bob Briner’s Roaring Lambs is a passionate discourse about being salt and light. He’s concerned at the way the Church distances herself from the marketplace, particularly the media industry - music, TV, Hollywood, etc. There is an undeniable need out there for serious talents with a Christian worldview. It's the frontline of the 21st Century. The late Briner (d.1999) is not Philip Yancey or Ravi Zakarias but his heart is in the right place and he raises some very good points which deserves a hearing. But Briner was either not acquainted with the arguments or his sight was set elsewhere when he wrote the following:
“[The]… people who control television programming, those who decide what programs get on, almost always are as morally neutral as the technology of television itself.”
Hmm. I blinked in disbelief.

20 pages earlier, he writes about Sir David Puttnam’s (that’s right...he was knighted for his efforts!) fall from grace. Puttnam was producer of Best Picture Oscar award winner Chariots of Fire (which as everyone knows has a compelling depiction of missionary Eric Liddell), and briefly head of Columbia Pictures. His stint at Columbia was stormy and he was ridiculed out of office for his philosophy of and approach to movie making - which says alot about morality and neutrality in Hollywood and TVland.

Elsewhere in an interview with an Irish film quarterly, Puttnam comments on his 1997 book 'The Undeclared War.' Everything serves the insatiable machine:
"The creative side in American terms is that aspect of film-making that serves the machine. It doesn't have a separate life, whereas in Europe the creative side has a life all of its own."
To be fair, Undeclared War is not about the philosophical machinations of Hollywood, but the politics of power behind the ongoing U.S vs Europe film war for global domination (there is one, and Puttnam goes back 100 years to the Lumiere Brothers, Charles Pathe, etc, and the beginnings of the Hollywood Studio system to make his point). What he says about European creativity is moot, but that’s another story.

The point is, this machine is certainly not neutral, morally or otherwise. And if you should ask the late Neil Postman, neither is the medium. Postman is of course, something else, but he makes valid arguments against our surrender to technology and the way it dominates and defines morality to our loss.

A machine that churns out populist films in service of mammon can hardly be described as 'neutral' (Then again, few things in life are, anyway). Maybe they’re showing their true colours more unabashedly now, which is why one New York Times columnist declared that in the U.S, “there is a war against religious faith” (no reference to Bush or Iraq).

Bob Briner may not hit all the bases, but where he does, he hits with a lot of panache.

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