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Two Steps Back: Christian Criticism and Ted Baehr

Remember last year around this time, when Alan Noble at “Christ and Pop Culture” confronted Ted Baehr’s Movieguide about their deplorable approach to faith-based (and politically-motivated) film criticism? Well, it’s time once again for their propagandistic annual “Report to the Industry,” which proves through a magical application of statistics that Americans like the same movies that Ted Baehr likes (and for the same reasons!). This year, the report was actually granted a platform by The Wall Street Journal. Happily, CTMovies was there to pick up the gauntlet.

I was first alerted to the discussion by Jeffrey Overstreet’s post on the subject, and I’ve been following it with great interest (and more than a little quiet fuming) for several days now, but decided to refrain from commenting until after the Oscar hubbub had died down. While I was waiting, things got a bit more interesting with the requisite snotty and high-handed appearance by Tom Snyder, the editor of Movieguide (who later appends “Dr.” to the front of his name, presumably thinking that the title will lend additional gravitas to his argument, or perhaps will cow those of us who are less learned into awed submission). “Dr.” Snyder, who was also quick to arrive at the scene of Noble’s thoughtful comments last year, apparently has nothing better to do than trawl the internet for dissenting opinions that he can mock.

I particularly recommend scanning the comments under the CTMovies piece for Peter Chattaway’s awesome rebuttals to Snyder’s incursions of inanity. For further insightful responses, be sure to check out these posts from Brett McCracken at The Search and Sean Gaffney at Gaffney Journal. They say a lot of what I’m thinking, and probably express better than I could just why Baehr’s approach to this subject is both harmful and offensive. Still, I too have to ask, along with the others who have commented, why we as Christians would want to make a film’s box-office haul the gold standard (so to speak) of its excellence and praise-worthiness? Are there not enough forces already openly and abrasively proclaiming and promoting the values of materialism and naked greed in our culture?

I try to refrain from ranting and name-calling, and I’ve obviously indulged myself a bit here. I don’t feel quite so bad, though, as Snyder himself is rarely respectful of dissent. That’s not really an excuse, but the Movieguide approach (and response to those who disagree) makes me see red (Communism!) precisely because it lowers the entire discourse of Christian film criticism. I happen to believe that Christian critics, like the group associated with CTMovies, are among the best and most thoughtful in the world in their careful, respectful, literate, and redemptive approach to movie criticism. The crude fumblings of Baehr and company are nothing but a shallow mockery of the existing level of excellence, and yet they are obviously seen by many (both Christians and non-Christians) as representative of the state of Christian criticism. This is a terrible, terrible tragedy.

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~ by Jared on February 26, 2009.

One Response to “Two Steps Back: Christian Criticism and Ted Baehr”

  1. […] new here, you may want to subscribe to our RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!The Baehr is Back, Baby! The Moviegoings blog points out that Movieguide’s “Report to the Industry” (addressed extensively by Alan last […]

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