There’s a new comedy opening this month, one that’s received a lot of praise at film festivals.

And I’m very concerned about what is going to happen when it opens.

Since I don’t want to distract people who will see the movie and mess up their experience of it, let’s just call it “J” for now.

J‘s storyline involved a controversial ethical decision, just as Million Dollar Baby‘s story involved a different controversial decision.

Already, conservative and Christian media personalities and film critics are celebrating J because of a particular twist in the story. The buzz has begun, the rejoicing that the film may prove very “useful” in advancing a particular “cause.”

And thus, it’s almost certain that there will be backlash against J in the mainstream press. The questions are only these:

How much, how vicious, and what effect will that have on the film’s box office?

But more than that, I’m already concerned about what effect the film’s enthusiasts… and detractors… will have on the audience’s ability to see J… AS A MOVIE.

The rising enthusiasm about the movie’s ethical “stand” will undoubtedly send people of the opposite perspective into the movie with their pens in hand, ready to find and exploit the film’s weakness in hope of weakening the film’s impact and limiting its popularity. Or, they will take the opportunity to lament the lack of films that make a convincing, eloquent case for their side of the cause.

And believe me, if the movie had taken the opposite turn, many Christians and conservatives respond with exactly the same tactics. It happens every time.

This almost-inevitable spectacle has the potential to really blunt the effect that J has on audiences, even spoil it entirely, before anybody has a chance to buy a ticket.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be enthusiastic about J. (Heck, I haven’t seen it yet, so I have no idea whether I’ll care much about it at all.) But I do hope that Christians who examine movies will talk about all aspects of it as a work of art. I hope they’ll consider the whole story, the filmmakers’ artistry, and what the story has to offer, rather than reducing it to be just an “Issue Movie”. If it’s a good work of art, it will convey much that is meaningful and give us a lot to consider and discuss.

I’m still frustrated by how impossible it was for me to watch Vera Drake without fighting off all of the slander I’d read in the Christian press about the film. Turned out that Vera Drake was not anything like what they’d made it out to be. So I’m trying to avoid reading any more reviews of J, or articles about it, before I see it, because I want to SEE THE MOVIE, not consider it through a particular lens, inclined to pay close attention only to how it represents and explores particular questions of ethics.

(I already went into Bella trying to suppress the noise in my head about one particular Issue at the center of it, and I was so pleasantly surprised to find out that Bella was about all kinds of things. Early Christian press about it had inclined me to expect a pleasant piece of propaganda, and it most certainly isn’t that.)

The more we exploit J for whether or not it helps, or hurts, a particular “cause,” the more we weaken its ability to make its way into people’s hearts… which is the only place where it has an opportunity to make any real difference.

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