Evil Preachers Are Scary

“In the Hollywood representational rubric,” writes New Pantagruelist Patton Dodd(also, we’re proud to say, a Buddha Killer and a Revealer) “evangelical characters are often contextualized by aggression. They are, in fact, forces of violence: they inspire it, enact it, relish in it. Hollywood films turn on shorthand, and the dominant trope for evangelicals is hostility: dogmatic and opinionated in the Falwellian mode, yes, but also ready to wield an axe. Watch a Hollywood flick with a conservative evangelical character, and the screen will splatter with blood — or at least a close ideological approximation.”

Patton neglects to mention Highway to Heaven, or Touched by an Angel, or Seventh Heaven, or every Mel Gibson movie before The Passion, or every saccharine, otherworldly, redemption story pumped out by Hollywood — evidence that the vast, um, “non-Christian” Hollywood conspiracy long feared by evangelical culture watchers may actually cut in their favor. Even Robert Duvall’s The Apostle, cited by Patton as evidence of the homocidal caricature, is in fact a good Christian movie of justice, grace, and forgiveness.

But so what? None of that amounts to a hill of beans next to the ouevre of one great actor, Robert Mitchum, in Night of the Hunter and Cape Fear, two of The Revealer‘s favorite movies. Do they rate with us because we’re out to get evangelicals? Because we think evangelicals are violent? No. These movies could just as easily be made in Turkey, with Mitchum as a creepy, pious, murderous imam come to haunt the sophisticates of Istanbul. The story Patton detects in the many films featuring killer Christers is that of the tension between the appearence of good and the reality of evil. Evangelical preachers are, despite the best efforts Of Jimmy Swaggart, coded “good.” So when they kill, it’s extra-scary. Same principle as Chucky, or Children of the Corn, which are not actually part of Hollywood’s vast, anti-child conspiracy.

That, as Patton notes, is best represented by The Polar Express, a work of unmitigated evil and lame animation. Patton’s right about a lot of things, actually, so read“Hollywood’s Evangelicals Read Alan Wolfe, and lo! They Are Angry!”

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