Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Ah, the power of publisher promoting! And that is what has caused all this religious fervour and brow-beating. When you think back to Jesus Christ Superstar (I thought it was a great movie when I was in my teens, and played the soundtrack over and over - shows you how old I am!), and The Passion of The Christ, which both had tremendous amounts of controversy surrounding them as well in the media, this combination of Christian antagonism vs. the media is nothing new.

Out of the three movies, The Passion of The Christ, by Mel Gibson, can actually be said to be a work of art, a labour of love that a man actually spent years of his life making; authenticating every last detail, right down to it's original language. Jesus Christ Superstar was a rock opera that made oodles of money on stage and through it's soundtrack, both in North America and Europe, but nothing like what the Da Vinci Code will make. It was made to be light-hearted and entertaining.

The Da Vinci Code has never claimed, from what I have read, to be anything but a work of fiction. What most Christians seem to be worked up about are: a) that the movie's producers won't put a disclaimer at the beginning of the movie saying that it's a work of fiction, b) that the book is trying to posit a conspiracy theory to the Church, and c) that it's publisher and the movie maker/director (Ron Howard) are using this as it's marketing approach to pull in the big crowds.

The Christian groups protesting the movie believe that non-Christians who don't know anything about Christianity will believe this conspiracy swill. First of all, is it possible in North America to find anyone who hasn't been touched in their lives by some form of Christianity? Possibly immigrants from African or Caribbean countries, but even there, they may have had contact with missionary groups doing local hospital/church related works. Muslim immigrants, revere Jesus has a holy prophet, so even they have had contact with some form of Christianity. Thus, this argument falls short of the mark.

Playing Devil's Advocate on the other hand, when those cartoons of Mohammed were leaked in Denmark by one of their own clerics, the Muslim world went mad over the abomination of pictures defaming their prophet. So, it is reasonable that Christians should be outraged at the blasphemy of the idea that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, bore a son, etc.., even though that idea of Him being married to Mary Magdalene was being bandied about by agnostics and various early branches of the Church when St. Ignatius was alive 300 years later.

Getting away from the religious ideas for a moment, what does this mean to us as writers? It means that you can come up with a controversial/political/religious idea, find yourself an agent and editor to buy into it and the rest is a million dollar bank account. It means that the general public love to bring down their religious institutions and that nothing is held sacred anymore, so it's a great subject to tap into. It could even be said that the Indiana Jones movies were to teenagers what the Da Vinci Code is to adults.

The amount of money - millions - spent on promoting both this book and movie - $240 million just to break even on this past weekend, is unbelievable even for a Ron Howard movie. They planned to open it simultaneously in 150 theatres around the world. It brought in something like $74 million, I believe, from the newscast I saw. Troubling times for Ron, Tom, and Dan.

Perhaps the book didn't translate well into the movie. Critics said it was slow in places, pedantic, not suspenseful enough. Tom Hanks didn't fit the main character as well as he could have - this from one critic, but I haven't seen the movie yet, so I don't know.

It proves that "high concept" ideas are still what publishers are looking for - the more controversial, unusual, and outrageous the better. And as one minister put it in my small town, "a cracking good read."

Which brings us full circle back to writing - "a cracking good read" is what we all want to produce - and if it's controversial, "high concept", and something our publisher can really sink their hard-won publicity dollars behind, so much the better. Myself, I'll consider myself successful when a few critics give me reviews that say I've produced a suspsense/mystery/thriller that's a "cracking good read", whether or not I've ended up with the million dollar bank account. Simply because I don't believe that I'll have to compromise my own personal values to get where I want to go, but then, I'm not Dan Brown and I don't think he had to compromise anything, do you?

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