Douglas Beaumont in his book 'The Message Behind the Movie', argues for Christians fed up with Hollywood to dig deeper to find value at the heart of the movie world. Photo from Wikipedia

Author seeks a deeper look at Hollywood

By 
  • June 1, 2022

Back in 2009 Douglas Beaumont issued a challenge to Christian moviegoers.

The U.S. academic wrote The Message Behind the Movie: How to Engage with a Film Without Disengaging Your Faith. It implored Christians who are hardcore resisters of Hollywood, and the ones who consume all things Tinseltown without discernment, to dig deeper.

With a masters in apologetics from Southern Evangelical Seminary, Beaumont advocated there are benefits and values in learning how to be an informed film viewer.

His passion for this topic remained undimmed in the years that followed. Accordingly, he enthusiastically accepted Ignatius Press’ offer in 2020 to rework his book for a Catholic audience. The rebooted version of The Message Behind the Movie was released in April.

Multiple transformative events occurred in Beaumont’s life since the debut version was published. These experiences inspired him to adopt new perspectives and insights.

“Since I wrote the first book, I got a PhD in theology,” said Beaumont. “I was evangelical when I wrote the first book, but I joined the Catholic faith, which led to me gaining new ideas and appreciation for the historic Church, which is embedded throughout the book. Also, there were some material that I would have liked to have seen in the original, but it got edited out.”

A few of these ideas Beaumont alludes to includes a couple more considerations to support the existence of God, and he delves into the topic of evil, a topic he didn’t address it in the original edition.

The Message Behind the Movie: How to Engage with a Film Without Disengaging Your Faith is divided into three acts.

Act one is entitled Watching and Understanding. The chapters in this section navigated how a story is told versus what a story tells, characters and confrontations, sights and sounds, worlds and worldviews, and meaning and messages. It also inquires if any good products can come out of Hollywood.

Evaluating and Discussing, act two, is the theological section of the publication. He provides insights on how film consumers can discern how faith, reality, deity and Christianity are manifested on their viewing screen.

Applauding or Avoiding is the title of the final act. Here Beaumont answers the question on when we should watch and when we should skip.

Beaumont closes his book by marshaling all the concepts and tools communicated throughout the manuscript into an analysis of the 1998 Jim Carrey comedy-drama The Truman Show.

Beaumont said he is grounded in a view of art that “really focuses on its catharsis and means of communication, and not so caught up in the style elements that I thought most evangelicals were looking at when they were reviewing films.”

“You look at these reviews and they are often written for parents to help them determine if their child can watch. There is a real tight focus on how many cuss words, and how many exact times you will see this or hear that. That information is very valuable for a number of reasons, but unfortunately that seems to be where most stop,” he said.

“They don’t give much consideration to the artistic view of the point of some of these elements. I just felt like having a more fully informed view of not being offended if I saw or heard something problematic. Let’s see how it plays into the message of the movie. And if the message is a good one, a powerful one, maybe those elements should be there.”

For example, it might assault the senses to hear a deluge of incendiary profanities come of the mouth of a character, but are there cases where this language can help enlighten your understanding the environment that protagonist inhabits. Maybe that person needs to adopt an abrasive personality mask to survive in a tough world?.

Beaumont agrees with the quote from the late critic Roger Ebert that films can be “a machine that generates empathy.” He hopes that The Message Behind the Movie: How to Engage with a Film Without Disengaging Your Faith can help Catholic Christians learn how take the strides to fully step outside his or herself to see the world through the eyes of someone else for two hours.

Learn more about the book and Beaumont’s other contributions to Catholic writing at douglasbeaumont.com.

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