January 30, 2011

CAN IT REALLY STILL BE SURPRISING IF IT'S A GENRE?::

The right-wing agenda of the exorcism movie: "The Rite" is the latest film in a genre with a surprisingly conservative message about power and faith (Alex Mar, 1/28/11, Salon)

The exorcism movie is the most all-American of "spiritual" films, reducing complex religious beliefs to something more palatable: a take-charge action adventure with clear, targeted results. Much like the Roman Catholic Church, this brand of Hollywood horror frames evil as a diagnosable disease to be cured through extreme treatment, and its spiritual discussion rarely goes beyond the black-and-white "Is there a devil, or isn't there?" It's a clear, explicit test of faith in which there's finally no room for doubt -- unlike in everyday experience of spirituality. The genre has a familiar cast of characters, conflicts and a specific message about the nature of evil. Is also a genre with a remarkably conservative slant -- a tradition that dates back across the last 70 years. [...]

But Lucas argues: "Choosing not to believe in the devil won't protect you from him.

The inverse is true in the exorcism film: Perversely enough, to believe in the devil is the key to salvation. When the senior priest himself becomes possessed (the only interesting move in "The Rite"), Michael calls out to him, "I believe in the devil, and so I believe in God!" This recalls the words of Marcus, and of Emily Rose as well, who writes in a letter to her priest shortly before her death, "People say that God is dead. But how can they think that if I show them the devil?" Hollywood is best equipped to deal with spirituality through its darker side -- that's the marketable stuff of horror. It's also the stuff of conservative America: All we need is for the hero to embrace his faith, and we have won. Although evil cannot ever be eradicated from the world, without it, Good cannot exist. And neither can the church.


As the stuff of liberal America is the belief that evil does not exist.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 30, 2011 6:29 AM
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