Monday, April 12, 2010

Stop cursing the darkness

I've always been, for good and ill, a big consumer of popular culture. I love movies. I watch a lot of TV. My musical tastes have been heavily influenced by the age in which I live. But when it comes to the Church I am inclined to be a traditionalist. An important part of the reason for that is that when Christians do modern we tend to be imitative, mediocre, and weird — while in the past Christianity actually had excellence in the arts, and that quality affected the broader culture.

Unless the faith influences the culture we are only talking to ourselves. Barbara Nicolosi-Harrington, a screenwriter:
I am a political animal in many ways. It's a big hobby for me. But I have, with the rest of my generation, almost completely lost confidence that real good in society can be achieved through politics. I don't think that's the pathway to lasting good. I think that politics can clear the field for good to be done, but I don't think it actually achieves anything. I think culture is what creates good in the world. That's the realm of the artist: the storyteller, the musician, the poet.
Andrew Klavan, another screenwriter and also a novelist:
... The idea, as far as I’m concerned, is not to reshape the pop culture landscape into one of sentimental patriotism and faith or limit artists to the creation of squeaky clean family entertainment. I merely want to see more art that represents the moral universe as it is ....

But we can’t win back the arts unless we love them. Too many conservatives boast of their philistinism. “I haven’t seen a movie in years,” they brag, as if that were some sort of achievement. Too many others seek to clip the wings of artistic imagination, demanding that artists turn away from anything disturbing or violent or sexual, which is to say from much of life itself.

Artists work for love—more than they do for money—and unless we learn to celebrate and nurture what’s good in our culture, it will not grow. .... [more]
Barbara Nicolosi-Harrington, again:
.... The Church, which had been the primary teaching voice in human history, has lost its voice of authority. It's just another competing voice out there now — and to tell you the truth, because the Church has shunned using the modern media, it's not even a very compelling voice.

So if you're not going into a Church, you're not hearing the Church's voice. But the Church used to be an authority that would stand up in the culture and say to you, "This is what virtue is. This is what meaning is. This is what the point of your life is. This is good and this is bad."

Where do people find those things now? They listen to television and the movies. ....

The saddest realities to look at are not Hustler magazine and Big Love. Much more tragic is what you find on EWTN and CBN, because these things are devoid of creativity and devoid of respect for the audience. They are banal. They may be produced with the best of intentions, but they have no sense of the appropriateness of the art form, of using the medium to its full potential. ....

The Church does not believe in talent anymore. We think the most important thing is that everyone feels welcome. So we sit at church and suffer through Doris and Stan, who can't sing, because we don't want to be mean. They would never get a job in Hollywood, because Hollywood has integrity about the beautiful. Or if it's not "the Beautiful" in the classical sense, at least, they value the non-lame.

So when you speak of a tension of values, well, there is the value of the Beautiful, which Hollywood understands and the Church does not, and then there are the values specifically of what is good for human beings. What is it that leads them to their fulfillment, their ultimate destiny, fulfilling their nature? Those things are missing, content-wise, in what you're seeing in a lot of the media. ....

If you're young enough, I would ask: "Why don't you throw your hat in the ring and get the best training you can get in the field you're interested in?" You need to discern if you have talent, and what level your talent puts you at. Maybe you're a talented singer, but you're only in the top 15%, so that means you should sing in Denver. If you're in the top 10%, you can sing in New York or Chicago. And then if you're in the top 5%, you can sing in Broadway. It's the same thing in the movie business. This is the major league out here, but there are many places to be an actor, and you want to become as good as you can. So find the top school you can get into, and get yourself in there.

I would also say to get your act together first, spiritually and morally. This is a very competitive, demanding field. Creative people can ask you to make choices that will define you, in a way that working for an insurance company may not. Where you have a lot of power, you're going to have requisite dangers and temptations. But this is no reason for us not to be in the middle of it. We need to get rid of the fear. Let's stop cursing the darkness and make something beautiful for the people of our time. That will go a long way. [more]
Barbara Nicolosi-Harrington, who has experience in Hollywood engaged in the industry, is affiliated with Act One, which describes itself as "a community of Christian professionals for the entertainment industry who are committed to excellence, artistry, and personal holiness...."

An interview with Barbara Nicolosi-Harrington, Celebrating What's Good in the Arts