Hollywood gives authors a great hint

by Gina Burgess

Hollywood is ignoring the business side in the movie making businessKevin Sorbo

Great interview with Kevin Sorbo who is a Christian and has been for his whole life. How fabulous that a Christian actor has the strength of character to admit it publicly, and to live his convictions in his acting. He’s the star of God is not Dead that cost $2 million to make and has grossed more than $50 million (if I remember the figures correctly.) Sorbo said that Hollywood is ignoring the fact that family movies make more money.

But, hey! This is not new news. I said this same thing back in 2007, and again in 2009. It’s worth saying again today. Why does Hollywood insist on spending billions of dollars on trashy movies? It is because they live in a trashy kind of environment and they, the producers and directors, think it is real life. But it is not. Another problem is they think they know what America is hungry for when, in fact, they have their heads in the ground.

Here are some facts and figures from my column in 2007…

Not one R-rated movie has made a top ten gross since 1995.

According to Numbers.com, a movie statistics website, the movies taking top dollar gross from 1995 to 2007 are PG-13 movies with a whopping $48.55 billion (yes, that is with a B) made from 1,247 movies filmed since 1995. R-rated films come next with a cumalative $34.1 billion made on 2,321 movies (that’s an average of $14.7 million for each movie). Next in line are PG movies with 638 films grossing $19.9 billion and finally 207 G-rated films grossing $6.35 billion or average of $30.7 million each. G-rated films grossed more than twice per film what an R-rated film grossed. Does that make sense to you?

Doing a little math, the R-rated movies grossed 30% less than the others, yet more of them were filmed. Not one of them made it into the top ten grossing slots. From 1995 to 2007, eight PG-13 films, four PG films and one G (Finding Nemo) made the number 1 slot for gross dollars culled.

Family movie time…

Some would say, oh that’s because Mom and Dad take the kiddies to the movies and that’s why they make more money. Well… Duh! Some say that G-rated films only fill movie theaters with folks paying half-fare for matinees, which is why movie-makers focus on making the R-rated movies for full-fare payers. However, that is not how the dollars are stacking. You don’t have to be the sharpest pencil in the cup to do that math.

In the past 12 years, Americans have spent almost $101 billion on movie tickets. How does one put that in perspective? Crunchweb.net says $84 billion will bury a football field in 55 feet of money. There are 60 seconds in an hour, 24 hours in a day, 365 days in a year, and 1 billion seconds equals 32 years.

How do books stack up to the $$$ test?

Top grossing books in the UK according to The Guardian, stack up only a smidge differently. Top grossing books of all time found on Wikipedia is quite interesting as well. The most recently written top grossing book of all time involves Harry Potter. The most ancient is Don Quixote. The list includes classics such as A Tale of Two Cities, The Lord of the Rings, The Little Prince, The Hobbit, and Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.

Fifty Shades of Gray does not appear on the lists anywhere, but Purpose Driven Life does.

My point in all this stems from an interesting discussion in a Facebook group this week. Is there such a thing as artistic nudity? The Bible deals with nudity bluntly. You should not bare yourself to anyone other than your spouse. Period. However, call me naïve, but I didn’t think there could be such diverse opinions among Christians about viewing/writing sex scenes because the Bible does not explicitly say, “You shall not appear nude to friends, family, or in public. It is a private matter between spouses.”

John Piper makes the crucial point that media sexuality, by its very nature, is real in a way that media violence is not. Death and dismemberment in Hollywood are accomplished through prosthetics, makeup, rubber knives, and CGI-wizardry. By contrast, nude scenes really happen. Real actors and actresses remove real clothes from their real bodies.

While I admit there’s a case to be made against overusing or glorifying violence, the comparison with graphic nudity is apples-to-kumquats. Human nature is not programmed to react to violence in the way it is programmed—hardwired even—to react to explicit sexual imagery…

The power of the aforementioned argument — “But the images on the screen are REAL” — often assumes one of these three things, that because nudity is inherently sinful / shameful, sexual in its expression, and/or of the same gradation and not fake, therefore it is wrong to watch it onscreen. But do those assumptions hold water?

… First we should note that there is no explicit statement in any of these verses condemning nakedness or nudity in general. (By this I mean something along the lines of ‘Thou shalt not publicly disrobe,’ or something similar.) Yes, public nudity is often viewed as shameful and definitely not endorsed. And covering someone’s, or our own, nakedness, is seen as virtuous (Ezekiel 16:7-9). That seems pretty clear. But whereas the Bible explicitly condemns specific sexual acts (lust, adultery, incest, homosexuality,etc.) it does not explicitly condemn nakedness.

(Quoted from Mike Duran’s blog post, I Like Big ‘Buts’ — An Evangelical Counter-Argument to Sex & Nudity in Cinema (Pt. Three) on March 30, 2016

So what about it? Is there ever a time when it is okay (God-approved) to write graphically about nudity, sexual encounters, or similar types of this nature for the story’s sake?

9 thoughts on “Hollywood gives authors a great hint”

  1. God approved? since we are all sinners in the eyes of God (or fall short of the glory of God) prior to repentance to our Lord and Savior Christ, and since characters that DO ACCEPT CHRIST AS SAVIOR in their journey to redemption previously did sex scenes and licentious behavior and cussing and other sinful behaviors BEFORE accepting Christ, the point is that they sinned before accepting Christ regarding sex. Now, how graphic the sex is within the novel or book is another question. In the writing of my FREE PDF e-book The Prodigal Band (in the Prodigal Band Trilogy), I wrote of the entire journey, and I did feel I had to clean it up some regarding sex scenes (on and off stage…we’re talking rock and roll band here) so as the scenes weren’t particularly graphic (because someone under age 21 might download it though I issued a warning…some would say the book is rated “R” and some would say “PG.” My point is contrasting the characters before and after accepting Christ. The sex became with married partner only. But they did still cuss every now and then (just not when edifying if you know what I mean (Ephesians 4:29).

    1. I do see your point, Deborah. I was talking about how delicately authors write about those sins committed by their characters. In other words should authors who proclaim Christ as their Savior be really graphic in detail in order to depict reality, or should they not?

  2. My Life-Story book is currently in the screenplay process for a movie production and I do want my experience to be life lessons since it is focused on love, family and hope. So, if anyone else has a great story that is dream inspired, fantasy, comic or visionary-creative, I can connect you with my Hollywood insider. I am a new author, who, like most Authors, dream to see their book to a movie. We should provide these inspired real or fun stories to create positive influences.

  3. I write Christian fiction. In the first novel of my Dinkel Island Series, a young pastor encounters a very profane antagonist in his congregation. In my first draft I thought I had to use the profanity he would have used in order to convey his character. I learned, however, that it takes more skill to portray that character without explicit profanity than it does using that language. The same is true with writing explicit sexual interactions…you can suggest it better by not giving explicitly detailed descriptions. My books are about redemption and hope and that’s the primary driver for how I tell the stories. I was encouraged in my approach a couple of years ago through a discussion of writing Christian fiction in an issue of Writer’s Digest. I believe this is a matter of integrity. Profanity and sexual explicitness can derail the reader spiritually and therefore are counterproductive.

    1. Totally agree, Hugh. As an editor I often counsel authors to try writing a paragraph or two over without the profanity (I’m not talking about a few Hells or Damns). When they complain, I stand firm and what they finally come up with is far, far more amazing lending to the story so much more than the paragraph with the profanity.

      I’ve been a proponent of more creativity, working harder toward good character development than the lazy way of showing character. In my opinion, writing explicit sex is the easy way out, and too many authors these days think it translates to romance when the opposite is true.

  4. I write contemporary romance. My books contain some profanity and some sex, but all in the context of love and family values, and reverence for human life. Things that seem to be scoffed at today.

    Hollywood is in a world all its own.

    I rarely fine a movie worth going to. Most seem to be made for 14 yr old boys who like action, fantasy, violence and nonsense. I don’t go to those and I rarely go to movies that are G rated. I am concerned about the number of children I see in PG-13 movies who are clearly too young for the content.

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