Peter Bart, the editorial director of Variety and a former film producer, fears Mark Burnett is hurting his brand with Son of God.
So he penned an “open letter” accusing Burnett of being a spiritual bully. Only he didn’t have the courage to say so directly.
Son of God earned $26.5 million on opening weekend without bankable stars, a traditional marketing push or original content. The film was edited from material previously shot for the TV miniseries The Bible. For all those reasons, the film is an unabashed success, the latest example of how faith-based audiences will support religious filmmaking.
Bart’s snippy letter sees it differently, accusing Burnett and his film of stirring up the culture wars with their art.
The problem, Mark, is that when you encourage pastors, among others, to buy out multiplexes for “Son of God” in their communities, some would accuse you of a form of spiritual bullying.
Some? Who? Bart doesn’t say. The tone of the open letter makes it clear who the “some” truly is.
Here are some big picture realities to ponder, Mark: Battles pitting faith-based voters against same sex marriage and the legalization of pot are heating up across Middle America. Many states are weighing legislation permitting businesses to refuse to serve presumably gay customers on “religious grounds.” So while you may take pride in “evangelizing” your film’s message, as you put it, you should also be aware that you are politicizing the Mark Burnett brand.
Did Bart pen a similar column about Barbra Streisand, Spike Lee, Scarlett Johansson, George Clooney or Kerry Washington “politicizing” their brand by aligning with President Barack Obama? Of course not. Hollywood is chockablock with talent flaunting their liberal beliefs, and that apparently is perfectly acceptable to Bart.
If a man of faith does the same through a movie embraced by the public, though, well he’s gone too far.
Bart is bullying Burnett, plain and simple. He’s also setting a marker down for future faith-based filmmakers. Dare to make a film about God and you’ll feel the wrath of one of Hollywood’s most established publications.