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The age of willful ignorance

While waiting to interview two of the top producers in Hollywood, Frank Marshall (“E.T.”) and Jerry Bruckheimer (“Pirates Of The Caribbean” and “Remember The Titans”) – and others – I had the opportunity to talk with some of the biggest critics in the press and TV world.

They were all chatting about the Critics Awards to be held two days later, so I asked them what movie received their vote. One after another, the reply came back, “Brokeback Mountain.”

Then, I asked them what their theory of criticism was. Well, they didn’t have a theory of criticism, or a theory of art, or a theory of acting. One after another said, “It’s just what I feel.” One clueless critic said “how can you compare one actor to another? They each play different roles in different movies.”

I responded that there are actually four major philosophies of art and several philosophies of acting. I added that, if you have standards, you can compare different acting techniques and you can evaluate how a person performs within a given type of acting style. Since most of these people held an Aristotelian theory of criticism (though they didn’t know it), I said at least that’s a valid view, but you should at least understand what the other theories are so you can write intelligently about the movies you’re seeing and picking.

However, none of these critics were moved to read Aristotle’s “Poetics,” Rene Wellek or Northrop Frye on genre. They are content to be willfully ignorant, to be blown around like dry leaves on the winds of the latest fashion.

And, the fashion of the moment is “Brokeback Mountain,” even though only 5 million tickets at the time of this writing, out of North America’s 330 million people, have been sold for the movie since it opened two months ago!

Regrettably, the church also is often willfully ignorant even though God calls us to seek wisdom, knowledge and understanding. They get caught up in political winds and cultural-myth conceptions.

So, here’s an insight: To really understand film criticism or cultural criticism or political criticism, you first have to understand the different points of view, the principles of those different points of view, and how those principles compare. Once that is done, you can start applying them to the cultural scene or the political scene to understand whether what’s happening in those scenes actually coheres with your chosen perspective or not. To be willfully ignorant of wisdom, knowledge and understanding not only refutes God’s Word, but also reduces you to irrelevance.

By the time you read this article, the critics and other awards voters will have voted for “Brokeback Mountain,” but millions of Americans and Canadians who have more common sense will exercise the wisdom not to support this predatory sexual propaganda at the box office.