Doesn’t Calculate

Having seen Secretariat, I really don’t get where the alleged faith-based Christian marketing angle fits in. The film is aimed at family audiences– it has a square and conservative vibe — and director Randall Wallace is something of a rightie, I’m told, but there’s nothing in the story/screenplay that proclaims Christian or conservative values per se. I saw that vein in The Blind Side but it’s simply not in Secretariat.

Thematically it’s a quasi-feminist thing, being about Diane Lane‘s Penny Chenery defying her husband (who wants her to stay at home and raise the kids and cook) and brother (who wants her to sell the horse farm) in order to nurture and bring along her horse, Secretariat, to a Triple Crown victory. The tone is little like The Adventures of Spin and Marty — nice and tidy and middle-class, but in no way a religious-type deal except for the strange playing of the spiritual tune “O Happy Day” twice on the soundtrack.

43 thoughts on “Doesn’t Calculate

  1. George Prager on said:

    It’s wholesome and inspirational. No Dax Shephard tattoos. No conversations where one character is sitting on the toilet. No lesbian scenes. No running with chicken after giving your mom head. It’s like a James Garner movie circa 1984.

  2. The Christian marketing is a bit cynical and tone-deaf, esp. the way the movie opens and closes with readings from the book of Job just because it mentions horses, even though the overall message of Job is the EXACT OPPOSITE of a a story about the most successful racehorse ever.

  3. as a theologian who attend the seminary, wallace likes to say that his dogma influenced the film…. his defense of ‘o happy day’ is that it was a popular song on the radio at the time and certainly one that eddie sweat would naturally be listening to while grooming the horse (as well as being another way to introduce a gospel influence)….

    also, disney has a special publicist whose sole (soul?) job is to court the faith-based press and this gives him something to do…..

  4. Speaking of religion, how come when that black preacher in GA or wherever said he was innocent, the whole place LIT UP AND CHEERED HIM ON IN SUPPORT?

    What the fuck is THAT about? When they used to make me go to church as a kid, it was THE MOST BORING SHIT EVER, the priests freaked me out, and I would’ve fucking prayed for the dude to get caught up in a scandal just so I WOULDN’T HAVE TO GO ANYMORE. How can a whole congregation just ASSUME the guy is innocent? Isn’t pretty much everyone EVER guilty of what they’re accused of?

    Innocent til proven… is a nice theory, but come ON. Everyone is guilty, ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS. Yet that whole flock all SUPPORTING THE DUDE. I’d just be grateful for the possibility I wouldn’t have to go to some boring service again.

  5. The calculus is easily understood in the context of that recent research study, the one that found that Atheists and Jews knew more about Christianity and other world religions than Christians etc. did.

    American “Christian Conservative” culture is NOT about theology or even Biblical literacy; its about idealizing a mythic image of white, rural, postwar family-centric Americana and attaching vauge religious and political concepts re: “traditional values” to their nostalgia for a world that never really existed. In that regard, “Secretariat” is a perfect fit – just like the vile “Blind Side” was.

    These aren’t people who study the Good Book for life directions, they’re people who follow what the local MegaChurch leader says, buy and consume what Brent Bozell and TBN “okay” because its part of a bubble-culture they feel secure in – its not about Christ rising or even Easter Mass, its about the big family “get together” AFTER the mass where everyone gathers and backslaps about how important it is to stay within “family” and “community” rather than exploring your options, going somewhere to do something that matters or even – GASP! – going off to school and becoming one of those awful “Liberal Elitists!!!” (Read: smart people.)

  6. The movie probably will do pretty well with family audiences, it being the only family film in sight, and older moviegoers who don’t have anything else to see. Younger viewers will probably stay away though, both due to the Hallmark feel, and the fact that it’s a period picture. But the only threat to its audience with the two other groups is Life As We Know It.

  7. MovieBob: Absolutely, 100% correct. Respect to you. Speaking as somone more closely related to these “folks” than I would like to be, I’d also add that their calculation of what makes for a “good” movie is almost entirely based upon what ISN’T in it. i.e., boobs, swear words.

  8. Disney has a large “Faith and Family” marketing apparatus in place (since before their Narnia days), so it makes sense that they would go after that audience, even if the film isn’t explicitly religious in theme.

  9. Further respects to MovieBob. The MegaChurch ‘movement’ is quite large and growing rapidly as a broad-based demographic in the US…because it’s pulling money in faster than any other similarly sized religious organization and success breeds imitation. The leaders are charismatic and the upper echelons smart enough to know the power they have. And their power CAN make a movie that fits their agenda profitable and more. Just ask Sandra Bullock.

  10. Only going by the trailer…. but…. Seems the calculus is loosely something like this–>

    Owner’s American-spirit doggedness = anti-welfare/socialism tea partyism

    Miraculous birth scene = metaphor the ‘moviegoing gorillas’ would read into it; unintentional or not, it’s likely to be read as a Christ-birth moment…. (when, in actuality, the scene in the trailer is much more akin to the Buddha miraculous birth scene of that mythology, but I digress)…

    Continued faith in the triple-crown-winner despite naysayers/setbacks = continued faith in religion despite overwhelming scientific evidence refuting literalist interpretations

    Owner saying “It’s like every multimillion dollar gamble we housewives make every day” = Palinesque brand of feminism

    I’m not saying any of this is intended by the filmmakers; I’m just saying, it looks easily exploitable for the marketers.

  11. lmao.

    In the movie the girl walks around in the snow so her feet get all messed up and gross. So yeah that’s that.

    I saw Jeff at the screening tonight.

  12. Yeah, MovieBob…. you got it ALL figured out. Wow.

    One of my favorite things on HE, (as well as the letters section of other sites), is hearing people like you give these state school Sociology major, National Geographic-like lectures regarding a strange yet fascinating subset of our society. Keep up the good work.

    “You see, these ‘Religious Conservatives’, while often seemingly friendly on the outside, can be deadly when startled. When approaching them, be confident, but also be aware that they are quick to anger, and can strike at any moment. They don’t reason like you and I, so try not to make them feel uncomfortable with logic. And always make note of their green, scaled underbellies which turn red or purple when angered.”

  13. (having said that)

    the tag line should be-

    “‘Secretariat’ …. because ‘Seabisquit’ was just too dark and edgy.”

  14. Travis,

    Yeah… I respect you, buddy, but on this particular point you can, well… cram it. With respect ;)

    I spent 12 years of my life marinating in religiousity courtesy the Catholic school system, served as an “altar boy” (nothing happened) and for a time even considered the priesthood. During and especially after that period up until now I’ve spent almost as much time studying and interacting-with the particular world and worldview in question here.

    So I’ll thank you not to regard me like merely some smug little shit from UC Berkley who just read his first Richard Dawkins book just because in this one particular case smug little shits from UC Berkley just happen to be right about something ;)

  15. Speaking of religion, how come when that black preacher in GA or wherever said he was innocent, the whole place LIT UP AND CHEERED HIM ON IN SUPPORT?

    you saw this stuff with the ’80s televangelist scandals too, even after they were thoroughly past the point of deniability. On the Hour pretty much nailed it:

    “…hysterical courtroom scenes as disgraced televangelist Jim Tubbard was sentenced to a total of 120 years’ imprisonment and seven hours’ community service, to run concurrently. Tubbard pleaded guilty to three counts of heinous embezzlement and five of agitated drug trafficking, but still maintained he was innocent because he had ‘forgiven himself’. Later, looking gray and ashen-faced, he emerged from the courtroom to greet his followers with a confession to further charges of bad parking and mass terrorism. Thousands of Tubbard supporters responded with cries of, ‘Never mind, Jim, have some more of our money’.”

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