The Hollywood Reporter

Yo, MSM: Anyone planning to stalk Jesusland religion ghosts lurking in 'The Hunt' movie?

Yo, MSM: Anyone planning to stalk Jesusland religion ghosts lurking in 'The Hunt' movie?

What a country we live in, these days. If you have been following the controversy surrounding the now-delayed movie “The Hunt,” you know that this is — according to mainstream media reports — yet another controversy about politics, anger, guns, violence and America’s Tweeter In Chief.

Oh, and there is no way to avoid the dangerous word “elites” when talking about this Hollywood vs. flyover country saga. However, if you probe this media storm you will find hints that religion ghosts are hiding in the fine print — due to the movie’s alleged references to “deplorables” and “anti-choice” Americans.

But let’s start with a minimalist report at The Washington Post that ran with this headline: “Universal cancels satirical thriller about ‘elites’ hunting ‘deplorables’ in wake of shootings.” Here’s the overture:

Universal Pictures has canceled its plan to release “The Hunt,” a satirical thriller about “elites” hunting self-described “normal people,” amid a series of mass shootings and criticism that the film could increase tensions.

“We stand by our filmmakers and will continue to distribute films in partnership with bold and visionary creators, like those associated with this satirical social thriller, but we understand that now is not the right time to release this film,” Universal said in a statement.

The studio already had paused its marketing campaign for the R-rated movie, which was slated for release on Sept. 27. … “The Hunt,” directed by Craig Zobel (“Z for Zachariah”) and produced by Blumhouse Productions, follows 12 strangers who are brought to a remote house to be killed for sport. 

Everything in this media-drama hinges on how this movie is alleged to have described the beliefs and behaviors of these “normal” Americans — who are stalked by rich, progressive folks defined by high-class culture and political anger issues. The elites are led by a character played by Oscar-winner Hilary Swank.

If you are looking for facts in this oh so Donald Trump-era mess, journalists at The Hollywood Reporter claim to have details deeper than the innuendoes glimpsed in the hyper-violent trailers for the movie (trailers that appear to be vanishing online). Here is a chunk of that story, which is referenced — aggregation style — in “news” reports all over the place.

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Bondage, death, sex and Hollywood spirituality: Why avoid religion hook in life of Master Skip?

Bondage, death, sex and Hollywood spirituality: Why avoid religion hook in life of Master Skip?

Before I get into this strange and troubling post, let me stress what this post is NOT about.

Back in the 1980s, when I worked the Denver religion beat, I did several stories that involved a local congregation in the Metropolitan Community Church. The MCC is a denomination that is best known as a home for LGBTQ Christians and their families.

What I learned was that -- at that stage of its development -- the MCC was a complex institution, in terms of the theological orientations of its members. Yes, there were some New Age-style people, but there were way more clergy and members whose background was in liberal Protestantism (think United Methodists or old-line Presbyterians). And there were evangelicals and charismatics who remained evangelicals and charismatics, other than their views on sex.

So this post is not about a news report slamming the MCC. It is also not a post claiming that it is normal, somehow, for a MCC member/leader to have a secret life involving dangerous sex. Alas, anyone who follows the news knows that "double life" sin can be found, every now and then, in lots of conservative flocks (think Catholics, Orthodox Jews, Baptists).

Now, to the story itself, with kinky details left out. For The Hollywood Reporter, this story is a window into the life of a major "player" in the movie industry, a senior vice president at William Morris Endeavor Entertainment.

The religion angle isn't important. My question: Could journalists do justice to the religion angle, without smearing this man's church? Here's the dramatic double-decker headline. Note the word "ritual."

Death in a Hollywood Sex Dungeon:

How a Top Agency Executive's "Mummification" Ritual Ended in Tragedy

Here is the story's overture, with no religion angle in sight:

For nearly three decades, Skip Chasey, one of Hollywood's top dealmakers, led a delicate balancing act of an existence. One Sunday last November, it all came tumbling down around him.

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What media coverage tells us about the (lack of) faith of 'Story of God' host Morgan Freeman

What media coverage tells us about the (lack of) faith of 'Story of God' host Morgan Freeman

A decade ago, in reporting on the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I met a couple who survived the storm by escaping to their church's balcony.

This was the lede on the in-depth narrative feature I wrote on Charles and Angela Marsalis:

NEW ORLEANS — "Girl, you better get out of town!” 
Angela Marsalis’ mother made it clear what she thought her daughter should do that weekend as Hurricane Katrina — a Category 5 storm packing 160 mile-per-hour winds — threatened a direct hit on New Orleans. 
In a perfect world, Angela — a substitute teacher who helped each day with an after-school program at church — would have done exactly as her mother urged. She, her husband, Charles, and their boys would have joined the clogged procession of vehicles fleeing the tempest predicted to make landfall Monday morning.
But Charles — who worked 12-hour days on a tugboat yet still volunteered most mornings at a Christian outreach center — had just spent $2,000 to fix the family’s blue 2000 Dodge Caravan, wiping out their bank account.
Jittery over the calamity that could befall the bowl-shaped metropolitan area, Angela begged her husband: “Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go!” 
But her practical side knew they lacked the cash to keep their gas tank full. They simply could not afford to heed the mayor’s mandatory evacuation order. 

Over the last 10 years, I've made repeated trips to New Orleans to update the Marsalises' journey (here, here and here, for example).

Now, the Marsalises are about to be featured on actor Morgan Freeman's "The Story of God," a six-episode series that premiered Sunday night on the National Geographic Channel. 

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