Even when families or individuals limit their exposure to such media, they will still "find (popular culture's) influence inescapable," radio personality and film critic Michael Medved said in a documentary on the topic of Hollywood and religion, of which Latimer showed clips. "You can avoid things, but they will still change your life through their influence on everyone else in society."
Yet despite an often frustrating past, movies have been getting a bit better since the mid-'90s, Latimer said.
He pointed to examples like "Sister Act" and "Rudy," which both had strong Catholic themes and enjoyed great success. "The Chronicles of Narnia," "Bruce Almighty," "Evan Almighty" and "Amazing Grace" were more recent movies with definite religious themes that were handled quite respectfully, albeit for some of them, comically.
And perhaps one of the most successful religious films in recent history was Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," which was pitched to and pre-screened by religious groups and church congregations — a group often ignored by Hollywood.
The movie sparked a great deal of controversy due in part to its graphic depictions, but such was to be expected, said James Dobson after the film's release. Dobson founded Focus on the Family, a Christian organization dedicated to "Helping Families Thrive," whose website includes a very thorough movie-review section.
"We should not be surprised," Dobson said, "when the true story of Christ — whether depicted on film or declared from the pulpit — creates controversy."
Following Gibson's success, independent movie producers sprang up to produce content that would appeal to underserved religious audiences rather than traditional Hollywood viewers — a phenomenon also seen in the LDS culture through films like "The Best Two Years" and "The Work and the Glory" series.
"The fact that Hollywood now tests any family-friendly movie on Christian focus groups (shows that) in the current climate, Hollywood needs Christian audiences," said the narrator on a History.com video Latimer showed. "It remains to be seen whether Christian audiences still need Hollywood."
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