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Photo taken at the 41st Emmy Awards 9/17/89
Photo taken at the 41st Emmy Awards 9/17/89 (Photo credit: Wikipedia). God’s very favorite used-car salesperson.

Sometimes it feels like it’s just too easy to run a blog that pokes fun at religion, but here we are. Kirk Cameron recently released a terrible, awful movie called Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas, and no, I have no idea if the apostrophe is meant to be a possessive or a contraction or what (though I’ll note that either interpretation makes the movie’s title even more terrible in a slightly different way). The movie centers around how Christians can totally reconcile greed, consumerism, gluttony, and showy displays of wealth with the true meaning of Christmas, something we’ll talk about soon enough. Needless to say, this pile of horseshit is doing poorly in reviews–over on Rotten Tomatoes it’s running 8% critic approval and 44% audience approval, which is just shocking; if you don’t know why it is such a surprising number, then hop in the car with me because we’ll be driving past that point. As with other shitty Christian movies, a number of the reviews of it I’ve read have been written by actual Christians who still bristled at how objectively inept the movie is in every single respect.

(If you’re wondering, Metacritic reviews aren’t considerably more favorable, and users there have given it a 0/10 rating. But it might take right-wing Christians a bit more time to figure out that Metacritic exists. This realization will probably come along about two weeks before the site closes for good.)

Apparently Kirk Cameron has decided to take the negative reception his movie’s gotten as a sign that he is being persecuted. Of course. What else could he do? And his response is to try to game the entire movie-review system. Yes, he’s asking his fans–all three of them–to go to RT to upvote his movie to give it a better score.

Interestingly, Kirk Cameron didn’t actually want to make a better movie. There’s a very good reason why these movies are such juvenile and stultifying affairs; not only can their creators not get anybody decent signed up to work on them, but there’s just not a lot of risk-taking or artistry in Christian media anyway. These movies are pretty much of a muchness and making them runs along predictable lines. Here’s how you make a Christian movie nowadays:

1. Assume the audience watches a boatload of Fox News and shares all of those right-wing talking-points.

2. Sell an overly self-serving, ego-gratifying, or fearmongering message that will resonate with first-world Christians who all secretly think they are a totally persecuted minority but who also feel completely entitled to run the whole country and every American’s private life. The story need not be realistic; the target audience doesn’t want realism anyway.

3. Make a totally awful movie that is objectively and in every single identifiable way a third-rate product. There are books and educational materials out there that tell people how to make a halfway competent movie; read these, then ignore everything they have to say.

4. Complain bitterly when reviews are really negative and blame the liberal Hollywood establishment for just being all biased and hate-filled toward anything that’s good and morally pure. They’re just jealous, and possibly demon-possessed to boot.

5. Watch as your movie’s fans Zerg-rush the comments of all negative reviews to accuse their writers of being atheists who are angry at “God.” (PS: Enter the term “Zerg rush” into Google for a fun Easter egg! I found it totally by accident just now.)

6. PROFIT. And you probably will profit as long as the movie’s title is out-there Christian enough (which will get Christians’ attention and make their Facebook walls look pretty) and it’s a pandering-enough message. These movies are pretty cheap to make but the ones that fit that bill tend to make back many times their cost.

A "four pool" zergling rush against ...
A “four pool” zergling rush against a zerg AI opponent in StarCraft, who has not yet built a Spawning Pool. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Yeah, about like this.

The thing is, normally you don’t have movie-makers instructing their fans to go Zerg-rush negative reviews. Christians are usually totally happy to go do that one themselves. Kirk Cameron has definitely crossed a Rubicon here by making that move.

The problem is, the results really are predictable. Right-wing Christians, like other deluded sorts of folks, don’t function well in environments where they don’t get to control all the variables. Remember “I am a Republican”? How about when professional snake-oil peddler Dr. Oz had his similarly backfiring social-media experiment? Or the recent one with Bill Cosby or the older but equally hilarious failed thing Robin Thicke tried to do? Or the really disgusting awful bigoted thing the Duggars did recently where they invited people to share their wedding kisses–but deleted the photos shared by couples they didn’t like, like same-sex couples?

It’s like they say this stuff and don’t even think that maybe, just maybe people will be listening who don’t agree with them, and then act shocked that those people don’t feel compelled to dance the exact same way these Christians want to dance. What we need here is a new meme about Christians not being someone’s personal army. But I don’t know if it’d do any good because the Christians who are doing this stuff aren’t exactly well-known for listening to anybody but themselves.

But there’s a bright side to this story–well, besides the simple and timeless message of “bullies and liars get what’s coming to them sometimes.” Would you like to know what one of the most certain signs there could possibly be of Christianity’s fading dominance?

It’d be this story about Kirk Cameron’s failed attempt to game Rotten Tomatoes’ review system. It’d be what happened when these sheeps’ fleecer told them to go make RT accounts to inflate his movie’s score so people would be fooled into seeing it (just like Jesus would have done, I’m sure).

Here’s the viewer ratings done as a result of his heartfelt goofy, hurr-durr-durr Jesus-smile-festooned plea. You’ll notice that almost all of them are negative. But look at the dates. Kirk Cameron made his plea on November 21. Now go look at how many RT member reviews were done before that: just one that I could find. Now look at how many got done after the 21st. Go ahead. It’s awesome. Here’s a screencap of just the bottom of the first page.


And it just gets better from there. As of this writing, if you look at the user-made reviews of this movie, what you will see are 116 pages of almost entirely negative member reviews. Now, some–maybe even a lot–of these are clearly done by people who didn’t see the movie, which I think applies to both the glowing and the condemning reviews. There probably haven’t been that many people who’ve seen this movie. By contrast, if you check out the similar user-reviews of the similarly awful Ouija, which came out a solid three weeks before Mr. Cameron’s bag of flaming dog doo, you’ll notice right away that the reviews are not only a lot more nuanced (with many reviews falling into two or three stars rather than the completely polarized 1-5 split that Saving Christmas got), but a lot more sparse; it’s only got 28 pages versus the other movie’s 116 pages and a 30% overall user rating. And almost all of them look like they were written by people who like the horror genre and more importantly who sound like they actually saw the movie.

If we keep ourselves to Christian dreck, though, we see that God’s Not Dead, that Kevin Sorbo howler about Creationism and philosophy, has been out since March and has garnered 132 pages of user reviews in its 8 months of animated-corpse existence and an 81% positive user rating as well as way more considered and lengthy comments than Mr. Cameron’s movie, I notice, probably because their authors weren’t told by a washed-up ex-teen-idol to go write shill reviews. The disgraced Dinesh D’Souza’s movie America: Imagine The World Without Her came out in mid-October and has 75 pages of comments and reviews and an 87% user rating, and also much lengthier comments.

When I look at these facts, I come away thinking a few things: first, that Kirk Cameron has a lot more fans than I imagined he has, but not as many as he imagines he has. I don’t know who in the world still thinks he’s a reputable source for scientific knowledge or spiritual insights, but if we charted them on a Venn diagram the circles for them and Fox News viewers would probably be damned near juxtaposed. Second, his fans do exactly what they are told to do. (Don’t you suddenly wonder how many of these exact same people were the fleeced-sheep who dutifully did the texting thing at the end of God’s Not Dead?) The problem–for him, at least–is that however many his fans are, his anti-fans (is there a word for that?) way outnumber them.

I’m not sure Kirk Cameron actually even realized that non-fans would see his plea and feel moved to go say something about the movie. It’s a little weird he didn’t think of that. It’s not like heathens and skeptics don’t show up regularly to his websites to engage him–oh, never mind, he apparently blocks and bans people who openly question him too much on his own social media pages. (I wish I could say that’s surprising.) So maybe he really didn’t realize that he’s not quite as popular as he imagines he is or that his movie isn’t quite as good as he thinks it is.

I know we’re supposed to talk about Thanksgiving and thankfulness and whatnot next, but I’d really like to talk more about that thing we touched on earlier here about how this movie seems like its entire goal is to give toxic Christians an excuse to be greedy, opportunistic, ostentatious shitbags around the holidays. I’ve noticed that these sorts of Christians especially have devised all sorts of ways to get around the explicit commandments that Jesus is supposed to have handed them, and we’ll be covering a few of ’em. Please do join me next time.

PS: You folks are the best, hands down. I can’t tell you how much I love that y’all get me and my cussing and loopy 80s references and consta-stream of 25-cent words. And you let me talk as long as I need to talk about stuff. You really are what make me come to my keyboard every other day and do what I do. And I’m thankful that we’ve found each other.


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ROLL TO DISBELIEVE "Captain Cassidy" is Cassidy McGillicuddy, a Gen Xer and ex-Pentecostal. (The title is metaphorical.) She writes about the intersection of psychology, belief, popular culture, science,...