On the new Destiny’s Child album Survivor, there is a gospel medley right before the record’s end. No biggie. Despite their sexy public image, the gals have been quite vocal about their Christianity, and founding members Beyonce Knowles and Kelly Rowland began their career singing in their Houston, Texas, church. In the single “Survivor,” they even declare to a would-be suitor, “I won’t compromise my Christianity.”
Remarkably, unlike most of the acts that actually work in the Christian music genre, Destiny’s Child manage to do this without being sanctimonious or making the listener uncomfortable. They just sound like some assertive young girls who know what they believe. But in the liner notes, their individual thank-yous sound less like stalwart faith and more like brainwashingat least they do to me and my godless, pinko friends. Even then, though, they can’t seem to help coming off as cute. Rowland’s “You are awesome! I love you” to God sounds like she’s high-fiving a sorority sister. And Michelle Williams’ “There is no one like you” makes one ponder just how many sentient beings she’s come in contact with to make the proper comparison.
But the thing that rubbed me the wrong way was Knowles’ gratitude to the Almighty for “writing my songs for me.” I’m certainly not the most religious sort and do not pretend to be an authority on the workings of God. That said, I’d lay bets he or she would not have any interest in taking credit for “Bootylicious.” What bothers me here is not Knowles’ spirituality, but her apparent understanding of God’s priorities. She’s not alone in this assumption either. In the last decade, more and more entertainers and athletes have publicly started thanking God and giving him credit for their success when they win an award or a big game.
I understand that they’re trying to thank God for providing them with the moral bedrock and spiritual guidance that brought them to that point. This is hardly ever articulated, though. As a result, there ends up being something rather shallow and petty about insinuating that God’s greatest concern for you is that you win awards and football games. Shouldn’t spirituality be a source of confidence and reassurance in the face of life’s difficulties? Do any of the messages or morals related in The Bible concern professional success? Or is the Good Book just a Tony Robbins-scripted key to boosting one’s career?
Karl Marx said that religion is the opiate of the people. I’d agree with him on that point. But I don’t know that this is necessarily a bad thing. Everybody has to figure out some way to deal with existence; religion might be a hoax, it might be the ultimate truth, and no one knows. It’s each person’s way of coping with the unknowable. It allows us to accept our place in the world. Still, I refuse to believe that anything is responsible for people’s success other than the talent that genetics and hard work have provided them. If you want to contend that having faith helped provide you with the discipline or the will, fine. But don’t saddle our deities with the ignominious credit of having had a hand in anything to do with stroking your ego. That’s your fans’ job.
Changing their story
If the screenwriter is Hollywood’s bitch, the novelist is its mark in an elaborate con game. When Hollywood runs out of ideaswhich it does oftenit turns to the book market to find something new. Some books are certainly ripe for film adaptation, and sometimes an unremarkable source novel turns into a great work of cinematic art. Most people have forgotten that The Godfather was about as respected as a John Grisham novel and was not considered to be a likely film milestone.
But the author of a popular book has good reason to be wary of signing off on a film adaptation. Several decades ago, Hollywood seemed to have respect for a writer’s text and how it could translate into the final product (e.g., The Graduate, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). But nowadays, Tinseltown only seems interested in a book’s name recognition and cares little how drastically altered its own version might be (e.g., Simon Birch).
Take the recently wrapped production of About Schmidt, based on the popular 1996 novel of the same name by Louis Begley. According to a recent report in The New Yorker, nearly every aspect of the book has been changed, from the story’s setting to the leading character’s occupation to his first name. On top of that, an extensive plotline involving anti-Semitismsomething the author considered important to the novel’s themes overallhas been completely eradicated from the film script. This must be especially uncomfortable for Begley, since much of his book is semi-autobiographical. Not only are director Alexander Payne and screenwriter Jim Taylor changing Begley’s story, they’re apparently adapting it to a screenplay they’d already written. Which makes you wonder why they needed to buy rights to About Schmidt in the first place. I guess they just really liked the title.
Another unpleasant scenario for an author is when Hollywood producers take his material and continue to exploit it without his participation. However, it’s hard to have sympathy for Bret Easton Ellis, who has expressed irritation with the sequel to the film adaptation of his novel American Psycho. It’s probably a just desert, given that his source novel was just a trashy slasher tale masquerading as literature. In the currently-in-production sequel, a young girl (That ’70s Show’s Mila Kunis) who survived a Patrick Bateman attack becomes a serial killer during her freshman year at college. To the producers’ credit, they’re labeling it a black comedy.
But the annoyance Ellis displayed in a PageSix.com piece about a month back was priceless. The author pointed out with indignation that nothing about the sequel was “plausible,” since the first movie implied that Bateman hadn’t actually committed any murders but merely fantasized about them in drawings. Ellis also discounted the fact that Kunis could credibly play a serial killer, since his research showed that serial killers are almost always American and male.
Perhaps all these wronged authors will have their revenge soon. Joe Eszterhas, the subtle wordsmith behind the modest films Basic Instinct and Showgirls, has reportedly moved back to his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, because he does not anticipate being able to work in Hollywood after he finishes his tell-all book about the town. Eszterhas has been denying this explanation, but anybody who read American Rhapsody, his surprisingly perceptive and scabrously hysterical dissection of the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal, prays that the Hollywood exposé will be a reality. I’d bet it would make a great movie.
“I used to live at home, now I stay in the house.”
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@Jim Collins: Nixon knew nothing about Watergate until after the fact. He lied under oath…
zumba is like a bad gonorreah contracted from gast, it keeps coming, and coming, and…
is anyone in here taking gast and bobs guns seriously?
We should invite Goad back to town and show him the real Nashville - have…