Sex and the CT

Here’s an update on the Sex and the City and Christianity Today movie review ordeal…

Sex and the City was an HBO television series (1998-2004) that won 7 Emmy Awards.

The SATC movie (rated R) was released on May 30 with more of the same, what the Chicago Tribune labels “outré fashion, casual sex and dubious cocktails” and “plenty of eye candy for the ladies (think naked men and haute couture).” Not your typical Christian movie.

However, Christianity Today’s Camerin Courtney wrote a fairly explicit and positive review, giving SATC 3 stars (CT gave Prince Caspian 2.5 stars).

People criticized CT for positively reviewing a “pornographic movie.”

Carolyn McCulley (a CT contributor herself) writes an exceptional response to the CT review: “the pot with the proverbial frog has boiled over. The changes that have come about with the introduction of ‘sex positive’ or ‘porn positive’ third-wave feminism, beginning in the early 1990s, have now so thoroughly permeated our culture that even evangelicals fail to see the trend or the danger.”

CT responded to the swarm of criticism by defending the original review.

Then yesterday Ted Slater of Boundless called CT to *repent* over the review (and the defense of the review) in an article simply titled “Christianity Today Relishes Sexual Perversion.”

Then this, a letter from a friend to CT yesterday. This letter models important discernment, but is also helpful in showing that non-Christian reviewers have no problem letting moral flaws in a film sink the film. Posted by permission.

Sent: Tuesday, June 10, 2008 3:06 PM
Subject: SATC Review

My greatest hesitancy in writing this e-mail is that it will prove irrelevant, both in CT’s disregard for it, and in it being simply a drop in the bucket of critique that you will no doubt receive.

I’m not sure exactly what your policy is in assigning movie reviews, but it seems your qualifications include neither doctrinal discernment nor artistic objectivity. Where to begin? I’ll make this brief, given my misgivings about the time investment in this e-mail. Most simply, the review sounds like little more than the giddy babblings of a TV fan whose favorite show finally made it to the silver screen. When there is an attempt to be “Christian,” all we hear are criticisms of superficial, intelligence-insulting “Christian circles.” Hooray for the balm of SATC, which ministers to my deepest needs by speaking to “the complexities of relationships in a postmodern age”! Boy, do I feel better.

The spiritual immaturity revealed by this review is stunning. Even as Ms. Courtney excoriates benighted (presumably evangelical) Christians, she reveals her own superficiality, bringing not a whiff of discernment to her entire review beyond her warning of sex and nudity (thanks for that, Camerin!). Fine—“the movie wrestles with complex realities of life.” Can you, trusted reviewer, evaluate just how it so wrestles? What answers it provides? How Scripture might evaluate these questions (and the movie’s handling of them)? It appears that Ms. Courtney’s evaluative bar is no higher than having “a single woman’s sexuality acknowledged.” I have no real hope of finding in a CT movie review a sense of sorrow, indignation—even a blush or two?—over the depiction and glorification of things that Scripture calls “sin.” I would have at least hoped for a biblical worldview to have somehow colored the perspective given in the review. Instead, I read praise for SATC’s “smart dialogue … heart … Not to mention eye-candy galore in the leading men and odd-yet-fabulous fashions.” Astonishing (c’mon, Camerin, really—“eye candy”?).

One could find more intelligence and discernment in the secular press than in the pages of CT. In fact, I did. Quoting from a review in the Washington Post, the movie version of SATC “succeeds just as well” as the TV show in “its unapologetic materialism, raunchiness and heroines who managed to be sympathetic even in the midst of almost pathological self-absorption …” What Ms. Courtney labels “well-developed characters,” the Post’s review calls “appallingly shallow and narcissistic; their friendship often seems based on the fact that they’re simply each other’s best mirrors.”

Hmmm … I wonder which review I’d rather young Christian women read?


PS- So what connection does this blog post have to the cross?

Philippians 3:18-19 “For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.”

It’s helpful to discern the centrality of the cross in all things. But we must simultaneously discern the worldliness that stands in direct contradistinction to the cross.

15 thoughts on “Sex and the CT

  1. Great review of this uncomfortable situation. Great title, too — wish I had thought of it. :-)

    Your friend wields words like a skilled swordsman. Sometimes I wield them like a guy throwing bricks. I still have a lot to learn about effective and gracious communication….

  2. Thanks Ted! I’ve passed these words on to my friend. I’ve been encouraging him to take up blogging on the side (and your kind comment has given me another excuse to nudge him in that direction).

    And thanks for serving the Lord so faithfully at Boundless. You are an encouragement!


  3. Excellent review of the situation. On the one hand, I can understand where CT is coming from in reviewing the film. But to promote it and rave about how good it is?

    Your friend nails the issue well. Even the lost world knows this is a “bad movie”. It’s all about self and gratification of unlawful lusts.

  4. @fundyreformed: But does it matter that it’s a “bad movie”? I mean, I see lots of bad movies, and then have important discussions about how bad they are. SATC is indeed about “self” and “gratification,” but is that all? Do we arrive at no truth by studying caricatures of our greed and selfishness–who despite being dressed up as beautiful and ideal still come off as such?

    But your friend’s point is point is well taken about the quality of the analysis, which the CT review more or less lacks.

  5. Another title for this post could have been “Christianity Today Continues Its Drift to the Left.” It certainly isn’t the magazine that Carl F. H. Henry (1913-2003; founding editor, 1956-1968 ) originally envisioned. Great job!

  6. I have often been surprised at some of the movie reviews in CT. They rarely factor in whether a Christian should consider giving the movie their time based on what the Bible says about the contents of the movie. While sites like Focus on the Family can drive me crazy with their reviews (they can go a little overboard for my tastes sometimes), I know that I will get a Christian review. Is this movie going to have content that will make me stumble? Is it going to have content that might numb me to the gospel and what God’s Word says about those things? And even if it has “positive elements”, are they drowned out by immorality and a humanistic/atheistic worldview?

    I often find CT’s reviews encouraging (sometimes tempting) me to see a movie becuase it’s “action packed and visually stunning” while giving a brief mention that, “the sexually charged female lead may cause some men to stumble”, but all the while giving it a glowing review of how “awesome” the movie is. Because of that lack of discernment, I never look to CT’s movie reviews to make my decision on what to watch.

  7. Thank you for this. Let us pray for the recapturing of the sense of “sinners in the hands of an angry God” and stop our flirtation with the world’s ways in the name of relevance.

    Love your blog.

  8. Sadly, the magazine really does capture “Christianity Today”. If you go to one of CT’s sister sites, they try to sell you “Bible Studies” based on pop culture movies and TV. I’m glad I let my subscription run out years ago. Why is a Christian magazine even watching movies like Sex and the City?

  9. Thanks for the kind words, David!

    Indeed, a long time ago Satan shielded himself as an angel of light to dupe the church. It appears today a large segment of the evangelical church world will pretty much get duped by Satan disguised as a movie director.

    Blessings and thanks for reading.


  10. Okay guys — but what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. How about women agree to stop watching the mainstream entertainment we enjoy, and you all agree to stop watching the mainstream entertainment you enjoy. Let’s start with professional football on TV, since the camera often cuts to cleavage and hotpants (cheerleaders) and is punctuated by the most objectional (soft-core porn) advertisements of any ad-market out there. While we’re at it, better avoid such flicks as Braveheart (there is that sex scene), A Few Good Men (such language!), and Saving Private Ryan (blood on the camera lens? isn’t that just gratuitous?). (I hope you can hear the mock-shock in my typing.) Not that SATC is on par with these films. But it is certainly worth reviewing, if only to let readers know what all the fuss is about.

    The fact that most of you can’t imagine what its appeal could be perhaps demonstrates that you 1) are men, and 2) probably haven’t seen the film, partly because of reason #1. I know I’m overgeneralizing about gender preferences here, but the vast majority of censurious comments I’ve read about this CT review have been by men, and I’m wondering if a non-scathing (I can’t call it glowing) review of a film marketed toward men and laced with gratuitous violence would have sparked such fury.

    Sex and the City is indeed about “self-gratification and unlawful lusts.” It’s also (sometimes) about the tragic fallout that results from the same. And it’s about the complexity of friendship, forgiveness, and (most) women’s desire for committed relationship and children. I do cringe when they mar the whole with some truly gratuitous scenes and some flat characters. I hope you cringe when your shows/films do the same. To me, there’s enough interesting content and clever writing in it to make sitting through the objectionable parts worth it. But that’s a matter of opinion, which is what I had always understood a movie review to be.

    What we have here is a mainstream, marginally artistic chick-flick that a CT reviewer enjoyed for its story, though not without numerous reservations, which I feel like she communicated pretty well. I just read the review again and I can’t imagine why critic-critics are saying that she/CT “raved” about this movie! Yes, this little slice of “the world’s ways” (words of post #7) is polluted with some very unfortunate (and for the most part very quick) objectionable and gratuitous scenes, just like most movies of PG-13 and R ratings. If we are going to avoid all objectionable content, we will have to skip almost all of them. Some of us may choose to do that; others will choose to engage, carefully.

    In Christ’s day, trips to community wells often meant encountering one of “those” women. And in Paul’s day, a trip down the streets of Rome was probably more shocking than SATC. Like it or not, moves are part of the modern forum, and they’re a great way to start a conversation. It would be nice if that conversation could be a bit more civil.

  11. A good friend of mine said it well: “You don’t have to step in dog poo to know it stinks.”

    I am particularly vulnerable to worldliness. I love politics, art, cinema, music etc. as much or more than most people I know. And I have often used the excuse (with others or with myself) that what I’m doing is really helping me engage with my own culture, or with unbelievers better.

    The older I get, the more I think this line has become a bloated umbrella to cover far far too many decisions we make. We need to preserve the one commodity we have that we can offer the world, that the world doesn’t have — our relationship with Jesus Christ. If we take on too many of the world’s ways, we lose that, and then we have nothing substantial to offer.

  12. We’re supposed to be, as Christians, a light on a lampstand, salt in our world, to stand as a contrast, not to blend in with the culture to the point of absorption. Maybe that is the point of Christianity Today, they are a reflection of the Christian majority in our time – totally blended into the culture of this world. Thank you for speaking out.

  13. […] Living antithetically. Reformed Christians used to talk a lot about what they called “the antithesis.” I can remember an essay on that topic read by an older young person in my Bible Study group when I was16 years old. What happens when believers lose that concept? Check out the discussion about a recently-released movie over here. […]

  14. Here is a great example of our lack of discernment, our deception, and our root desires. The idea of watching movies (that are obviously inappropriate for a Christian) for the purpose of better reaching our culture is deceptive at best.

    In order for us to reach our culture and understand our culture it would be best to get out into our culture like Jesus did and eat and hang with sinners. Instead we hang in our cribs and movie theaters with the false guise of “seeking to understand where people are at.”

    This results in victory for Satan b/c Christians are right where he wants them, ineffective and influenced. Ineffective b/c they are “in here” not “out there” and influenced b/c they are watching garbage.

    In the end, people never change, we love sin and are totally depraved and we don’t have to watch Sex in the City to figure that out. Only the gospel through the work of the Spirit of God and his people can that change occur.

    So lets get out there and make much of Christ by being salt an light! In word and deed!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s