Monday, April 11, 2005

Things in the mail

Once while getting a haircut, I overheard a couple of people talking about a then-new Lindsay Wagner miniseries where she played a woman who had a near-death experience and then was chased by creatures from the afterlife trying to drag her back to death. Or something like that. It wasn't a very good movie, and I have tried to erase it from memory. But the conversation has stuck with me because one of the people involved said she thought the movie was "based on a true story."
Nothing in what I had seen would lead me to think that, but this viewer did. And, when I ponder whether a fact-based movie is taking too many liberties with the facts, I remember that woman who believed there was something factual in fancy zombies chasing Lindsay Wagner.
I bring that up because of "Revelations," an NBC miniseries premiering Wednesday, which gets its thrills from setting up the ultimate confrontation between good and evil. The first hour has plenty of religious overtones, but those are window dressing in what's basically a big, fast horror movie.("Pretty standard popcorn fare,'' said the Associated Press's Frazier Moore. You can find my equally unenthusastic review in Sunday's Beacon Journal; it apparently hasn't been posted online yet.)
But when you start throwing around religious iconography, even in escapist fiction, you run the risk of hitting beliefs that some folks take seriously. And my e-mail basket included a couple of items more or less encouraging me to take a more serious look at "Revelations."
One came from a publicist for Lee Strobel, whose official biography calls him "a sought-after commentator on spiritual issues." (He's also the host of Pax's "Faith Under Fire.") The publicist said Strobel "is available for interviews to support any upcoming pieces on the increase of religious themes in TV shows; particularly with NBC's upcoming 'Revelations.' "
Another e-mail came from a representative of Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye, the authors of the "Left Behind" books which, as the note said, are "based on the prophecies in the Book of Revelation." They're also big bestsellers.
In the e-mail, Jenkins calls the ideas in "Revelations" "a mishmash of myth, silliness, and misrepresentations of Scripture. Acknowledging that not every one agrees with my particular take on End Time prophecies, at least they are based on some commonly accepted study. 'Revelations' seems to draw from everywhere and nowhere."
Adds LaHaye: "This story (in "Revelations") is based on some writer's imagination about the Book of Revelation. However, the writer clearly has not studied the book or maybe even read it."
I am tempted at this point to suggest to Jenkins and LaHaye that they are giving too much attention to "pretty standard popcorn fare." By taking the show even a little seriously, they (and Strobel, for that matter) are adding to publicity for NBC and perhaps encouraging viewers to look at the movie who might not have done so otherwise.
But then I remember that woman and the Lindsay Wagner movie. And I wonder if LaHaye and Jenkins have a legitimate reason for concern -- that some viewers will take "Revelations" as seriously as others take "Left Behind."

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