Lies, Damn Lies, and the Religious Right's Statistics
by Dan Savage
on Tue, Feb 17, 2009 at 7:04 AM
We really need to start a false witness project, a website that documents and debunks the lies peddled by the religious right. For people who want to see the Ten Commandments in public buildings—with its commandment against bearing false witness—conservative Christians bear false witness constantly. They lie about homos, of course, and documenting those lies alone would consume huge swaths of the Interwebs. But they lie about other stuff too, little stuff, out of sheer force of habit.
For instance, last night I was in a hotel gym in Calgary and all there was to read was last Friday's "Weekend Journal" section of the Wall Street Journal. Okay, fine. I like their movie reviews. The February 13 "Houses of Worship" column was written by Ted Baehr, founder and publisher of Movieguide ("a ministry dedicated to redeeming the values of the mass media according to biblical principles"), and Tom Snyder, an editor at Movieguide. Baehr and Snyder want Hollywood to know that movies with family-friendly themes—movies that didn't shove "despair, or leftist political agendas," or "sex, drugs, and anti-religious" down the throats of filmgoers (or "licentious content," per Milk, or "atheist" content, per Religulous)—did not make money, while films with "conservative content" did, films like Valkyrie, Defiance, and The Dark Knight ("the hero [is] a billionaire capitalist..."). And...
The moneymaking trend was similar for movies with explicit or implicit anti-communist content. That group—including "An American Carol," which mocks communism; "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," where Indy reviles communists and their impoverished ideology is exposed; "City of Ember," where a tyrant steals from the people; and "Fly Me to the Moon," about the space race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union—averaged $71.8 million at the 2008 box office.
First... we're still worried about the commies? Really?
Second... um, I hadn't heard of City of Ember or Fly Me to the Moon until I read about their amazing box office returns in "Houses of Worship." It's weird for films that pull in more than $70 million to escape my notice. But I did hear about An American Carol, a limp and unfunny conservative "send-up/take-down" of Michael Moore. And what I'd heard was this: it was an embarrassing flop. So I looked up the domestic box office figures for all four films:
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull cost $185 million to produce and took in $317,101,119. Fly Me to the Moon cost $25 million to produce and took in $12,857,206. City of Ember cost $55 million to produce and took in $7,873,007. An American Carol cost $20 million to produce and took in just $7,013,191.
So, yeah, these four films together averaged—by my calculations—something like $84 million dollars at the domestic box office. But why on earth would you group these four films together? Two of the three films lost money; Fly Me to the Moon barely turned a profit when its foreign take is included. But An American Carol and City of Emberlost more than $50 million between them.
Lumping Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in with two flops and one near-flop and then declaring that films anti-communist themes "averaged $71.8 million at the box office" is like me saying that Ironman ($318,412,101 domestic box office) and this YouTube video of my son snowboarding ($0 domestic box office) took in an average of $159,206,051 at the box office, and so Hollywood needs to make more movies about, um, white guys defying gravity. It's a totally true stat, but totally misleading and totally meaningless.
And Milk? It's made more money so far ($26,717,000)—before the Oscars—than An American Carol, Fly Me to the Moon, and City of Ember, and it's already turned a profit. With a month Milk will have made more money than all three of those films combined. Bill Maher's Religulous made more money ($13,011,160) than Carol, Moon and Ember, and it too is profitable.
Sheesh. I really shouldn't be surprised. Religious conservatives lie. It's what they do. It's all they have. It is shocking that the editors of the Wall Street Journal would let these douchebags lie to their readers like this.