In the past year, a vast number of high profile productions have featured villains with strong Christian leanings.
The majority of these films feature said Christian villains as fundamentalist whackos, who often stand in the way of reason and progress, and often use (or encourage) violent means whilst doing so.
And while it is true that some Christians do fall in line with this stereotype, what is often ignored is that said individuals do not represent the Christian faith, and are extreme in nature and ideology.
The following are films from 2007 which contain said Christian villains:
There Will Be Blood: Paul Dano turns in an incredible performance as Evangelical preacher Eli Sunday. His character is bludgeoned to death with a bowling pin by Daniel Day Lewis’ atheist oil man Daniel Plainview, at the delight of many message board posters at IMDB.
The Mist: Frank Darabont’s poor adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist features a ferocious performance by Marcia Gay Harden as the hellfire preaching Mrs. Carmody, who quickly gathers a blood thirsty mob of devout followers to bring about human sacrifice in order to appease what she believes to be a vengeful God who has brought on the apocalypse.
Hairspray: Director/choreographer Adam Shankman’s big screen adaptation of John Waters’ camp classic contains the always in form Alison Janney, who portrays a devout Catholic mother that forbids her daughter (Amanda Bynes) from hanging with the black kids in her neighbourhood.
Sunshine: Danny Boyle’s atheistic ode to science fiction sees a team of scientists venture though outer space in a bid to jump start a dying Sun and save planet Earth. However, plans go astray when a deranged crew member - who believes it is God’s will that the Earth be destroyed – attempts to sabotage their mission.
Breach: An espionage thriller based on the true story of Robert Hanson (Chris Cooper), a deeply Catholic, ultra conservative FBI Agent, who also happened to be the biggest traitor in the history of the FBI. The screenplay took liberties and exploited his Catholic faith, placing him in situations that did not happen so he can look like a bible bashing moralist on top of a traitor.
The Golden Compass: The adaptation of atheist writer Phillip Pullman’s fantasy series has the Catholic Church (here known as the Magesterium) abducting and torturing young children.
It is easy to see why such characters have popped up in so many films, what with the worldwide scorn of George W. Bush and the predominantly Christian Right in America, the popularity of God denouncing literature by the likes of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, and with popular TV personalities Bill Maher and Penn Jillette spewing anti-Christian rhetoric at any given moment.
Yet, much like the portrayals of Native Americans as savage brutes in the 1950s (The Searchers), Asian Americans as bumbling dolts in the 1960s (Breakfast at Tiffany’s), Russians as killing machines in the 1980s (Rocky IV), and the negative portrayals of African Americans, Jews, and Homosexuals during every other era, I have faith that most people would look past the stereotype, and be able to separate fiction from reality.
After all, Hollywood loves to exploit what we fear, and prejudice along with caricature goes a long way into creating an easily despised bad guy. Just remember, a truly memorable villain is born out of contempt for their behaviour, not their skin colour, sexuality, or their faith.