This morning I got a press release about Ridley Scott‘s Exodus: Gods and Kings (20th Century Fox, 12.12) from Matthew Faraci, a North-Carolina-based spokesperson for faith-driven consumers. It basically stated the usual-usual, which is that faith-driven moviegoers will be much more likely to see Exodus if it’s judged to be Biblically accurate. The poll actually reports on likely interest among three groups — Joe Popcorn types, Christians and faith-driven consumers.
The data on Exodus “comes from a previous American Insights survey conducted between 5.1 and 5.8, for Christian News Service/NICAEA,” Faraci noted. A nationally representative sample of 1,200 adults in the United States, etc.
“Thanks for your release, Matthew, but I have a couple of questions,” I wrote back. “Boiled down, the poll says that faith-driven moviegoers will be much more likely to see Scott’s film if it’s judged to be Biblically accurate. Fine. But of course you don’t explain or even imply what would constitute Biblical inaccuracy in this instance.
“Moses’ brought down a series of plagues upon Egypt when he was beseeching Rameses to let his people go. Three of these (locusts, frogs, the Nile turning red) seem to be in the film, to go by the trailer. The old story of the parting of the Red Sea is apparently depicted in the film’s climax. So what exactly are the accuracy concerns of faith-driven consumers? Let’s get into specifics here.
“Has American Insights ever polled faith-driven consumers about how accurate they consider Cecil B. DeMille‘s The Ten Commandments to be? Have they ever asked? Have you? Has any poll of faith-driven types about this 1956 film ever been conducted by anyone?
“DeMille’s film tells us, for example, that before discovering his Hebrew heritage, Moses (Charlton Heston) had a passionate ham-slamming love affair going with Princess Nefretiri (Anne Baxter), the Egyptian throne princess. It also says that Prince Moses unwittingly saved his mother, Yochabel (Martha Scott), from being crushed under a huge stone during a construction project. And that he later killed Baca (Vincent Price), the sadistic master builder before Baca could kill Joshua (John Derek). And that one of the plagues brought upon Egypt is a spreading green mist that kills first-born sons.
“Are these DeMille story points accurate or otherwise acceptable in the view of faith-driven consumers?
“Some scholars believe that Moses probably suffered from a speech impediment. Heston’s Moses spoke without this handicap. Do faith-driven consumers have views about this aspect?
“As you are not specific in your release, I presume what you and your flock plan to do is wait for Exodus: Gods and Kings to open and see if something strikes faith-driven viewers the wrong way. Is that more or less the plan?
“Are you aware of any faith-driven screenings of Exodus that 20th Century Fox has arranged (or already had)? It would be very curious if Fox has not done this, or is not planning to do this.
“Jeffrey Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere…p.s. — Did you see Left Behind? What a disaster!”
Faraci replied an hour later:
“Dear Jeffrey — Thank you for your email. You are correct [in that] the data addresses a larger issue. Exodus is the story but all Biblical films are in the same boat so to speak. We didn’t poll the details because that would be impossible [at this stage]. American Insights simply asked generally about Biblical accuracy. — Thanks, Matthew Faraci, Faith Driven Consumer”
I wrote back as follows:
“(1) It would be entirely possible to ask faith-driven consumers what their concerns might be about Exodus, based on the trailer. Or what aspects of the Bible’s version of Moses’ story would they most like to see represented accurately. If they’re really faith-driven they would know a little something about the story of Exodus. C’mon, man….this isn’t rocket science.
“(2) It would be easy as pie to ask faith-driven consumers what their concerns are about Cecil B. DeMille‘s The Ten Commandments. Everybody in the civilized world has seen that film at least once or twice.
“(3) It would be very strange if 20th Century Fox wasn’t screening Exodus: Gods and Kings for faith-driven groups. Do you know of such screening (past or forthcoming) or not?
“You’re not engaging with what I wrote. — regards, Jeffrey Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere.”
Faraci didn’t write back. Which indicated to me that he’s more ‘hat” than “cattle.”