View Full Version : Trouble in Hollywood: Fundamentalists Want to Change Plot of The Da Vinci Code Film

08-10-2005, 08:18 AM
by Dr. Teresa Whitehurst

When I read in the New York Times that Ron Howard "has heard from concerned Christians as he turns 'The Da Vinci Code' into a film", I could smell the censorship (oops, "concern") brewing. Ready for The Passion of the Christ, Part 2?

When The Passion of the Christ received negative comments in post-production, Mel Gibson belatedly added a few scenes acknowledging that Jesus did in fact say and do a few notable things before dying. However, Gibson did not remove several scenes that made many Jewish people and sympathetic Christians uncomfortable. Those images remained in the film despite worries that they could increase hostility and blame regarding the Jews of Jesus? time, and of ours. He refused to budge on those scenes?but then again, the political pressure wasn?t nearly as great as that which is lodged in the nooks and crannies of the White House.

What?s different about the current tempest regarding The Da Vinci Code is that fundamentalists and far-right conservatives would like to alter the core plot of the book?the central story?because it opens up possibilities for us to ponder. It doesn?t stick by the party line or church dogma, and that?s why some people want to disembowel The Da Vinci Code of its most intriguing ideas. Christians are not supposed to think for ourselves in this Bushian world where "faith-based" lobbying groups rule. (Oh, and speaking of codes: "faith" is code for "fundamentalist".)

Fundamentalist-Based Initiatives and Studio Waffling

Is it just me, or does the following raise some red flags reminiscent of the McCarthy period?

"Studio officials have consulted with Catholic and other Christian specialists on how they might alter the plot of the novel to avoid offending the devout. In doing so, the studio has been asked to consider such measures as making the central premise - that Jesus had a child with Mary Magdalene - more ambiguous, and removing the name of Opus Dei." (emphasis added)

The question I was asked was, 'Can you give them some things they can do to change it, to make it not offensive to the Christian audience?' " said Barbara Nicolosi, executive director of Act One, an organization that coaches Christians on making it in Hollywood. She said she was approached by Jonathan Bock, a marketing expert hired by Sony for his knowledge of Christian sensibilities, and included in the discussions Amy Welborn, who has published a refutation of "The Da Vinci Code" titled "De-Coding Da Vinci."

"We came up with three things," Ms. Nicolosi said: the more ambiguous approach to the central premise, the removal of Opus Dei and amending errors in the book's description of religious elements in art. Ms. Welborn said, "If the script took those very strong assertions that Brown makes, and softened them, made them more theoretical rather than bald statements of fact, that might do something." Mr. Bock declined to comment about his involvement with the picture." (emphasis added)

And here is the truly chilling part, you know, the part where acquiescence begins and creative integrity ends:

"Whether the screenwriter, Mr. Goldsman, has made any of those changes is uncertain, though the studio has publicly hinted that the film is a thriller that will play down religious themes." (emphasis added)

We are of many faiths here in the US, but we are all American. And the last time I checked, being American means that we get to read the books we want to read and watch the films we want to watch. We don?t have to check with Opus Dei or Focus on the Family or Concerned Women for America before we check out a library book.

Our own "Christian" president?who worships a "Christ" far more offensive than anything in The Da Vinci Code, a new revised "Jesus" who advocates pre-emptive war and smiles upon torture?stresses again and again that we must protect our "liberties" and "freedoms". Well here?s a perfect opportunity to test the system: Will the film version of The Da Vinci Code shrivel into a pale version of the book under the withering stare of religious extremists, or will censorship and fundamentalist-based pressure be rebuffed?

Will fundamentalism tighten its grip on Hollywood, as it did many years ago?

To Ron Howard, I would like to say that I urge you not to bow to pressure. If they put the screws on you to tiptoe around the author?s vision, let it be known that a censored, religiously correct or otherwise gutted film would be of no interest to me or to anyone I know. And it would certainly not be worthy of your creative talents. Some principles are worth fighting for. And some things are worth walking away from.

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Dr. Teresa Whitehurst is a clinical psychologist, author of Jesus on Parenting: 10 Essential Principles That Will Transform Your Family (2004) and coauthor of The Nonviolent Christian Parent (2004). She offers parenting workshops, holds discussion groups on Nonviolent Christianity, and writes the column, "Democracy, Faith and Values: Because You Shouldn?t Have to Choose Just One" as seen on her website.