Updated to add: Patty's thoughts.
Margaret mentioned this movie yesterday and it prompted an email discussion that had me thinking along these lines that my super smart SIL had already sparked in my brain. Does a work of fiction have to have mention of rosaries and scenes of liturgy and other specifically Catholic representations to be considered "Catholic"? By the same token, just because a movie has nuns and Mass and scapulars, is that enough to call it a "Catholic film"?
Here are the thoughts I left over at Ian's blog:
First of all, let me say that having known Ian and his wife since college, I can guarantee you that he is no neanderthal. He is not a misogynist. His wife wouldn’t put up with it if he was! I have always known both of them to be faithful Catholics loyal to the teachings of the Magisterium and uncompromising in their commitment to following those teachings.
Having a background in theater and having a healthy respect for the artistic medium of film there are a few points I’d like to mention but I preface them by saying I have not seen the movie myself. I’d like to to be able to see it and discern it's themes for myself (and because I enjoy David Boreanaz as an actor) but having just had a baby, I doubt I’ll make it.
I see Ian’s main point and I agree with it. This is being marketed by Catholics to Catholics as a Catholic movie. I myself received two emails asking me to promote and “please spread the word” about this “inspiring Catholic film” on my blog. Frankly, my standards are fairly high when it comes to film as an art form, but film as entertainment is something else. This movie is not attempting to be great art, just good clean fun from what I can tell from the production information I’ve seen online and if it had been marketed that way, Ian and others wouldn’t have as much to care about. But when you start promoting something as “an inspiring Catholic film” faithful Catholics have the right and the responsibility to hold it to a higher standard and see if it is a fair and good representation of our faith. Just because a film has nuns in it doesn’t make it a “Catholic film”. The Maximus Group should be made aware of that if they aren’t by now. I won’t promote something just because a marketing group says it’s Catholic, I need to see proof.
My second point is that there are a couple of things Ian mentioned that I could forgive depending on how it was handled in the story. A friend and I were talking about the airline ticket issue in this movie and she pointed out that if it was done as an element of visual humor, respectfully, of course, then the moral implications of the action could possibly be excused in favor of the comedic relief. I can also forgive the treatment of the husband as a neanderthal because, frankly, there are men who behave like neanderthals out there. Even “good Catholic” men. They don’t see the value in helping a wife fulfill her vocation in the home, they see her as cheap labor, someone to do the woman’s work. They don’t appreciate the value of the nurturing and caregiving she provides for the children, they see her as the one who keeps those screaming things out of his hair. They don’t see her as a true partner in life and a helpmate who is there to compliment his weaknesses and encourage his strengths, someone who will help him be better man. She’s just there to service his desires and do his bidding as the head of the family. For those kinds of men, the family is really the last thing he is concerned about after spending all day in his selfish pursuits. I’d like to think this kind of man is on his way to extinction, but sadly, he does still exist and so, if that is the kind of man Cathy Rush married, then he should be portrayed that way. But I don’t think that’s the case here. In fact, from reading the blurb that was included in the emails I received, it seems very clear that this movie was about what Ian said it was about (which is probably very different from reality)… fulfilling personal dreams, everybody else be damned.
The following two sentences were found in a blurb at the bottom of the emails I received:
Recently married Cathy Rush is dealing with the aftermath of a truncated playing career. While cultural norms would have her staying at home, she felt compelled to take on a coaching job at Immaculata College, an all-women’s Catholic college in Philadelphia.
A blurb sets the stage for the production and is written based on how the film wants to be perceived. Sounds like Ian was right again. They want the viewer to focus on the “you go girl” agenda, however; according to a People magazine article from 1976, Cathy’s “playing career” was two years as a non-starting member of the varsity team. And also according to the article, she “fell into coaching because I was looking for something to keep me busy while he was on the road. ” And what are these cultural norms of the 1970′s keeping the little women at home? That might have been true of the previous generation but I was born in 1974 to a working mom and so were all my friends. The seventies might not have seen women achieving equality in the workplace, but they were certainly well established there and had been for a while.
While I might be able to shrug off these concerns enough to enjoy this movie, if I ever get the chance to see it, my biggest concerns are the Sister Sunday scenes Ian referenced and those concerns alone would keep me from allowing my older children to see it. My children have an aunt who is a religious sister so they have the benefit of knowing these delightfully real women. The one thing they know for certain is that sisters are real people too and while they might laugh and joke, get angry and cry just like the rest of us, heck, they’d probably even drink an alcoholic beverage in a local drinking establishment with a friend, the one thing they would never be is crude or crass. Slapping a young man’s backside, making comments that are meant to be or could be interpreted as innuendo, removing their veil (a sign of modesty and obedience)… wouldn’t happen and shouldn't be portrayed as acceptable in today's post-scandal Church. My kids would call foul on those depictions and I do too. That sounds like just a cheap trick to pander to the crowds but frankly, since this movie wasn’t actually made by Catholics, while it disturbs me, it doesn’t surprise me.
So all of this leads me to believe what my college directing professor told me… that everything is a choice… from the story that is told to the way it’s marketed. Sounds like there were poor choices made here and The Maximus Group might want to rethink their strategies if they want to attract all of the discerning, intelligent Catholic community and not just the ones they can flatter.
BTW… this last paragraph of the article from People really demonstrates the Rush's commitment to family. It’s a shame that didn’t make it into the movie. Even though they ended up divorced later in life it’s nice to see that they were both committed to caring for their children; Cathy by giving up her chance at the Olympics and Ed for preferring a job that required less travel and allowed for more time home with his family.
Though the Mighty Macs last week ended the 51-game win streak of their archrivals and the defending national champs, Mississippi’s Delta State, Cathy and Ed are in no danger of dribbling away their priorities. Cathy coached the U.S. women’s team to a gold medal in the 1975 Pan-American Games, but has bowed out of consideration for the 1976 Olympics job because she fears it will take too much time away from her children. Ed is cool about the queasy future of the ABA because he feels “I can always go back to the NBA. But I won’t if the terms aren’t right—if there is too much travel for example.” (Right now, he is on the road for nearly 100 games a year which leaves him with chronic jet lag.) That means the Rushes may someday decide to live on their income from the camp and the Kodak coaches clinics they’re running. “He’s not really a good cook at all, but he’s great with the kids,” observes Cathy. So it would be no sweat if Ed eventually wound up a househusband. One lesson Cathy’s learned from basketball—and life—is that “there’s no sense in arguing with the referees.”
Updated to include this response from The Maximus Group in the combox:
This is Lisa Wheeler from The Maximus Group. I just want to clear up the question for you and any of your readers about whether we marketed the film as a "Catholic" film. We did not. Leah Pierce, referenced in the email, does not work for The Maximus Group. It appears she is someone who works for a group we partnered with to share some of the SHARE tools developed for Mighty Macs for the web. She was never instructed by us to contact Catholic bloggers on our behalf, and clearly she did not understand the positioning of the film which has never been as a Catholic film. I apologize to you and any bloggers who received emails from her implying that. You can be assured that The Maximus Group staff (who BTW all have email addresses attached to the Maximus URL) has not misrepresented the intentions of the writers and director of this film, which WAS to make a family-friendly film and WAS NOT to make a Catholic film.