After reading an article in the UK Telegraph claiming that a film about Charles Darwin titled Creation had been deemed too controversial by distributors in America because it advocated evolution theory, I got suckered into watching it.
Hey, at least it was free on HBO.
In the Telegraph article by Showbiz editor Anita Singh, the film’s producer Jeremy Thomas was quoted as saying:
The film has no distributor in America. It has got a deal everywhere else in the world but in the US, and it’s because of what the film is about. People have been saying this is the best film they’ve seen all year, yet nobody in the US has picked it up. It is unbelievable to us that this is still a really hot potato in America. There’s still a great belief that He made the world in six days. It’s quite difficult for we in the UK to imagine religion in America. We live in a country which is no longer so religious. But in the US, outside of New York and LA, religion rules. Charles Darwin is, I suppose, the hero of the film. But we tried to make the film in a very even-handed way. Darwin wasn’t saying ‘kill all religion’, he never said such a thing, but he is a totem for people.
Sounds like a tired cliche–Darwin good, religion bad. Was the moviemaker correct in his assessment? Why weren’t distributors fighting over the rights to the film in America?
I think I know the answer. The movie wasn’t controversial.
It was boring.
That’s only when it wasn’t depressing as hell. Morose would be far too cheerful a word to describe this film. Besides, the premise for his complaint was completely untrue.
In reality, Darwin’s theory of natural selection is now so venerated worldwide it is typically considered above question or criticism, even here in America.
Let me be brutally honest here for a moment–if one wants their viewing experience to be a two hour exercise of wallowing in abject misery, then feel free to watch this movie, by all means. It felt like work to me.
Don’t get me wrong. The actors did a fine job. Ditto the cinematographer.
However, the script was a recipe for clinical depression. It was definitely not a “happy” movie.
The fact Creation lacked joy or was horribly misnamed wasn’t what bothered me about it, though. It even had a few redeeming qualities. Several times the film echoed my “Darwin” arguments, in my forthcoming book, “Counterarguments for God.”
For example, the movie alluded to the problems of incest and the adverse effect it has on speciation theory. The script implied that Darwin believed the premature death of his child could be attributed to genetic defect, resulting from his mildly incestuous relationship to his wife.
The film wasn’t worthless. It just wasn’t worth paying to see, in my opinion, unless you needed an excuse for popping a Xanax after the fact.
It bothered me a little bit that the father of evolution theory was depicted in the movie as a hallucinating, spoiled, bitter aristocrat haunted by the ghost of his dead child. It wasn’t a very flattering portrayal, to say the least.
Darwin is presented as a half-crazed man angry with God, seeking revenge for the death of his daughter, rather than a man of science whom we are now taught to respect as a genius.
Here’s my “Cliff Notes” summary of the plot:
Charles Darwin had a daughter named Annie. She liked to hear her father tell morbid stories about a young orangutan named Jenny who lived in deplorable conditions in the local zoo. Jenny died a very sad and pathetic death. Annie also got sick and died while listening to her father recount the depressing tale of Jenny. Charles tried to bargain with God to save Annie, and turned on God when he didn’t get his wish granted. From his observations of nature, Darwin concluded that life sucks, and then you die, and Annie was nothing but a part of that process. Darwin also decided that God probably didn’t exist, and corrupted his wife, making her his accomplice. He wrote a famous book that ultimately convinced a lot of people he was right and the Bible was wrong. The End.
Had I been suicidal, enduring this movie could have pushed me over the edge. There was no happy ending. There weren’t even many happy moments.
Don’t misunderstand—the movie was very well-acted, and beautifully filmed.
It was just a boring movie on a tragic and depressing subject. However, that’s beside the point.
I come here not to praise the film, or to bury it.
This post isn’t intended to be a movie review.
Instead, I wanted to dissect the Telegraph article–the one that critiqued a movie review from a Christian website. That’s where the story gets interesting.
According to Ms. Singh, a post found at website MovieGuide.org had:
…described Darwin as the father of eugenics and denounced him as “a racist, a bigot and an 1800s naturalist whose legacy is mass murder”. His “half-baked theory” directly influenced Adolf Hitler and led to “atrocities, crimes against humanity, cloning and genetic engineering”, the site stated.
Wow! Rather inflammatory rhetoric, isn’t it? Perhaps even a little bit over the top?
Well, yeah. There’s only one problem.
It isn’t true. None of it.
Here’s a link to the actual review. Please note that Ms. Singh put quite a few words in quotes.
Based on her usage, one would normally assume the review in question actually contained “half-baked theory”, “atrocities”, “racist” and “genetic engineering,” since Ms. Singh put quotation marks around those specific words in her critique.
Please note that those words didn’t appear in the MoveGuide.org review.
None of them. I’ve double-checked.
Before going further, allow me to stipulate if those exacts are to be found elsewhere on the site, Ms. Singh should have provided a link to them to avoid confusion. However, I couldn’t find them.
It would appear that Ms. Singh deliberately and maliciously misquoted the content from the Christian review site.
Now, why would she do that? I wish I could say.
I can’t speak to her motive. But I can clear up this “misunderstanding” about the content of the review in question.
What the review actually said was:
CREATION is a beautifully made, poignant movie that is very emotional and moving. The filmmakers have done a great job of painting Darwin as a man reluctant to “kill God,” thereby creating empathy for him. Add in a tragic loss of his child and suffering from poor health, and the movie turns Darwin into something of a “Rocky” underdog for whom viewers are supposed to root. When Darwin decides to be true to his convictions, the filmmakers have very adeptly made it be that his decision to write the book is a turning point for him and for all of the world.
The fact that the movie is so well done is what makes it the most dangerous. Mud, nicely wrapped with a bow, is still mud. A lie that there is no God and that somehow we have randomly shown up here on Earth as an accident is still a lie, even if it’s well written and well-acted.
Clearly, the reviewer was not a big fan of the movie.
Nor was I, but that’s beside the point.
The point is that in the Telegraph article Ms. Singh egregiously misrepresents what the review actually said, and apparently on purpose.
That is my point.
My wife has asked me, more than once, this simple question: why do I care?
Why write about evolution, science and religion, if all I really want to do is write my novels as Rocky Leonard? Fair question. As usual, she’s quite right. This blog entry could alienate some potential buyers of my books.
On the other hand, it might not.
My reason for publishing this piece in spite of potentially negative consequences is also simple: I can’t abide a false claim that goes unchallenged.
Quid est veritas? What is truth?
I don’t suggest that I always know, or recognize the truth for what it is.
However, when I’m pretty convinced the truth is not what someone is telling, I can’t turn a blind eye.
I’m just not wired that way.