Catholic Deacon Op-Ed Takes on Legend of Tarzan and Hollywood

ERBDOM, Legend of Tarzan (Movie)

The following is by Deacon Steven D. Greydnus and appeared in Crux, an independent Catholic news site operated in partnership with the Knights of Columbus. 

Let’s Face It, Hollywood’s Got a Religion Problem

Issues of representation and diversity in Hollywood films have gotten enough attention to ensure that most people are at least somewhat aware of such concerns and questions. Yet at least one area of representation is disproportionately ignored: how Hollywood deals with religious belief and identity, including Catholicism.

The 2016 summer movie season has seen more than its share of critical and box-office disappointments, and more than its share of controversy. By far the bitterest commotion was over Paul Feig’s sex-swapped remake of “Ghostbusters”: Advance opposition was spiked with misogyny and racism, while advocates defended Feig’s attention to actresses and female viewers in a Hollywood landscape still heavily skewed toward men.

In comparison, controversy over Warner Bros’ “The Legend of Tarzan” was relatively muted, mostly limited to critical think pieces indicting the film and the larger Tarzan mythos for racist, sexist, and colonial entanglements.

Issues of representation and diversity in Hollywood films have gotten enough media attention to ensure that most people, whatever they think of their applicability in particular cases or of the politics behind the discussion, are at least somewhat aware of such concerns and questions.

Read more.





  • To be fair to Deacon Greydanus, he is not singling out THE LEGEND OF TARZAN for special criticism on the religion issue, although others have. Leon Rom may have had a Catholic boyhood, but the twisted adult has obviously left any sense of the sacred way behind him.

    If LEGEND really wanted to take on religious hypocrisy, it might have mentioned that the great Congo genocide was perpetrated by a very prominent, practicing Catholic, King Leopold II.

    • I think it’s pretty measured, non-hysterical criticism that places it in a broader context. I think he makes an interesting point that there was far more outcry about racial stereotypes than there was about alleged mis-treatment of Christianity/catholicism.

      • It is measured. But still:
        “These are just examples of Hollywood movies in which Catholic or Christian faith or iconography is linked to murderous violence or outright villainy, not more conventional examples of negative depictions of faith or religion in movies like “Saved!” (2004), “King Arthur” (2004), “The Missing” (2003), or “The Fighting Temptations” (2003).”

        Except of course, actual history, and current events, show that religion can be used as a impetus for good or bad.
        Showing people who claim to be religious but who don’t act at all in a godly way isn’t just the domain of current HW, even in entertainment.
        And as Maggie points out, it is also a reflection of a decline of trust in religious institutions in the US (never mind western Europe), especially in the Catholic Church.
        He’s complaining about how the Church is portrayed, but doesn’t seem to understand that while this offensive to him, there’s also a legitimate context to it.
        I’ll add that he seems to be focusing on the portrayal of religious people as bad people, but not on mocking portrayals of goodly religious people, which does happen. I’d be more sympathetic if he did that. But this seems to be self-pitying.

  • I always felt that the anti-Catholic “joke” was a mistake. At MovieGuide, a faith-based film review site, The Legend of Tarzan got an EXTREME CAUTION rating for Content and its reasoning deserves to be quoted in full:

    Normally, MOVIEGUIDE® might give LEGEND OF TARZAN only a Minus One rating. However, because of the movie’s politically correct attack on Catholics and Catholic priests, and a couple incidents of crude dialog, it deserves an extreme caution. Our rating would have been worse were it not for the positive references to God and prayer by Tarzan’s father. The filmmakers could have fixed this problem by removing the references to the villain’s apparent religious faith, or adding some more positive Christian elements to counteract the negative ones. Neither this movie’s Tarzan and its Jane are overtly religious, in either a Christian sense or even a Non-Christian sense. They aren’t overtly Anti-Christian, however, despite Jane’s gratuitous snide comment about the villain’s priest.

    In should be noted that MOVIEGUIDE’s described Legend of Tarzan as “a well-produced, exciting, crowd-pleasing adventure story, with some positive elements [and] marvelous action and good performances.”

  • There is certainly distinctive evidence behind this allegation and he does not even get into TV shows such as The Borgias, The Tudors and currently Preacher. What he does not seem to want to do is to take a look at is that Hollywood is merely reflecting the views of the society that surrounds them. If audiences were sufficiently offended by Holkywoid’s treatment of religion,then there would be a major public outcry. There is not because people feel let down by organized religion just as they do by their government. They are visibly and loudly angry at their government and less loud but never the less present,is there disillusionment in their churches,particularly the Catholic Church.

    It seems like the Catholic Church wants to whitewash their numerous crimes against humanity ,the priest pedophlia,just being the latest crime in a long line of crimes. They want to remain sacrosanct, just like others do who practice mysogeny,racism and have a history steeped in colonialism. I understand their desire to say. ” We’re not all criminals. We want balance ” I really do. But as long as their inner power circles practice deciet and cover up crimes,they leave themselves open to an ongoing onslaught by Hollywood or any other organization across the world. They are open to ridicule, antagonism and iconic imagery associated with violence and betrayal because they are guilty. Just as the European nations were guilty of colonialism,America is guilty of genocide with its Native Americans, Germany Is guilty of the Holocaust and the list continues on and on.

    This era of having to be PC and take every group into respect casts a spotlight on the various societal ills that we still tolerate. Sometimes it goes too far and sees ills where there are none but never the less it is time to cast that spotlight as as the movie ” Spotlight” so aptly did in its portrayal of the hierarchy of the Cathlic Church and it’s complicity in propagating sex crimes against children. This happened and has been going on, perhaps,,since the inception of Catholicism. Pundits, film makers,song writers etc. aren’t likely to forget it and they will use it as their cannon fodder until the next scandal replaces it. The Catholic Chirch and all of its supporters are better served working industriously to see to it that the next immoral scandal doesn’t come from about irradiating immorality altogether in a church that says it represents the voice of God. One,who has a bloody history of torture and murder in the name of that self same God and in the maintainence of the idea that only they were the voice of God. They wonder,then, about the association of their icons with violence and death, Really?

    For my part ,I don’t trust organized political structures and our churches fall into this category just a clearly as do our governmental and educational organizations. It’s too easy to for them to become corrupt and loose sight of their purpose ,existing instead,simply for the benefit of their own agendas and forgetting to serve the people’s needs. However, in the end we have to ask ourselves do they do more good than bad and are some of the needs of the people being served? The answer to that lies within the hearts and minds of the people. At this time they are tolerant of their organized relgions and of others, At least for the most part they are and in this country and other Christian democratic countries,they are. That,in my opinion is why there is no outcry against how religion,particularly the .Catholic Chrurch,is portrayed in film. People are aware of the ills but have concluded that their churches do more good than bad in their lives. They are,instead more preoccupied with other social ills .

    Did Jane’s dig at the pedophlia in the Catholic church belong in LOT? Probably not. Was it in good taste. Definitely not. But it made me smirk inside as it was intended to do and I thought,” thanks for the reminder. Well served.” I am just radical enough to appreciate reminders to the public, no matter how inappropriate ,of criminal acts by trusted religious, state and educational entities. This includes current and past acts.

  • Well said, Maggie!

    And I find it kind of ironic that Jane, who is the *victim* in the scene in question, the one who is being held captive against her will, is now being criticized for her remark made against the *evil villain* of the movie. Are we forgetting that Leon Rom is the *villain* and Jane is the heroic figure here? Are we now supposed to view the villain as a victim?

  • Ah yes, victim shaming ,one of the favorite techniques used by the guilty. When I saw that Rom was using his rosary beads as a murder weapon, I thought it particularly apt to use this image to denote evil. It was remnicient of Satanists who use an upside down cross. Instead,Rom had perverted the role of rosary beads from one of prayer and repentance for sins to one of the essence of sin itself. However, when Jane made the comment that alluded to pedophlia, other than immediately smirking in acknowledgement, I quickly readjusted my initial read on the use of the beads. Not only was it used as a symbol or Rom’s evil but that evil was created in the caldron of the Cathlic Church with it’s practice of monastic abstinence tied into the idea of holiness and godliness. Rom was one of their creations, a monster bred from that Calderon to prey on innocent children in turn perverting some of them.Some of those children may become so damaged and twisted, filled with so much hatred of the church, that they become phychotic murderers using one of the holy relics of that Chirch as a murder weapon to out out their rage upon the world. A damming indictment indeed of the Catholic Curch when thought about in this way.

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