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Between Hollywood and Godlywood

The Case of Walden Media

Nathalie Dupont

This book sheds new light on the relationship between conservative Christianity and Hollywood through a case study of Walden Media, which produced The Chronicles of Narnia franchise. Financed by a conservative Christian, Walden Media is a unique American company producing educational and family-friendly films with inspiring, moral, redemptive and uplifting stories. However, there is more to Walden than meets the eye and the company reflects wider trends within contemporary American society. Drawing on film industry data, film study guides and marketing campaigns targeting mainstream and conservative Christian audiences in the United States and abroad, this book reflects on Walden Media’s first ten years of activity as well as on the relationship between Hollywood and conservative Christians, notably evangelicals, at the dawn of the twenty-first century. Though both worlds are still wary of one another, this study shows that Walden Media films, and particularly The Chronicles of Narnia franchise, have tread a workable path between Hollywood and «Godlywood», albeit within the constraints of the now global film business.
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Chapter 1: Hollywood and Conservative Christians: An Uneasy Relationship



Hollywood and Conservative Christians: An Uneasy Relationship

Art and religion have often had a very close relationship. Religious patrons long counted among artists’ benefactors and employers – including the Vatican in Rome, as was the case of Michelangelo. But, at the same time, the same religious authorities have always closely monitored art, entertainment and their potential subversive threat. Films have been no exception in America, and this led some US conservative Christians – Protestants and Catholics – to have mixed feelings toward the Hollywood institution, all the more so as sometimes the very secular film world and its stars have tended to generate feelings of devotion and worship that are akin to religious ones.1

A tense relationship

Yet a promising start

Many Christians initially welcomed film as a medium, especially Protestants belonging to the progressive movement – which counted evangelicals in ← 9 | 10 → its ranks – and who adhered to the Social Gospel derived from the Third Religious Awakening.2 In their eyes, films became a modern version of the parables used by Christ to attract crowds and to spread His word and teaching. Films were also a way to make themselves heard in a changing society. Indeed, at the end of the nineteenth century and in the early twentieth century, Darwinism was popular in the United States, and this horrified many Christians, as it undermined the Bible’s account of how God had created the universe. Moreover, this happened in a context of industrialization...

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