Hollywood Gets Preachy, On and Off Screen

Religion is often the backdrop for many Hollywood movies, and these days, with crime on the rise in Tinseltown, most actors need atonement more than their Screen Actors Guild dental benefits.

Modern day matinee idols, sports icons, tabloid celebs and opinion gurus are greeted and treated as if they were here on earth as guests of the almighty, and their ubiquitous appearances onscreen were messages from the divine. In fact, they are just highly paid overexposed mortals in need of some divine intervention for one sin or another.

(Side note — my friends and I always laugh at the fact that, when I have a chance encounter with people, their first exclamation is "Oh, my God!," when clearly, I am not — just human.)

Many thespians have had the honorable opportunity to play God as the omnipresent, chic man, usually in a white suit, with a subtle, guiding opinion — the way the film industry has stylishly chosen to portray him, however chauvinistic it may be.

The late George Burns was the voice of the king of the universe in "Oh, God!" Morgan Freeman portrayed the almighty in "Bruce Almighty" and its sequel, "Evan Almighty." James Caviezel incited demonstrations playing Jesus in Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ," the religious biopic blockbuster that broke records and headlines.

However, Hollywood is historically and notoriously known to be heavily run by its Jewish population, and therefore, Jewish-themed or -inspired films are often industry insider favorites — "Schindler's List," "Cabaret" and "Life Is Beautiful," to name a few.

I wonder if the people making these films expect an EZ Pass lane to the heavens for delivering God's message by any means necessary. Today, more and more religions are represented by the Hollywood community, and celebrities often are very public about their affiliations, donations and inspirations.

When Tina Turner finally broke free from her abusive and controlling svengali husband, Ike Turner, she found a new beginning through Buddhism, which helped with her monumental comeback in the '80s. Though Shirley McClaine has never done a film version of her books, in the '80s and '90s she was groundbreaking in her use of her fame to spread her new age philosophies, though she was often the brunt of airy-fairy jokes.

Madonna, on the other hand, has made a career out of pissing off a plethora of various popes and the Vatican by using religious icons as part of her sometimes controversial performances. Some feel even her use of the Virgin Mary's name is, in itself, an act of blasphemy.

Do we really need our celebs preaching to us about rather personal religious beliefs as if they're plugging a brand of coffee or lip liner? Has Hollywood crossed the line of church and state, or is it just part of our civil rights as Americans to share our ideals and thoughts with others, whether they be friends and family or fans? Or does it all become just a little too Eddie Murphy in "Holy Man" — the religious satire that spoofs on preachers at the pulpit for profit?

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