"The Town" Poster's Nun with a Gun: Too Sacrilegious?

Whoopi Goldberg in "Sister Act."

This summer, Lady Gaga, product of a Catholic school education, donned a rubberized hooded habit emblazoned with stylized crosses for her "Alejandro" video.

Lady Gaga in "Alejandro."

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And next week, Lindsay Lohan does a turn as a faux nun in Robert Rodriguez's new film "Machete," whose poster shows Lohan, in full nun's garb, suggestively licking an especially long barrel of a gun.

Lindsay Lohan's "Machete" poster.

Some experts take a broader view of religious images and symbols which are used in the service of marketing and sales.

"The objective of movie trailers and posters is to stimulate response, so studios would naturally look for attention-getting items for them," said Jeanine Basinger, who runs the film studies program at Wesleyan University.

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Basinger concedes that a nun's habit paired with a gun – something you don't see every day – serves as a stimulus. But the garb, even though it's part of the movie's narrative, is a symbol detached from belief. "The religious symbol of the nun's garb isn't as sacred as it once was, so people aren't as easily offended," she said.

"At first I thought the image on the poster was repugnant, mainly because of the ugliness of the mask," said Joseph Roccasalvo, a Catholic priest, novelist and a retired professor of Buddhist studies at Fordham University. However, he nixed the habit as being offensive.

"Most modern women in the religious life who are not cloistered don't wear a habit, and most students I've taught have never seen a nun in a habit," he said, noting that, in the film "Dead Man Walking," Sister Prejean – Susan Sarandon won an Oscar for her performance – did not wear traditional nuns' garb. "At a certain point, nuns' habits stopped having a religious mystique. The only people who might possibly be offended by the poster are Catholics who are religiously conservative and who have memories of nuns wearing habits."

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But it may not only be older-generation Catholics who may find "The Town" poster offensive. One student who participated in the Franciscan survey wrote that the poster makes the nun's habit "just another costume. Sad culture has reduced it to that."
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