Dec. 28, 2007 — -- 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?
Televangelists rose to power and notoriety in the '80s, and as we approach the second decade of the new millennium, celebrities are coming out more about those things that may have been considered private in the past. With the media explosion caused by the Internet, celebs have started to be more vocal about things that matter, and why shouldn't they? I would rather hear about Demi and Ashton's commitment to kabala than Lindsay or Britney's recommitment to Promises for more substance and fame abuse.
If the power of prayer can guarantee salvation, inner peace or, perhaps, a nod at nominations time, then hallelujah, because there there's nothing like a Grammy winner singing God's praises. (Though do you think God really cares if you won or not, or does God just believe "it's an honor to be nominated?")
Self-deprecating comedian Kathy Griffin may have hit the nail on the head when she won an Emmy earlier this year, saying that, while so many winners thank Jesus, no one had less to do with her award than the son of God.
I don't know about you, but I'd be a little scared to pick a fight with the powers above. I'm still praying for every bit of hope I can get every day. The fact is, now more than ever, we have more religions than flavors of Ben & Jerry's. It would be bland if we only had vanilla and chocolate — don't we crave variety in our life?
Religion is part of our personal style — prayer equipment has become a fashion staple, and places of worship have always been meeting grounds for people of like minds to share their ideals and schmooze. Chances are, the wise men were on a business trip before they stumbled across the manger. They could have been discussing business of a religious sort at the last supper, so why shouldn't celebs congregate at the same congregations?
The Good Sheppard Catholic Church is where Brooke Shields, Reese Witherspoon and Mark Wahlberg often meet in Beverly Hills, while A-list African-Americans, like Samuel L. Jackson, Latoya Jackson, Denzel and Pauletta Washington, Stevie Wonder and Kai Milla, and Cookie and Magic Johnson, are often seen singing God's praises at West Angeles Church of God.
Then there's Scientology. Its founding father, L. Ron Hubbard, has always been an epicenter for controversy. The religion's poster children include Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise, who recently caused a major stir in Germany, where he's shooting his next flick. The German government deemed Scientology illegal, because of its so-called brainwashing effects.
Well, to me, this whole celeb-obsessed culture is starting to seem more and more like brainwashing. What's next for a Hollywood fashion guru like me? I'm praying for sainthood.