Marketing the McPassion

kinnon —  March 5, 2006 — 9 Comments

McpassionMy friend, Soulpastor, pointed this out to me – but the site is so busy, I watched it on YouTube instead.* Rik Swartzwelder takes a satirical look at the marketing of Mel Gibson’s The Passion – creating the four minute film, The McPassion.

Apparently some people have been offended – I found it both funny and rather appropriate.

Read the CT Interview with Rik here.

UPDATE: It’s been removed from YouTube for copyright reasons.

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A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

9 responses to Marketing the McPassion

  1. I can see how people could watch that video and feel completely confident that it is satirizing religion. But Swartzwelder insists that it is not. Speaking as an artist, if you have to tell people what your work means, than you messed up somewhere.

    I think it is interesting that the CT interview reveals more irony and human folly than the “satire” does. Despite the interviewers persistent efforts, Swartzwelder seems unable to articulate exactly what it is he objects to. Instead he haphardly and hypocritically tosses around loaded words like “product” and “promotion.” He should know better.

  2. Kim,

    I think what’s he reacting to is what you’ll find here – click on Merchandise. As well as the 12 pages of Marketing material available here, for another recent Christian hit. Check out this and this. We North Americans have become expert marketers – to the point where we often don’t even recognize we are engaged in a marketing campaign as promoters or consumers.

    You might find Greg Stielstra’s PyroMarketing an interesting read – and the controversy around the attempt to suppress his book.  I wrote about it here, here and here.

  3. Help, I’m being linked to death! πŸ™‚

    The four steps of Pyromarketing are interesting and I can certainly see how being the “tinder” could make one vulnerable to marketing manipulation. But how a skeptic like you could be taken in by that whole Rick Warren “controversey” is beyond me. Seems plausible to me that Warren was played in a clever attempt to drum up a little pre-release publicity. And I saw nothing disingenous in his comments on the subject – he’s not a marketing guru, he’s a pastor, and his perspective on the matter reflects that.

    As for your first set of links (Zondervan promoting Purpose Driven Life, or Icon promoting The Passion) – so what? These aren’t churches. They don’t pretend to be churches. One is a publishing house and the other is a film company. Looks to me like they are just doing their jobs.

    Here’s how I see it: churches can either engage in the arts or not. If they choose not to, they can pull down the shutters and find respite from the endless barage of marketing that accompanies just about every form of art these days. But if they choose to engage in the arts then they are going to have to roll up their sleeves (like the rest of us do on a daily basis) and wade through the marketing (the good, the bad, and the ugly) to find what they are looking for. Along with the hits there will also be misses, but that’s how we learn.

    By the way, I was just kidding about the links, your links are always worth checking out!

    ps Did you see Phil Johnson’s (I’m assuming it’s the Phil Johnson who taught law at Berkely and writes for First Things, it didn’t say) critique of EC? It’s completely unrelated to what we’re talking about here, but I know you’ve read McLaren and Bell and I’d be interested in what you thought.

  4. And I missed it! Youtube has taken it down “due to copyright infringements”…! πŸ™‚

  5. Kim,

    I don’t think its a discussion of engaging in the arts or not. It’s a discussion of marketing product to the church. As Rik says at The McPassion site:

    I do believe that the increasing amount of church-directed marketing for entertainment products is fair game for parody and satire. Companies now exist for the sole purpose of telling Hollywood how to market their films to the “church crowd” and church members are routinely told by church leaders that it is their “Christian responsibility” to buy a particular inspirational or entertainment or both product (and that’s what we’re talking about here, products; many of which are generating big, big dollars). And it doesn’t matter if we’re talking traditional, mainline churches or hip, emergent, post-modern ones with ancient-future liturgy; it’s the same deal, only the pitch and packaging are different. 

    Regarding Phil Johnson, this is not the law professor Phil, but rather a staff member at John McArthur’s church who has his own pyromaniacal blog where he and his “team” judge the rest of non-Truly-Reformed-Christianity and find it wanting.

  6. “church members are routinely told by church leaders that it is their “Christian responsibility” to buy a particular inspirational or entertainment or both product”

    First of all, what part of the McPassion film exposes and mocks this phenomenon?

    Secondly, if it’s so routine, who has this happened to? The only people I’ve heard using that kind of rhetoric (duty, responsibility) are the 700 Club and K-Love radio. Is it really as big a deal as Swartwelder is making it out to be?

  7. Check out the links here for Pastors Promoting Passion.

    Then read the Barna Group report on the impact of the Passion on audiences:

    Among the most startling outcomes drawn from the research is the apparent absence of a direct evangelistic impact by the movie. Despite marketing campaigns labeling the movie the greatest evangelistic tool of our era, less than one-tenth of one percent of those who saw the film stated that they made a profession of faith or accepted Jesus Christ as their savior in reaction to the films content.

    The point is not whether or not the Passion was a good/great/incredible or even awful film. The point is pulpits across the nation were used to market a film that in the end, had minor cultural impact – but did manage to gross just under $400 million for its owners, Icon Films.

    McPassion effectively satirizes Christians in a consumerist society. We buy into and promote products like PDL and the Passion because we hope they will win people to Christ – rather than our needing to become the hands and feet of Christ ourselves. If we can assist in the marketing of the gospel, then we won’t actually have to live it out relationally.

  8. There’s nothing wrong with pastors ‘promoting’ art. What would have been wrong is a pastor using his or her authority to dictate how a person should respond to The Passion of the Christ. Pastors have been known to use their positions to inappropriately mediate between people and art (for example, organizing book burnings, calling for the boycotting of certain films, etc.) but I thought pastors’ conduct in this case was by and large very good.

    As for the Barna study… Neither you nor I measure the value of art by the size of the altar call it produces. Nor do we believe that a conversion experience is the only kind of cultural impact that matters. That study is just plain tacky and I don’t consider it very useful in our discussion of McPassion and the conduct of church leaders that Swartzwelder says it satirizes.

    Remember, that’s what Swartzwelder says inspired his film – pastors (or “church leaders”) inappropriately promoting films like The Passion. I think your spin on the film – that we are often too willing to accept a Christian culture as a substitute for a Christian life – is much more insightful and useful. Maybe you should consider sharing your thoughts with Swarzwelder so he doesn’t look so silly in his next interview.

    Thanks for the great discussion!

  9. McPassion now streaming on YouTube:


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