From a gay man raised in the church,
I’ve mulled over this “letter” for months because I love mulling over things before I write or say them. That’s basically a formal way of expressing my self-doubt, but I’m confident I can articulate my thoughts with reserved indignation. I mean, I could be an ass by hurling accusatory fallacies, but that style has become passé, to put it mildly. Plus it deviates from my own style. I’ll leave that to Ann Coulter. Enough of that tangent, let me cut to it.
David, may I call you David, I respect you as a businessman and an entrepreneur. You and your Pure Flix affiliates recognized a demand, a lack of proper representation of Christianity in Hollywood and film, and set out to fulfill it. You didn’t wait for someone else to take action. As far as cliches are concerned, your establishment became the change you wanted to see in the world. That’s commendable. Additionally, Pure Flix has provided its audience with plenty of films that portray Christians in main roles. Now, whether those portrayals rely too much on stereotypes instead of genuine character development (*AHEM*), that’s for another article. You set your goals, and you met them. Good for you. Thumbs up. It’s inspiring, honestly, and I look to you as an example of following a dream AND working hard to make it come true.
So why am I writing this letter? I want to challenge you. I want to encourage you to push the envelope, and if you’ve caught on by now, yes, I’m playing the Gay Card.
It would be interesting to see you and your company tackle films about gay Christians. If that’s too controversial of a label, then Christians dealing with being gay, bisexual, queer, or any form of gender-sexual minority. You’ve made films addressing temptation, adultery, abortion, greed, atheism vs. Christianity (…again, we’ll discuss the authenticity of said portrayals another day), political oppression (…again, I’ll just bite my tongue harder), and pretty much any tribulation the modern Christian confronts. However, it appears your team has shirked away from addressing the subject of Christians who are not heterosexual, or at the very least stories with protagonists dealing with peers or oppressors who identify as anything but heterosexual. I KNOW I KNOW why it’s not as simple. You’ve got a reputation to uphold. You’ve got limitations to your selection of narratives. By now, I understand how much power money has over creativity; if the product isn’t lucrative. hardly anybody will invest in it. Films, or any art form hoping to reap profit, can’t be too edgy or risqué unless adhering to specific standards, stated or implied. As for me, I understand my limited knowledge of the filming process. I’m not a director. I’m not an actor. I’m not a cinematographer. I’m not even a screenwriter. It’s easy for me to criticize somebody or something without a solution and walk away.
But here’s the thing. I think you, David A.R. White, know the solution. I don’t need to spell it out for you, but I don’t want to walk away…if that makes sense.
I want to briefly refer to one of my favorite directors, Gregg Araki. He’s known for his GSM films in the ’80s and ’90s and contributed to the underground sub-genre known today as New Queer Cinema. In the linear notes of a special DVD edition of his 1993 GSM film Totally Fucked Up, Araki elaborated on his vision as a director, heck maybe even as an auteur. In the notes, Araki used the phrase “represent the unrepresented” as a filming mantra, so to speak. He was obviously referring to the marginalized GSM audience, himself included. He, along with the likes of Gus Van Sant and Jamie Babbit, became a handful of the faces of New Queer Cinema. They, like you, uncovered a demographic that wasn’t represented and vowed to represent them through narratives and storylines with GSM characters and themes. They knew nobody else would start the movement, so they decided to do it themselves, and behind that movement, at least for Gregg Araki, the main objective was to always represent the unrepresented.
And now, you and your affiliates have your own unrepresented demographic. I know because I’m part of it. Jennifer Knapp is, too. And so is Trey Pearson, Vicky Beeching, to name a couple more. It might be a small demographic, but we exist. We’re here, we’re queer, and we would like for your particular brand of cinema to acknowledge us. At least I would.
Let me step back and make myself clear. I don’t want to lambast you. There’s no wrongdoing to lambast, and for me to solely attack you would be ridiculous and judgmental. Again, from your social media statuses and film projects, you seem like an enjoyable, kind, warm person. You enjoy what you do, and why shouldn’t you? It can’t be ignored, however, that you and your Pure Flix team emphasize the importance of theme and message in your films. Naturally, the dilemma of art versus message can easily become a part of this discussion, but…well…(*agitated sigh* again, another topic for another time). Anyway, I believe each director and storyteller has an agenda, whether he/she admits it or not. It’s human to want to promote a perspective through any means, in this case film, and if anybody needed proof that your films have impacted modern society, I shall direct them to the God’s-Not-Dead franchise. Based merely on the box office sales and the user reviews on various cinematic websites, your company has connected with an audience. You have the money. You have the demand. You have your audience. You have the resources. Use them.
Tell a new story. Tell my family, my church, a new story. Invite people, Christians, atheists, anti theists, fallen Christians, Christians from various denominations, to a world unbeknownst to them. Granted, the tiff between the GSM community and the Christian community is still strained and stigmatized, to put it lightly, but c’mon. For crying out loud, shake it up a bit. The opportunity is there. Seize it. If you’re afraid you’ll offend someone, I’m sorry, but that’s not gonna cut it anymore. Since when has offending someone scared you? I’ll step back again and apologize if I sounded harsh, but as I mentioned in this letter’s introduction, I’ve mulled over this for months. Years, actually. It’s about time your Pure Flix audience realize there are men, women, and teens in their churches struggling with reconciling sexuality with faith. So if I sound sardonic, please forgive me. My passion can carry me away, just like anybody else.
In my previous articles, I’ve lamented over the divide between Christians and GSM community, how we’ve resorted to hurling insults at one another instead of sitting down, sorting our differences, and acknowledging each other’s humanity. I can’t imagine a more efficient form, aside from film, that can accomplish this task. Granted, I’m sure there are examples that will prove me wrong, but film embodies a unique articulation, its own language and style. There’s something mystical (excuse me as I cringe at that corny description) about film, something about moving pictures that evokes action, feeling, and emotion, that literature can’t. I would understand if you don’t have access to the means, but you do. At this point, you have the might. You’ve established yourself as a capable forerunner of this particular “sub-sub genre”, for lack of a better term. You can do this. In a way, it’s your duty. Nothing in your career would please me more than for you to delve into this exciting realm of creativity, to fulfill this duty. For years, I wanted someone to be my voice, to lend some element of humanity to the GSM community. It would mean a lot to me if that voice was you.
As I conclude this elongated plea, David, I’m calling you David, I honestly can’t say much more. It has been laid out before you at this point, so the decision is yours. I suppose all I can do now is strongly implore you. Consider your unrepresented demographic. It might be the promising direction in your filmography. Even if it turns into a flop, at least you tried. At least you took a risk, and from what I’ve read, true art is risk. Whether or not the film’s themes and morals clash with your general audience should be disregarded. Every project or film you make should be something you take pride in, and even if I disagree with your perspective, I can still respect you. As a brother of Christ and a friend.
And I do.
Take care, David. God bless you. May every decision you make be for His glory, and may you uphold human decency and love through a medium we both cherish: film.