If Christians are guilty of peddling cheesy morality plays dressed up as real cinema, Hollywood is equally culpable for churning out trite pull-at-the-heartstrings dramas about young women desperate to kill their babies.
These sagas are often woven into television storylines and sometimes made into a movie like the critically acclaimed “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” a 2020 film about a pair of young women who travel from Pennsylvania to New York so one of them can have an abortion without parental consent.
Judging from the film’s trailer, the dour-faced protagonist Autumn, played by Sidney Flanigan, finds herself in vague but troubling circumstances with men (likely to hammer the point home about toxic masculinity even if it later becomes clear that she has been abused).
In a stunning turn of events, at least one Academy Award voter refused to even watch this made-to-order Oscar bait, saying he has “ZERO interest in watching a woman cross state lines so someone can murder her unborn child.”
According to Variety, the film’s director, Eliza Hittman, shared a screen shot of an email a publicist received from Oscar-winning filmmaker Kieth Merrill expressing his disdain for the flick’s pro-abortion subject matter.
“I received the screener but as a Christian, the father of 8 children and 39 grandchildren. AND pro-life advocate, I have ZERO interest in watching a woman cross state lines so someone can murder her unborn child, ” the email from “The Great American Cowboy” documentarian explained.
He went on to assert that “75,000,000 of us recognize abortion for the atrocity it is,” coming suspiciously close to the number of votes President Donald Trump received in the 2020 election.
“There is nothing heroic about a mother working so hard to kill her child,” Merrill continued. “Think about it!”
Hittman had originally shared this email in a since-deleted Instagram post now published in Variety, and her caption was just as cookie-cutter woke as the subject of her film.
This is an email sent to NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS director Eliza Hittman (misnaming her) by an Oscar-winning Academy member detailing his refusal to watch her film pic.twitter.com/ZgpSJzDYFS
— Erik Anderson (@awards_watch) February 26, 2021
“I have dedicated the last year of my life to promoting [“Never Rarely Sometimes Always”] and doing teen talks/ outreach with Planned Parenthood,” Hittman wrote.
“As we reach the homestretch of awards season, I am very aware that the film is still on the edges of being a true contender,” she continued.
“This email came in last night and was a harsh reminder that the Academy is still so painfully monopolized by an old white puritanical male guard.
“I wonder how many other voters out there won’t watch the film,” she mused, ending with the hashtag #oscarssopuritanical.
Despite attempts by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to become less white, it has been roundly criticized for its lack of diversity among the winners of its prestigious Oscar.
Variety reached out to Merrill for a rebuttal, and his lengthier email to the publication is almost better than his initial comment.
He graciously admitted that Hittman’s movie “is an expression of who she is. My absence of interest in watching her film is an expression of who I am” and offered that they are both “equally valid in our choices, what we do, and how we choose to live our lives.”
While he praised Hittman for her “obvious talent, passion and opinions” and confirmed he does “respect her right to express them however she likes,” he didn’t back down.
Mittman hit back against her problems with his age and his moral code.
“I have been a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for 46 years,” he wrote.
“‘Puritanical?’ I go to church, pray to God and believe in Jesus Christ. I embrace traditional values and believe in moral agency. I try to love my neighbors — hard as that is sometimes,” he continued.
“Does that make me ‘puritanical’? Maybe, but if you knew me, you would need to take away the adjectives that give the word the negative connotation you intended. I am not prudish, austere, stuffy, stiff, rigid, narrow-minded, bigoted or fanatical,” he wrote. “I am in fact, quite the opposite.”
That admission alone was refreshing in an industry that routinely depicts violence, perverse sexuality, materialism and other filth as normal while simultaneously shunning its more tame, traditional films on the basis of newly identified racial sins.
But Merrill didn’t stop there, confronting his problem with the abortion theme head-on.
“For me, there is nothing entertaining or inspiring about killing unborn babies,” Merrill wrote.
“I chose not to watch Eliza’s film because it legitimizes abortion. I don’t watch horror films or movies with graphic sex or gratuitous violence or radical social agendas, less Eliza feels singled out,” he explained.
“I believe abortion is wrong in all but the most extreme circumstances. Not only wrong, I believe it is an evil, and incomprehensible atrocity,” Merrill added, noting that the Academy has “366 feature films in contention for best picture Oscar, plus documentaries and shorts. I cannot watch them all.”
The film has predictably been a favorite among the left-leaning critics, garnering 99 percent approval and a “Certified Fresh” rating from them on Rotten Tomatoes, although it received only 20 percent approval from real people in the audience.
Hollywood routinely uses its bully pulpit to shape public opinion on issues like politics, race, radical gender theory and even abortion.
Since dissenting voices are hard to hear over the din of major studios’ monopoly, these narratives are continually pushed, reinforced and repackaged for the next project.
The story of a young woman facing a crisis pregnancy is very dramatic and in some ways very tragic, although not for the reasons the movie seems to present.
It’s a tragedy that a teen is sexually active, that she has an unexpected pregnancy and that she’s been mistreated by the men in her life.
But most of all, it’s a tragedy that these circumstances would bring across two states to intentionally make a decision about her child — and her mother’s future grandchild — without her mother’s consent.
The way movies like this use those sad circumstances as the framework to pull in another item on the agenda — like preventing any restrictions on abortions — is sinister and manipulative as well.
Just as Christian filmmakers shouldn’t make another saccharine one-dimensional film about the power of conversion, Hollywood doesn’t need another melodrama to push the abortion agenda — and it’s nice to know there’s at least one filmmaker in the Academy who agrees.
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