Message to Dan Brown: Blasphemy Doesn't Pay

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Writing in Human Events, intrepid journalist Mary Claire Kendall consults IMDb, sets up a Good Christian/Bad Christian smackdown, and finds conclusive proof of divine justince in Hollywood box office receipts:

Now, it's time to weigh the hype against the raw numbers.

The Da Vinci Code grossed a mere $102,481,037 (U.S.) its first week…

The Passion's first week U.S. take was $144.6 million–a figure all the more impressive considering that it cost less than one-fourth what The Code cost to make and significantly less to market…

But then Hollywood should know what Cecil B. DeMille, producer of The Ten Commandments, knew: Blasphemy doesn't pay.

Tim Cavanaugh explained why Jesus should thank Dan Brown earlier this month, and Jesse Walker explored the Da Vinci fan base here.

NEXT: As Seen on TV: Non-Stick Graven Images!

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  1. A mere 107 million dollars?!?

    Am I missing something here?

  2. Maybe Brown and the producers should have waited a few more centuries following the publication of the book before they came out with the movie.

    Anyway, this is apples and oranges. What ‘Passion’ delivered (biblical depiction/religiously inspired snuff) is somewhat rare, while we get to see Hanks playing a gay, retarded detective in an action packed thriller based on the best selling novel – or its equivalent – dozens of times a year. If Hollywood started producing biblical movies with the same frequency, they’d be lucky to pull 25 pieces of silver with each one. Saturation makes the difference.

  3. Blasphemy doesn’t pay.

    It seems to pay in the realm of book sales. 🙂

  4. Could the difference actually be something else? Like, maybe, Passion was a better movie?

    I’m sorry – I’ve read the Da Vinci Code and the nicest thing I can say about it is that it’s… legible.

    I mean, there are plenty of worse books out there, but this book is to theology and history what Chariots of the Gods was to astronomy. It doesn’t even break any new conspiracy theory ground!

    Focault’s Pendulum is a much better conspiracy-thriller.

  5. “Focault’s Pendulum is a much better conspiracy-thriller.”

    I’ll second that.

  6. Aw, c’mon, it may not have been deep theology, but it was a fun read.

  7. The movie blew chuncks, and the writing in the novel was pedestrian at best. After being told by scads of people that I simply “must” read this earth shaking novel, I caved and read the wretched thing.

    Tom Clancy this guy ain’t.

    /But then Clancy isn’t Clancy anymore.

  8. the novel was pure supermarket fiction. Illuminatus and Focault’s Pendulum are much better reads.

  9. A mere 107 million dollars?!?

    Am I missing something here?

    Yeah, and that’s not even adjusting for inflation.

  10. The best thing about The Da Vinci Code (the book; I haven’t seen the movie) is the ending, which basically boils down to, “You know that wild scavenger hunt you’ve been on? A phone call from Grandma would have worked just as well.”

    I’m sorry, did I say “best”? I meant “stupidest.”

  11. Never got more than twenty poorly written pages into the book, but I did like the font. Book Antigua, perhaps?

  12. Oh, now, Jesse – you just ruined the ending for the 5 or 6 people who haven’t read the book yet!

  13. Every member of my family recommended the book as a great read. I didn’t even make it half way through. The story is predictable and the writing is awful.

    When I was 7, my brother said I was left on the doorstep. I thought he was joking. I’m not so sure now.

  14. Illuminatus and Focault’s Pendulum are much better reads.

    Emme,

    I have to disagree with you there. Focault’s Pendulum sucks. Overwritten balderdash. Umberto Eco may be a professor of Semiotics and he’d be awesome at a spelling-bee but the guy needs an editor.

    For me, The Da Vinci Code proves that I’d rather read a potboiler than so called ‘literature’ any day of the week.

  15. What does it means that X-Men 3 grossed $123 million despite being a gay metaphor told with character who are the next step in evolution? Surely, there must be some blasphemy in there.

  16. I liked The da Vinci Code as a movie (haven’t read the book yet), but it struck me that this was hardly groundbreaking. For example, this whole elevation of Mary Magdalene was done on Chris Carter’s Millennium back in the 90’s. For that matter, Millennium‘s whole Season Two handled these themes in much more skillful ways than the da Vinci Code – though I’ll concede that the da Vinci Code does give us something beautiful and unique, which is Audrey Tautou. Mmm….

  17. The Passion was actually better than the book(s) it was based upon, which I thought sucked much worse than The Da Vinci Code. Still, both books and both movies suck pretty bad.

  18. The book is really popular so I don’t like it. Lots of people said it was good so I think it sucked. Lots of people have goldfish so I don’t want one. The most popular dog is a Rottweiler so I won’t own one. Everyone on my block likes the house on the corner so I like the one next to it better. Metallica is a popular band so I think they’re subpar. I want to be different, even if I have to go *way* out of my way to do so.

  19. The lesson is that making really radical movie and getting a lot of controversy is the best marketing move you can make. Gibson knew that making The Passion gory and using the same filming techniques used in horror movies would push all the right buttons for a lot of people to get outraged and that their outrage would cause a lot of other people to feel it was their religous duty to go and see the movie. Say what you want about the Passion, but there is no denying that whatever you think of Gibson and the movie you couldn’t help but want to see the damn thing just to see what the fuss was about. Does anyone really feel that same curiosity about DVC? I don’t think so.

  20. sage +P,

    Huh. I don’t dislike all popular works. In fact, I like quite a few. I wasn’t all that interested in Brown’s magnum opus to begin with (I’m not sure why–I like history, even the fake kind) and might not have attempted it at all but for my mother giving me a copy. I hadn’t heard anything about the writing being crappy at that point–I decided that for myself pretty quickly. I can tolerate some of that, whether it’s bad style, bad plotting, whatever. I rather like Stephen King and some early Clancy, and I believe that they were somewhat popular, too.

    Of course, everyone else here hates it because they hate anything that the hoi polloi like 🙂

  21. Hey, you see those hedges lining my driveway? They’re really hardy, require hardly any care, and make a nice border with the yard. But they’re also the same hedges you see in so many yards in my county. So I’m ripping them out. Even if all that’s left are a bunch of ugly dirt craters, at least I can say I don’t run with the crowd.

  22. Blashphemy doesn’t pay? What about E.T.? Where in the bible does it say an alien came down to earth, was persecuted, bathed, healed the sick, died, was resurrected, and flew up into space, huh?

    Oh–never mind.

  23. “Of course, everyone else here hates it because they hate anything that the hoi polloi like :)”

    Pretty much. The DVC was entertaining. Dan Brown did not mean it to be taken seriously. I think the part where the lead character talks about how Walt Disney spent his life trying to protect the secrets of the grail, shows that the gig was kind of up. I don’t why people can’t just take the book as entertainment and appreciate it as such.

  24. John, I’m certainly not bothered by anything in The Da Vinci Code. I just didn’t like it. That’s subjective, and I’m not at all condemning people who do like it. There are plenty of crappy books on my shelves, after all 🙂

  25. Pro,

    Everyone deserves a guilty pleasure now and then. Mine are the DVC and the occasional rock and roll biography.

  26. sage+P,

    Such an astute observation. It’s amazing how well you know the readers here, it couldn’t possibly be that they actually didn’t like the book, oh no. Sage indeed! Wanna guess my favorite colour?

  27. Well, fellow, I’ve noticed that everyone seems to like blue. So I like mauve. Also, every face I’ve seen today has a nose on it. Well that’s the end of that. I’m lopping that sucker off as soon as I get home.

  28. On the undercard: Omega Code 2 vs The Celestine Prophecy.

  29. Oh, so you’re just trolling then. Nevermind.

    My favorite parts of TDC was where the author bent over backward to say that Jesus was not divine and had a family. But then somehow Mary Magdalene was divine. Except when she wasn’t. That and how the holy Grail wasn’t in fact the chalice, but rather a metaphor for Mary. OK fine, but where’s the damn chalice?

    Mark,

    Foucault’s Pendulum was a bit cumbersome at times, but overall there was actual character development, which is nice in a novel.

  30. “Everyone deserves a guilty pleasure now and then. Mine are the DVC and the occasional rock and roll biography. ”

    Mine are books by David Icke. I’m embarrased to even be posting about it.

  31. If Passion was held to the same critical standards as other movies, it would have been declared to be utter crap. It was merely death porn without any type of plot or story to speak of. Unless you have received a lifetime of Christian indoctrination, it is hard to tell the difference between Passion and other ridiculous splatter fests like House of 1000 Corpses and Freddy vs Jason.

  32. Scott, was it that bad? I’ve been steering clear of it, having no strong desire to see a Jesus gore-fest. Guess it is even worse than I thought.

    Doing a good Jesus movie has got to be really tough. The story is worth telling, but you’ve got a big problem with the fact that your audience has very definite ideas about what the movie should include and what it should not. Even making Jesus more human in order to play up the dramatic effect is dangerous territory.

  33. Emme,

    Who is David Icke and why is reading him a guilty pleasure?

  34. Emme,

    Who is David Icke and why is reading him a guilty pleasure?

  35. I don’t think the Passion was that bad. I think people react badly to it because it is such a gory and hard film to watch. That said, it has some really great cinimatography and an amazing performance by the guy who played Jesus. My only bitch about the movie is that most Romans in 1st Century Judea would have spoken Greek not Latin. But, I guess since we really don’t know what 1st Century Greek sounded like and do know what Latin sounds like, it was a necessary sacrifice.

  36. Hey Sage!

    ha ha 🙂 LOL!

    i read the first chapter of the Code – full disclosure: I’m a “Spenser” fan. Read “Jesse Stone” (also by Robert Parker – basically same story, same plots, same fight scenes as Spenser, different character), too. Sara Peretsky (VI Warshawski) is okay. So, does that establish my pulp cred?

    But I stopped reading duh vinchi after the first chapter – this top european hitman didn’t finish the fucking job. what a fucking asshole. so i threw the book across the room, and picked up Greene’s “Econometric Analysis” and bludgeoned myself unconscious.

    how does that fit into the “up is down” world with mauve dirt trenches? (also – more grins from your post – remember the Life of Brian scene “we’re all individuals”. hilarious stuff!)

    cheers!
    VM

  37. If Passion was held to the same critical standards as other movies, it would have been declared to be utter crap. It was merely death porn without any type of plot or story to speak of. Unless you have received a lifetime of Christian indoctrination, it is hard to tell the difference between Passion and other ridiculous splatter fests like House of 1000 Corpses and Freddy vs Jason.

    I’m sorry, but I must object to these movie being lumped together. House of 1000 Corpses is infinitely better than either The Passion or Freddy vs Jason.

    Oh, wait a minute, I’m confusing House of 1000 Corpses with Zombie’s other firm, the Devil’s Rejects, the latter being infinitely better than the former, and The Passion as well.

  38. Passion was bad, really bad. Unless you have some type of emotional connection to the whole Messiah angle, it was nothing more than a terrible horror movie with less plot and dialog then your average porno flick. It is a film school version of a torture scene that would have never made it in the final cut of a movie like Hostel or Devil’s Rejects. Think about Tobe Hooper or Clive Barker working without a story or script but plenty of special effects and you get the idea.

  39. Moose, don’t you dare go a dig a mauve trench in your yard. I just got through with mine and it’s the only one, dammit! I actually saw my neighbor eyeing it this morning, but I hope it was only out of disgust at my display of nonconformity.

    😉

  40. sage:
    🙂
    oh yeah! you get a first class ticket on the pigskin bus to tuna town 🙂

    woo hoo!

  41. I won’t ride the bus there, as the bus is a popular mode of transportation. Alas, so is walking. I’ll drag myself there with my lips, how’s that?

  42. Doesn’t everyone know that Jesus, Mary M, RW Wilson Mel Gibson, and Dan Brown are all Annuakki lizards from the planet Nibiru?

    Icke is a huckstering clod!

  43. Yeah a Christian snuff flick did better than DVC so what? Reviewers in the UK have trashed the DVC as being a bloody boring movie. I certainly would prefer watching DVC to The Passion that is for sure.

  44. Who is David Icke and why is reading him a guilty pleasure?

  45. The relative merits of the movies notwithstanding, the original thought of this blog is worth remembering: the author in question, Mary Claire Kendall, has put the idiocy back into theodicy.

  46. Didn’t read the book, saw the flick. It was OK, but I really couldn’t have cared less if any of the characters were run over by a truck, they all seemed rather generic.

    What I didn’t get was if Audrey Tautou is the last living relative of Jesus Christ, and several men know that, why did not a single one of those men show any obvious interest in having sex with her?

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