Old Fashioned—A Flawed Alternative to Fifty Shades of Grey

While the Christian world and its religious allies cry in the wilderness that sex is sacred; the rest of the world is rushing to see Fifty Shades of Grey. Over Saint Valentine’s Day weekend, the bacchanal film set a box-office record for an R-rated movie opening in the month of February—and thus the record set ironically by Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ eleven years ago has at last been eclipsed.

Too bad no cinematic faith-based masterpiece is out there to compete with the likes of “Fifty Shades.” Instead there’s a movie called Old Fashioned, a small independent film that timed its release to be the alternative to the sexually explicit, pornographically indulgent, and tagged as “smut for soccer moms” movie. One might ask: where’s Mel Gibson when you need him?

Old Fashioned is definitely an alternative to Fifty Shades of Grey. It may be praised for having the courage to call into question the absolutely commonly accepted morality of our time that sex has no inherent meaning—and certainly does not have an exclusively nuptial meaning. This movie may be called fresh and provocative for saying that it does. Unfortunately, while Old Fashioned dares to advocate a fresh counter-cultural view on sex and marriage, the movie is weighed down by weaknesses that cause it to ultimately fail as a good piece of cinematic art. There are many, including several Christian commentators who, rightly concerned about the culture war and the battle for truth in the public square, feel it is wrong to criticize a movie that’s on our side, for the sake of winning that war. However, those who make Christian-based movies need to do a better job in mastering the relationship between the film-making art and the advocacy of desperately needed Christian ideas and themes.

OF_Poster bigOld Fashioned is written and directed by Rik Swartzwelder who also plays the lead-role of the semi-reclusive Clay Walsh. The story is focused on a romance between Walsh who owns an antique store called “Old Fashioned,” located in a sleepy Midwestern college town, and Amber Hewson (Elizabeth Ann Roberts) a pretty, free-spirited divorced young woman, fleeing her physically abusive boyfriend. Amber seems completely nonplussed when her car runs out of gas and she ends up in this charming out-of-the-way village. But Amber, consistent with the free-spirited-type, is driving around the United States, going from town to town, staying only long enough in each locale to earn enough money to get back on the road again until running out of gas brings her to the next temporary destination.

When Amber rents the apartment above the Old Fashioned antique store, her new landlord, mopped-haired, frumpily-dressed Clay very strangely refuses to enter the apartment with her to show her around. Instead he remains outside the closed screen door, beyond the dwelling’s threshold. Amber asks him what’s the problem and Clay explains that he made a promise not to be alone with any woman who is not his wife. It turns out he doesn’t have a wife—he just has very fixed ideas about male/female relationships, courtship and dating. And it is this scene, already very early in the story, that shoves the film off course. Instead of easing the viewer into this odd character and his odd views, Old Fashioned immediately reveals its counter-cultural theme in the covert dialogue that now ensues between Clay and his new tenant. The viewer is introduced right away to Clay’s “old fashioned” ideas as he castigates our culture’s obsession with sex, lack of respect for women and the superficiality of dating that he pontificates doesn’t really prepare anyone for marriage.

This is the mistake that most faith-based movies fall into. Such movies can’t wait to do the preaching—as there’s certain anxiousness in the Christian film-maker that will not allow for subtlety and real story-line development. Since film is a visual medium, the rule should be “show-me—rather than tell me”—provide less sermonizing that depends on the spoken word—and more story-telling imagery that depends on the creative visual imagination.

Despite, or perhaps because of Clay’s unusual views, Amber is attracted to Clay and a romance slowly develops between them, but according to his rules. Thus their first “date” is humorously a kind of evangelical Christian pre-Cana session with the local minister. On all subsequent dates Clay and Amber pour through a compatibility manual. Amber who describes herself as “spiritual” but not into all that Bible teaching, is willing to go along with Clay’s ethical peculiarities.

But Clay has a past. When attending the local college he was a wild frat boy who slept with many women, and even produced a “girls gone wild” smut film. He also had a relationship with a girl named Kelly (Anne Marie Nestor) with whom he was unfaithful because she resisted sleeping with him. This caused Kelly to seek another boyfriend on the rebound, ironically allow herself to be seduced by him thus bearing a child out of wedlock.

Deeply affected by what happened to Kelly, Clay experiences a religious conversion by reading the Bible. With his new-found faith in Christ Clay radically repudiates his dissolute past and embraces a rigid ethical code when it comes to sex and respect for women.

The opposite point of view is expressed in the film by Clay’s buddies from college days. First there’s good-looking womanizer Brad, a radio show host who builds a national following based on his arrogant denigration of women as mere sex objects believing women want and enjoy carnal lust just as much as men do. Clay’s other friend is an African American named David (Lejon Woods). At first the viewer thinks he’s married, but it turns out that David is only living with his white girl friend Lisa (Nini Hadjis) and their young daughter. These characters both represent the immoral, what’s-wrong-with-our-culture, behavioral patterns in contrast to the Christian morality embraced by Clay and promoted by the film. The movie, while not sympathetic to Brad, kindly portrays David and Lisa as essentially decent people, who eventually do marry, thus bringing the couple in line with the film’s “sex is for marriage” message.

The movie provides at least two strong, well-crafted episodes. The first when Clay protests the appearance of a stripper at David’s bachelor party that results in the groom’s taking his own stand and dismissing her. A scene filled with genuine tension follows when the stripper’s burly “employer” physically threatens Clay since he interfered in her financial gains that evening. The other is the climatic episode of the film. Amber, after forcing herself to watch the smut tape, is now disillusioned about Clay and goes to the local bar. There she pairs off with the movie’s bad boy Brad who escorts her to his hotel where she lingers symbolically at threshold of his room. In the meantime, Kelly, in town for David and Lisa’s wedding, pays a visit to Clay at his home and apparently going against his own rules, she’s invited in, and is later shown exiting the next morning toting her suitcase. The dramatic tension engages the viewer who is made to wonder if the film’s romantic couple will fall into sin—and thus fall apart.

Old Fashioned presents a unique moral message that begs for a cinematic treatment but the film falters on a number of levels. The movie is much too slowly paced and thus creates a somewhat tedious viewing experience, the romance between Clay and Amber lacks real spark, tension and chemistry, their dialogue rarely rises beyond what is expected these characters would say to each other. For the majority of the film Rik Swartzwelder’s Clay is an emotionally monotone figure. The situation presented by the film, and Clay’s more than unusual ethics and behavior lend themselves to at least come comedic treatment—which would have greatly enhanced this film’s appeal, but such comedy never materializes. Clay’s great Aunt Zella (Dorothy Silver) is too conveniently sagacious and an obvious story-line-contrived mechanism by which Clay will allow himself to truly love Amber when the aged aunt admonishes him to no longer carrying around “ancient, crusty useless guilt like a trained pet poodle you want to show off … let it go.”

Finally, and regretfully, the movie’s point of view is crafted in the usual faith-based, Christian self awareness mode that just about guarantees only those already in agreement with its view of sex and respect for women will patronize it.

It is greatly hoped that committed Christian film makers will perfect their story-telling craft—learn to evolve beyond the preachy story. The trick is to present human drama more subtly and artfully informed by those Christian humanistic truths of which our culture is so desperately in need.

Monica Migliorino Miller

By

Monica Migliorino Miller is the Director of Citizens for a Pro-life Society and Associate Professor of Theology at Madonna University in Michigan. She holds a degree in Theatre Arts from Southern Illinois University and graduate degrees in Theology from Loyola University and Marquette University. She is the author of several books including The Theology of the Passion of the Christ (Alba House) and, most recently, The Authority of Women in the Catholic Church (Emmaus Road).

  • Kevin Aldrich

    Let’s applaud Rik Swartzwelder for writing and directing and somehow coming up with the financing to actually make a feature film that is on the side of chastity.

    I haven’t seen “Old Fashioned” but the problems Miller bemoans are common to these kinds of well-meaning “Christian” movies.

    It is extremely hard to write a script with ideals we can embrace and that is, at the same time, interesting to watch.

    Try it sometime.

    • “It is extremely hard to write a script with ideals we can embrace and that is, at the same time, interesting to watch.” – This statement seems to be true, and is (literally) “pro-vocative” for me: it provokes me to speculate a reason for this.

      The best sermons I have heard are not the artfully crafted ones by men with technical skill – not at all. Those are the most tedious one to endure. But the rare preacher whose words have an inner integrity, a source within of holiness, an unction not of this world or of mere human experience – such a man stands with one foot in this world, yes, but with the other somewhere else. More importantly, his heart is somewhere else, a place I want to be. He is bearing witness to that which I long for; he is speaking words that have a life beyond the air carrying them into my own hungry heart.

      If such saints were to be called to write scripts, maybe we could have movies fully worthy of the culture of life – they would be writers who are witnesses; they could be believed; they have been there, they have seen, they have heard the life they must then speak of.

    • WSquared

      I haven’t seen “Old Fashioned” but the problems Miller bemoans are common to these kinds of well-meaning “Christian” movies.

      Contrast these “Christian” movies with the likes of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. …the Granada TV series adaptation (not the recent movie) was rather good.

      • Nora

        I have seen both Brideshead Revisiteds and the modern one is terrible. Take my advice and don’t watch it. 😉 the Granada TV series was good, though I seriously like the book better.

        • WSquared

          Yeah, I saw the reviews. I think that was enough! 😉

      • Kevin Aldrich

        It begins with the interior depth and the skill of the writer.

        I just watched PLACES IN THE HEART (1984) which is deeply Christian, never preachy, full of conflict, and emotionally moving.

  • Scott W.

    Excellent point about Christian movies being too eager to get to the preaching. There is another reason I tend to avoid Christian movies. I have no interest in watching (and I’ve already caught flack for this, so please don’t bother) Mel Gibson’s Passion because in spite of it being touted as being in original languages, it primarily speaks a language I grew weary of long ago. Movie critic James Bowman explains:

    “For although much publicity has been given to the fact that the screenplay is in Aramaic, the language of Jesus, and Latin, the language of the Roman imperial authorities, much less well known is the fact that it is also in a third language and that is Movieish, the language of the long line of cinematic sufferers that have come before this Jesus and that cannot but distract us from a proper consideration of what is, after all, meant to be a unique event in human history.

    Nor is it only the scourging and beating which is written in Hollywoodese. Allusions to other movies range from Chuckie-like child sprites out of mainstream horror flicks to a pale Bergmanian devil with a dramatically gratuitous snake to certify his scriptural authenticity. There is even at one point a computer-animated movie demon like something out of The Devil’s Advocate or The Ninth Gate. This kind of thing I found at least as dislocating to the sense of occasion as if, instead of Latin and Aramaic, the movie had been made in Brooklynese. All of which is simply to say that The Passion of the Christ is like every other Mel Gibson picture in being ridiculously overproduced.”

    I would guess my allergy to Christian movies is similar to my allergy to Christian lyrics set to pop, rock, and rap music. Pop-culture ephemera has a worldly and thus, trivializing effect on the sacred. It is giving what is holy to dogs. (The medium, not the people doing it whom I have no doubt are sincere.)

    • s;vbkr0boc,klos;

      Great points. Worth noting that this film has a ‘gay’ S&M following. Also, Mel Gibson in his films as director again and again shows handsome young men naked in close up being hideously tortured. Seems to have a ‘thing’ about it.

      • Scott W.

        Perverts can pervert anything even if that thing is not fertile ground for it. I am reluctant to make any speculations about the inner-workings of Mr. Gibson’s mind.

        • Laurence Charles Ringo

          There’s no need to speculate inre Mr.Gibson’s mind,Scott W.Gibson himself spewed the innerworkings of his mind a long time ago.

          • Scott W.

            Let me recommend this article: http://www.mark-shea.com/name1.html

            Perhaps you will disagree with it, but it is at least worth considering. God bless.

            • Laurence Charles Ringo

              Hmm…I just read the article by Mr.Shea,and I disagree with it from Jesus’ on perspective concerning the nature of fallen mankind–Read the Gospel of Mark,Chapter 7,verses 20-23,and mull and reflect,Scott W.Whose analysis of human nature had the ring of truth, Jesus’,or Mr.Shea. (By the way,if you’ll notice,Mr.Shea didn’t seem to think Scripture had anything to add to the conversation;he did cite one single Biblical verse or paragraph to make his case.One may view the Scriptural view of mankind as heretical,but I’ll Jesus’ Word over man concerning how and what he is ALL.DAY.LONG. –PEACE IN CHRIST.

              • fredx2

                What you really mean is that you will take your own personal interpretation of scripture over anything else. There is a difference.

                • Welcome to Sola Scriptura.

                  • His isn’t even a good rendition of Sola Scriptura. He’s in that Tradition Zero crowd that says, “Me and My Bible, period.”

                    It’s more arrogant than any Pope ever was.

                    • Laurence Charles Ringo

                      Seriously,Anglicanae? I myself can think of few pronouncments more loaded with both arrogance and folly than Boniface VIII’s”Unam Sanctum”;he may as well declared the popes”gods”,or worse,put Almighty God in charge of THEM,the popes.I’m convinced only someone insane would utter something so…well,insane.

                    • You never did tell us how Luther “got it right” when he pronounced marriage to be a civil contract, something to be regulated by the state.

                      How ironic that he became allied with a former foe, Henry Tudor in rendering marriage temporary and fragile.

                      Of course Satan had ‘much worse purposes in mind, and was willing to wait five centuries…

                      This is not a good way to go through life…

                      By the way. Luther. Moo.

                    • Laurence Charles Ringo

                      Hmmm…Yeah…No,I wasn’t talking about marriage,DE -173;as a celibate of some 25 years standing and a lifelong batchelor,there’s not a lot I can say about marriage at all.What I was referring to was how Almighty God raised up Luther and used him to wrest the Scriptures from the centuries-long yoke of bondage placed upon them by roman catholicism.That’s what I was talking about. Can you give any historical evidence to back up your assumptions that all marriages everywhere fell under the jurisdiction of the roman catholic church? I doubt it.So,we’re not even talking about the same thing…Really;marriage??

                    • If you are going to troll, be less windy when evading a question.

                    • Laurence Charles Ringo

                      Sigh…I’m not sure what kind of “answer ” would satisfy you, DE -173;as I’ve already said,I’m a lifelong batchelor and 25 year celibate;whatever Luther or anyone else says about marriage has little interest to me.If I was a catholic I would probably be a monk (do you still have those?)–So,again…you have lost me.Let’s move on,shall we?

                  • Objectivetruth

                    Larry carefully and meticulously vetted all 30,000 Protestant denominations to make sure the community he belongs to is undoubtedly the “true” church. I heard Christ personally gave him the authority to do this over breakfast. Cap’n Crunch and Krispy Kremes, I believe.

                    • Shhhh…. don’t tell Larry his New Testament is part of Tradition. He might short-circuit.

                • Laurence Charles Ringo

                  What I mean is exactly what I said,Fredx2. If you actually find Jesus’ Words in the passage from the Gospel of Mark I advised Scott W to read so extraordinarily difficult to understand,I can’t help you with that.PEACE IN CHRIST.

                  • Objectivetruth

                    Oy……I’m tempted to ask what your personal interpretation is of John 6, but I gave up watching horror shows for lent.

                    • Not me, I’ve got my popcorn. Cannot wait to see what other profound insights our comment troll has for us.

                    • Laurence Charles Ringo

                      You don’t have to ask,ObjectiveTruth…the man you catholics claim as your first”pope ” warned against such in 2nd Peter 1 : 20 -21,so…And the same applies to you as it does to Fredx2. What Jesus said in the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 7, verses 20-23;it’s a statement concerning mankind’s fallen nature,simply put.If you disagree with The Saviour’s analysis,that’s not my problem.–PEACE IN HIM.

                    • Well, Laurence, since you divide yourself from “you catholics,” what on earth do you say when you confess the Nicene of Apostles’ Creed when it gets to the article about the Catholic Church? Do you just not say that part? Or do you (I’m going out on a limb here) condemn those creeds as unworthy of confession? I’m going to guess you reject Creeds as another idolatry no doubt.

                    • Objectivetruth

                      Im also afraid to ask him who he thinks put the canon of Scripture together. I’d hate to burst his bubble and tell him no…….Christ didn’t walk around handing out leather bound King James versions.

                    • Although as an Anglican I’d be willing to propagate that apocryphal hagiography since nothing has come close to the KJV.

                    • Hey, when are you headed over to St. Agnes?
                      Get on it man.

                    • Already made my first move. The priest knows my intentions. It’s a slow process, but it has started. We’ll keep you abreast for sure.

                    • RufusChoate

                      You’re in my prayers, Anglicanae. God bless and guide you.

                    • Laurence Charles Ringo

                      That’s almost clever,ObjectiveTruth…What Jesus, Paul, Peter, John and the other disciples / apostles read,taught, and preached from was the Tanakh,or what is also known as the Torah and/or the Old Covenant.When Jesus stood up to read from the Isaiah Scroll in the synagogue in Luke 4 : 16-21,I’m sure He didn’t have to wonder whether or not He had the right scroll.Same with the Apostle Philip in his interaction with the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-35:do you think that Philip wondered where the Ethiopian aquired his copy of Isaiah? When the Berean Jews…”searched the Scriptures daily to see if what Paul taught was true”…(Acts 17:11),what”council”put those Scriptures together for them? I could go on,but I would hope that you will realize that the question of”who”put the Bible together is simply a non-question to many people. Since it is The Word of God,it could be argued that HE put His Word together,and that wouldn’t be wrong.Sure,it’s clear that He used designated individuals who helped compiled Holy Writ,but The Word of God was that long before any given council

                    • Objectivetruth

                      “but I would hope that you will realize that the question of”who”put the Bible together is simply a non-question to many people”

                      Why should it be a “non-question” to many people? the intent and the purpose of those (the four councils of the Catholic Church) who chose which books were inspired to be included is not important? You don’t find it important from an authoritative perspective why these councils chose Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but not to include the Didache, the Book of Hermes, the Gospel of Peter in to the canon of scripture?

                      And Anglicanae had brought this point up before: you do realize that the writings of the New Testament are just Catholic oral Tradition put to quill and parchment? So don’t you agree that the Catholic Church should have authority over its own Tradition?

                      So shouldn’t then who put the bible together be the most important question to someone trying to interpret its sometimes complicated passages?

                    • Laurence Charles Ringo

                      What I agree with,and gladly,is that the ONLY ONE who has authority over HIS WORD is Almighty God alone,certainly not mere men who’ve more than adequately proven that it’s sheer folly to trust them to “get it right”,as it were.Now,let me say this, and I will be done with this issue. When you or anyone on these sites speak of”catholic”,if your reference is to small “c”-catholic in the sense of ALL baptized Christians everywhere comprising the Body of Christ of which HE is the Head,from my perspective you have it right.This X-amount of denominations you are forever bringing up is meaningless to me; I’m not into denominationalism and frankly wouldn’t care if there were a million denominations in existence;so what? Further,I’m pretty sure I’ve made it clear that I reject the strained,bogus interpretation catholicism has put on verses like Matthew 16 : 17,18 and John 20:21-23,as well as Acts 2:38,interpretations used to bolster your invention of the so-called”papacy”,the sacredotal priesthood,and baptismal regeneration;you know as well as I do that even some of the most revered and respected”church fathers”,as you call them,rejected the idea of the papacy,and rightly so; Boniface VIII’s”Unam Sanctum”illustrated how nonsensical that concept is. (Frankly, I think Boniface was insane,but that’s just me.)—As for your tiresome claims of the Bible being a ” Catholic”book,here’s a newsflash for you: ONLY CATHOLICS BELIEVE THAT.My earlier contentions still stand,but for you,ObjectiveTruth, I’ll gladly repeat them: The Scriptures that Jesus, Paul, Peter, and all the other disciples / apostles preached,taught, and proclaimed Christ as Lord and Saviour from WERE NOT GIVEN TO THEM BY THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH, PERIOD,and NO amount of revisionist tweaking and parsing will make it so.As for the other,the much misunderstood “Sola Scriptura”question,I don’t much concern myself with that either.My mantra is this: If Scripture was good enough for The Saviour,it’s good enough for me(Luke 24:25-27;44-49–Look! No bogus”tradition”,something our Saviour wasn’t too fond of,as He Himself made abundantly clear.)—So,are far as I’m concerned,ObjectiveTruth,two passages will ALWAYS inform me that my dealings with my Father God and His Word will ALWAYS be right and need not the approval of ANY self-proclaimed ecclesiastical body: Proverbs 3 : 5-6 from the Old,2nd Timothy 3 : 14-16 from the New. (By the way,who do you think gave Timothy’s people the Scriptures they taught him from? Which supposed “council”insured that the…”Sacred Scriptures, which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”… (same passage.) were the right Scriptures? There didn’t seem to be any doubt in Paul’s mind,and neither is there any in mine.So,I’m done with this issue,and let us move on.As Luther said,”Here I Stand”,and have stood for almost 40 years,and will stand as long as JESUS IS LORD—PEACE IN HIM.

                    • Objectivetruth

                      Never let the Truth goes in the way of a good rant, eh Larry?

                    • Objectivetruth

                      *chuckle!*

                      I’ve got to admit Larry, you’ve got passion son……as misdirected as it is!

                      A simple request, though: could ya lob a couple of more periods into your run-on sentences?! Your posts read like a truck going down hill without brakes or a steering wheel, son!

                      Question LCR. Who would know more of what the apostles taught and about Christ’s teachings and intentions: the men who were taught directly by the apostles (Polycarp, Ignatius of Antioch, for example.) Or men who lived 1500 years after the apostles died (Luther, Calvin for example.)

                      Which men would have more direct knowledge and know better what Christ taught and what He wanted?

                    • Laurence Charles Ringo

                      Sigh…I’m not sure what…”I’m done with this issue”…is unclear to you,ObjectiveTruth,but I stand by EVERYTHING I said . Perhaps you are under the impression that your snarky comments will gain you an audience,and perhaps they will,but not with me.God bless you.

                    • Objectivetruth

                      Stop fighting the truth, Larry! Come home to the Catholic Church….

                      In fact, pick up a copy of the book “Surprised by Truth.” You’ll enjoy it.

                    • Laurence Charles Ringo

                      O.K…I had told myself that I wouldn’t engage you again, Anglicanae,but I see a small window of possible understanding here,so…I want to be clear here: I have NO problem with the Creeds; most Protestants accept them as far as it goes.Of course there are what should be minor interpretative differences between our ecclesiastical constructs (Protestant /Catholic),but on the whole most Protestants accept the teachings of the Creeds for one primary reason: they reflect clear Biblical theology,and most of their claims have a clear Scriptural foundation.So…there you have it.

                    • Just to be clear, I don’t have any problem earnestly discussing with love and respect people who differ from me. I fired back at you when you tied in the charge of idolatry to my post: a serious charge, and most unfounded and unjust. There are knowledgeable Protestants and then there are ignorant reactionaries who use the term with next to no context or understanding. I am hoping you will lay down your offensiveness to have a real discussion, otherwise it seems you just wanted to stop by to flame Catholics.

                      On to your points:

                      “I have NO problem with the Creeds; ”
                      Well, great! That’s like saying, “I have no problem with church authority.” Or like an American saying, “I have no problem with the Declaration of Independence.” These Creeds are definitive for us. We treasure them because they are pure teaching. They have the imprint of Apostolic teaching. To ignore them is perilous. We don’t merely have no problem with them, we positively need them.

                      “On the whole most Protestants accept the teachings of the Creeds for one primary reason: they reflect clear Biblical theology”

                      Of course, as do Catholics. The question is, when the Creed says something like, “I acknowledge Baptism for the remission of sins,” do you have to rework it in your mind to make it say something else?

                    • Laurence Charles Ringo

                      Hmm…O.K.My apologies for offending you inre my idolatry remark; obviously I misunderstood you,and ask your pardon.As far as some supposed need for the Creeds,sure;as they reflect Scriptural teachings on the whole, we need them like we need Scripture,…”Man shall not live by bread alone,but by every Word that proceeds out of the Mouth of God”…(Matthew 4:4)–As for the issue of authority,I’m sure you know where most Protestants stand on that part issue. Authority and Interpretation is where we part company with Roman Catholics,and I’m not sure there will ever be an authentic meeting of the minds in that regard.Also,if your last question is in regard to the doctrine of what is known as Baptismal Regeneration,again,interpretation is the sticking point.To be fair,there are some Protestant denominations that hold to the idea of baptismal regeneration,but I myself do not,given that I was nowhere near any water when I was born again almost 40 years ago(I can literally remember the experience as though it happened yesterday;in fact St.Cyprian’s own experience nearly mirrored my own; when I read it I was astonished!).So,there it is,Anglicanae.I have been a born-again, blood-bought, Spirit-filled child / servant of Almighty God for 38 years, and it’s been a life-transforming, life-saving, life-giving relationship with the Living God who promised to…”never leave nor forsake me”… (Hebrews13 : 5c.)–I freely admit that in my zeal to defend my faith, I’m always the most diplomatic person(As you can see,LOL!),so,pray for me,and God bless you!

                    • Apology accepted, all is forgiven.

                      I appreciate your zeal, friend. The fire is needed in such a frigid wasteland of unbelief and apostasy.

                      That said, I would ask you to reflect on how St. Cyprian would have thought about his baptism. If he is a model for us in any sense, we must consider his theology too. No one saint is our guide, of course, but since he is celebrated East and West, we ought to weigh heavily his thoughts about our own theology.

                      You ought to reflect on Luther’s own writings about the gift of holy baptism, too. Phenomenal stuff.

                      Blessings.

                    • Laurence Charles Ringo

                      I will certainly peruse what Cyprian said in regards baptism,and Luther as well.I’ve not given any serious study of the Reformation per se;I keep finding myself constantly distracted by other issues in my studies.I am semi-retired,and I do spend the majority of my time studying Ecclesiastical History and Theology ,primarily Evangelical Theology,naturally.I have been studying Roman Catholicism for over 25 years,so I do know quite a bit about it.Even so,I’m a lifelong reader,so I’m always eager to learn(Although I’m afraid Newman’s maxim that…”to study history is to cease to be Protestant”…is definitely NOT working in my case,LOL!)–I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not your enemy,Anglicanae,or any of my”separated brethren(or sisters ); we just don’t agree on some theological issues,and may never.But I would like to think that I would come to the aid of ANY Christian,whatever ecclesiastical construct they submit themselves to . Matthew 25 : 31-40 all the way!! Thanks,and God bless.

                    • Objectivetruth

                      Hmmmmmmm….then who does have the authority to properly interpret scripture? I’ve often wondered…..

                    • Laurence Charles Ringo

                      Wonder no more,ObjectiveTruth…The Holy Spirit has the authority to properly interpret Scripture.Who else? Read Proverbs 3 : 5-6;that particular verse will clarify things for you. (Or not..? )

            • RufusChoate

              That was actually a very good post from Mark Shea (apparently before he became a cranky old middle aged man). Thanks and God bless.

  • FrankW

    A couple of things: First, I appreciate the fact that someone out there is trying to make counter-cultural movies that offer an alternative “Fifty shades”. And yes, I agree that many times, the counter-cultural answer movies can’t wait to preach, and that can be very over-bearing. That said, I’d still like to see us encourage more of these films for no other reason that at some point, someone is going to get it right. I haven’t seen “Old Fashioned”, but will look for it for the purpose of building my own take on it.

    If we’re talking about old-fashioned movies, and how men should treat women, there are some existing movies out there (older ones) that could be used as a response. One of my favorites is “A Patch of Blue”, from 1965, where Sidney Poitier’s character puts on the perfect performance, without being preachy, about how men should treat women. A movie that was originally about “race” actually gives a very deep performance of what it means to love; to will the good of another.

  • s;vbkr0boc,klos;

    Most consciously ‘Christian’ films are to film what paint-by-numbers paintings are to art.

    • WSquared

      I couldn’t have said it better.

  • I would like to be able to say, as you have, that “the Christian world and its religious allies cry in the wilderness that sex is sacred.” I have heard that beautiful truth from a Catholic or another Christian from time to time – and I have read it in some of the many beautiful and true documents of the Church, archived in our digital libraries for any to find who are searching. But that message is not proclaimed with clarity and heart, consistently and with urgency, from any Catholic pulpits that I have known in the past twenty years, at least.

    • Scott W.

      Too true. Instead, we have this ludicrous pop-song “Take Me to Church” stinking up the airwaves. When I first heard it without really understanding the words or context, I thought from a musical standpoint it was dreadful caterwauling. I heard it again and thought it was Christian, but like that “I hate religion, but love Jesus” drivel. Then I kept hearing it and wondered why such lousy music was getting so much airplay. Well it turns out it’s a Politically Correct Salvo against the Church. The composer has repeated the hoary anti-Catholic lie that Catholic doctrine teaches people to be ashamed of human sexuality. Apparently the video (I haven’t seen it) depicts a homosexual couple being beaten up. In other words, they would have everyone believe that teaching truths about Chastity leads to thugs engaging in violence (nevermind the Church’s clear teaching against unjust treatment of homosexuals).

      Sorry for the somewhat off-topic rant.

      • “When I first heard it without really understanding the words or context, I thought from a musical standpoint it was dreadful caterwauling.”

        Most “pop” music is horrible. It died about 20-25 years ago as rap (hip hop) and the short-lived phenomonon of “grunge” replaced the hard rock and new wave of the 1980’s, which itself was deficient, but still could be called music.

        When hear Katy Perry I want to ask does every line have to be punctated with a sound that is more bodily function than an attempt harmony.

        • I’m with you. I think that accounts for the retro revival of the 2000’s. Music was out of ideas. Music had descended and did everything the basest human imagination could muster up. So what’s left? I for one love some of the new music, but you have to really search long and hard for creative and authentic (and safe!) stuff.

          In our home my children are taught to respect the hierarchy of musical form and taste: the kids know rock and roll is at the lower rungs (rap/hip hop just doesn’t exist on our ladder), and Bach and Vivaldi are the apex of musical achievement this side of heaven.

        • Scott W.

          I certainly agree about pop music being bad in general. My point is that this song seemed bad even by today’s standards and its heavy airplay seemed excessive for what it was. It wouldn’t be the first time progressives shoved bad art down people’s throats because it was official GoodThink.

      • Atilla The Possum

        The ”artiste” who wrote ”Take Me to Church” is an Irish bloke called Hozier…
        When I first heard this ”artiste’s” name, I thought he called himself after ”Hoser” – Canadian slang/colloquialism for (insert your insult here).
        P’raps I was right the first time after hearing him clogging up the airwaves like the gunk you find down a plughole…

      • Nora

        I agree.

  • Buzz

    You can’t expect evangelical Christians to make good films. They are all about preaching; they threw away the visual arts as ‘idolatry’ centuries ago, so they just don’t have the cultural equipment to make something like The Passion of the Christ or a movie that reveals, through images and action, rather than beating you over the head with preaching (to the choir, as the article points out).

    We need Catholic films to challenge a culture that started out Catholic and got distorted (in part by the Protestant Revolution, which tried to remove the incarnational aspect from Christian life). Protestants won’t be able to restore distorted Catholic culture through art because they just don’t ‘get’ art.

    This part has me puzzled: “Clay and Amber pour through a compatibility manual…?” Huh? ‘Pore over’ maybe, but what liquid, exactly, are they supposed to be pouring through that manual? They’ve got to be ‘pouring’ something.

    • Anglicans and Lutherans haven’t a qualm over art in religion. The Puritan faction, the Baptists and their Anabaptist kin, generally eschew the arts for the reason you state. Iconoclasm cannot abide the faith made visible in certain media. The dramatic arts, however, is arguably a different thing.

      The real problem, I find, with the evangelical ghetto in all matters cinematic has to do with an anxious millennialism saturated with a defective Incarnational theology (as evidenced by a near-absent sacramental theology) as well as a low view of the place of tradition (Sola Scriptura unchained).

      The arts touch on permanent things (think Greek comedies and tragedies), which build a tradition in song, poetry, drama, plaster, marble, paint, and stone. The classical belief of the priority of the Muses, the inspiration to artistry, was carried over nicely into Medieval Christianity, as well as much of Protestantism (which was still largely Catholic in its outlook in the 16th century). You simply cannot do good art if Jesus is coming back soon and all you need to do is focus on getting the message out. God is no longer interested (if ever!) in building culture since the Titanic is sinking.

      So, generally, whenever I hear about a new “Christian” movie, my first reaction is to mark that off my list of movies not to see. I know the art will be woeful for the reasons I stated. Dorothy Sayers had a thing or two to say about bad religious art and drama in her “Letters to a Diminished Church.”

      • Laurence Charles Ringo

        Hmm…And here I was thinking that Almighty God’s priority was the saving of souls;who knew it was the idolizing of human culture.Curious.

        • Devastatingly bad logic.

          Let me guess, Mr. Ringo, you’re a full time evangelist?

          You’re busily knocking on doors, passing out tracts, asking people, “Are you saved?”

          When you’re not preaching you’re on your knees praying for the lost?

          You don’t listen to or make music, you don’t rear or educate children, you don’t look at or make art, you don’t read poetry, or watch plays; you go to church for solemn assembly, then afterwards you while away your hours preaching to everyone you meet?

          Because otherwise, you know, you’d be an idolator.

          I hope the minute you took to post such stupidity another soul didn’t perish due to your internet idolatry.

          • Laurence Charles Ringo

            Hmm…Your comments are so ignorant and just plain asinine,Angelicanae, they don’t warrant any kind of response except this one: GOD BLESS YOU.

            • More internet idolatry; another soul lost. Tsk, tsk.

            • Are you like this person? Wow.

              • Laurence Charles Ringo

                What person,DE -173?

                • correction “in person”.

        • WSquared

          What, God can’t save souls through a culture keyed into, saturated by, and living in the Incarnation?

          Like Anglicanae said: devastatingly bad logic.

          • Laurence Charles Ringo

            Sorry,”WSquared”…I’m one of those persons who need a Scriptural f as to how Almighty God saves;I was under the impression that the Risen Saviour was the Saviour of mankind; I can’t find the concept of “cultural salvation”; wouldn’t that make Christ’s Advent redundant,if the culture is actually our Saviour? Just curious.

            • Nora

              I agree.

            • WSquared

              False dichotomy. But then again, why am I surprised?

              • Laurence Charles Ringo

                Which part is false: That The Risen Saviour is actually Our Saviour,or that He somehow”saves” through the culture,and which culture,His or ours? Your comment frankly made no sense,and still doesn’t.When you figure out a way to make it coherent…

        • s;vbkr0boc,klos;

          God said “I will honor those who honor me.” I do not think Jack Chick pamphlets were intended.

          • Laurence Charles Ringo

            What’s Jack Chick have to do with anything,s;bkr0boc,klos;??

      • WSquared

        saturated with a defective Incarnational theology

        You’ve hit it on the nose, right there.

    • Laurence Charles Ringo

      WOW…What a load of condescending,judgmental nonsense!!

      • Wow, another soul lost. Battin’ a thousand today, Laurence.

        • Nora

          It is not your place to judge, so stop saying things like that. You can’t judge the state of a persons soul by TWO COMMENTS!…

          • Context. Read what’s being said. I didn’t say *his* soul was lost.

  • hombre111

    Good article. Hope someone is out there who can do a better job. Mel Gibson? His behavior after The Passion is not exactly a recommendation.

    • Scott W.

      I don’t know anyone who defends Mr. Gibson’s behavior (including Mr. Gibson himself), so I don’t see why anyone would feel the need to mention it except to gratuitously pile on.

      • hombre111

        Because the author asked “where is Mel Gibson when we need him?” We need someone else.

        • Scott W.

          Charity obligates me to believe that excuse does not salve your conscience.

    • On this we agree.

      In addition, his appearance on one of the late night TV shows where he joked about being “Octo-Dad”, showed no contrition and there seemed to be no firm purpose of amendment.

      Now I wait for “M”, “Deb”, “Nora” and “Alexia” to rush to his defense, with the same fervor and furor they attended the “shlocky”.

      Now, to prepare for the coming apocolypse.

      • Deb

        Nope. I won’t rush to the defense of his behaviors. His behavior post “Passion” is objectively wrong. As to the state of his soul, I cannot know. He could very easily have gone to confession, multiple times for his sins surrounding his behavior. I’m not God, so I won’t judge the state of his soul and declare myself holier than him.

        • The state of his soul is not at issue, his scandalous behavior is very much at issue.

          • Deb

            If you read my comment you’d see that I agree with you.
            Asking Mel Gibson, who openly destroyed his marriage and then bragged about it, to film a Catholic movie about dating and man/woman relationships would bring scandal to the movie at the outset.

            Saying that some types of Masses, and the attendees are holier than other Masses and attendees is a totally different situation.

  • Tony

    The best movies about the true relations between men and women have been made already, when directors merely breathed the air of a generally accepted moral world.

    Miracle of Morgan’s Creek
    Sullivan’s Travels
    Life with Father
    It Happened One Night
    My Favorite Wife
    Marty
    The Quiet Man
    Penny Serenade
    I Remember Mama
    Pride and Prejudice
    An Affair to Remember

    • “North by Northwest” has dialogue between Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint that operates from the view of two jaded individuals exploring the then nascent tensions between the sexes, but still actually seeking that which is durable and authentic.

      It was great to discover this in the early 1980’s, when so-called “public TV”, had to shelf its stuffy BBC reruns and actually show something that appealed to its audience, rather than the pretentions of bureaucrats and the chattering class.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Even better films need to be made for our age in which true relations based on an adequate anthropology have been forgotten.

    • s;vbkr0boc,klos;

      I’d trade Tree of the Wooden Clogs for most of your list. Especially the young peasant couple who honeymoon in a convent and the nuns decorate their bed with flowers.

    • Dominic Lombardo

      And let’s add to that list LOVE AFFAIR, starring Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne, of which AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER was a re-make (both directed by the same man, Leo McCarey – 19 years apart).

    • Rich Coleman

      You sound like an old fogey.

  • craig

    Dalrock already got to this one: https://dalrock.wordpress.com/2014/11/17/the-christian-alternative-to-50-shades-of-grey/

    From the comments there, this movie sounds like Christian-feminist fantasy:
    — 30ish divorcee has a ten-year run of bad-boy relationships, but they all just, y’know, happened? She’s the victim here…
    — she’s a free spirit ready to settle down (i.e. before her looks and her eggs are gone), but she ‘deserves’ better than some boring provider type: she wants a tamed bad boy, not some loser virgin other women wouldn’t sleep with
    — hunky ex-player has given up casual sex for God, but the right woman can redeem him and bring out his inner Alpha again
    — hunky guy needs a woman (grandma) to impart ‘wisdom’ onto him: man up and marry that (ex-) slut!

    So while the movie sounds like it ticks all the evangelical altar-call boxes, I question just how Christian it is in outlook.

    • Laurence Charles Ringo

      So,Craig…can we assume that when you were born you”hit the ground running”,so to speak,all scrubbed and sin-free,ready to pass judgment on those who don’t think or believe exactly as you do…No?

      • If you are going to be antagonistic, your assertion should at least be peripheraly related and cohere to the post you are responding to-no reasonable person would take a movie critique as a declaration of self-righteousness.

        Then again, a poster who dishonestly feigns ignorance might be not be the best censor.

        • Laurence Charles Ringo

          What I responded to,DE-173,was Craig’s ignorant stereotyping of what he presumes is”evangelical”groupthink;I’ve not seen either movie.I have zero interest in”Fifty Shades of Gray”,and I’m sure”Old Fashioned”is as treacly sweet as the critics claim it is.But I will NOT let pass mockery and derision of what is assumed to be blanket evangelical thinking on this or any other issue.Craig WAS arrogantly condescending and judgmental,and I would invite HIM,NOT YOU,DE – 173 to correct me if I was wrong;I have NO problem apologizing if shown to be so—PEACE IN CHRIST.

          • Except you didn’t respond to specific point of contention, whatever your motivation, you fired off an unwarranted indictment based upon a contrived indignity. He simply asserted a that the film might have some superficial comity with Evangelicals, but be otherwise non-Christian.

            Perhaps you should read the masthead above- “a voice for faithful Catholics”- that means, as a non-Catholic, you can expect the occasional skewering of of few of your sacred cows.

            It’s also an open forum, which means you don’t get to limit your respondent.

            You began your (most recent) posting here with a calculated act of deception. To borrow a phrase “get off your high horse”.

            • Not to mention the outlandish charge of “idolatry” merely because I’ve accurately pegged the theologies that have littered the evangelical landscape since the Reformation (especially following the Great Awakenings) and their inability to produce meaningful art and culture.

              His words would have shamed and embarrassed great modern Calvinists like Abraham Kuyper and Francis Schaeffer — who were ardent defenders of culture and the arts. Larry is a bad Protestant.

            • Laurence Charles Ringo

              What I started with was Almighty God’s priority in saving souls as opposed to idolizing the culture,DE-173. If you think that deceptive in some so far vague sense,that’s your problem.Further,I have no “sacred cows”to skewer,and if I did, they probably need skewering! I find it unfortunate that you would sink to the level of calling someone you don’t even know a liar,DE-173,but that’s O.K.,I’m VERY thick-skinned,and your slander is not totally unexpected.–PEACE IN HIM.

              • God’s priority is His glory, you dolt. The saving of souls is the mission of His Church. He glorifies Himself in the salvation of the lost. That doesn’t mean culture is unimportant or somehow an afterthought. The Gospel came to you in a very definite culture. Culture is the embodiment of faith on a broad scale. It’s the inescapable product of being human. For you to decry it as idolatrous (where you got that promoting culture equals idolatry I haven’t a clue) is not only slanderous but juvenile. It’s an unrighteous judgment.

              • You know very well that I’m referring to your “what’s Sola Scriptura” inquiry made in the comments of another article, so do others.

                • Laurence Charles Ringo

                  I’m sorry,DE -173;you’ve lost me here.I do remember asking the “what’s Sola Scriptura”question earlier…your point here is what, exactly?I’m not sure,but I may have been seeking to clarify what Protestants mean by the term as opposed to what Catholics THINK we mean…you’ll have to bring me up to speed.

      • craig

        Of course, didn’t you get the memo? 😉

        No, silly. My point was not to decry that people sin and do other stupid things, nor to demand that art should not show people sinning. My point was that works touted as presenting a Christian ethic need to avoid aping the errors of the zeitgeist. Americans right now swim in an ocean of feminist premises, generally as unconscious of it as fish are of water.

        So while I haven’t seen the movie, if it follows the contemporary evangelical template (e.g. “Fireproof”), then it also follows the you-go-girl secular narrative instead of the New Testament or the whole pre-1968 Christian tradition. In this narrative, women are entitled to follow their emotions and impulses at all times, and any negative consequences that result from their choices are not really their own fault but the fault of bad men who led them into it. Sex, in this narrative, is something that happens between bad men and good women (all women are good). Bad men exist as subjects in their own right, while good men are merely objects whose value is strictly as eunuchs in service to women. Good men have the duty to rescue wayward women and to be uncritical and worshipful at all times. Good men are to expect nothing from women — not submission, nor respect, nor gratitude, nor femininity, and certainly not sex, even after marriage. (Put that hand down, sex is for closers only.)

        I’m just sick of Christian works whose purpose is not to hold up a mirror to reality but to confirm the church-lady demographic in its solipsism. We don’t need more works sending Christians rushing to the side of the boat that is already gunwale-under, to paraphrase Lewis. But if I have judged this movie unfairly, I will be happy to be proven wrong.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    I’ve been watching and really enjoying the TV series Blue Bloods.

    Two of the main characters in this cop show about a Catholic family are Frank Reagan, who personifies absolute integrity combined with wisdom and experience, and his youngest son Jamie, who personifies innocent virtue.

    That is, except for the fact that both are fornicators.

    I noticed, however, that after the first few episodes in the first season, they got rid of Frank’s GF and Jamie’s live-in-lover. I was hoping the writers realized that this behavior was incompatible with the Catholic code of honor by which the Reagan clan lives. But alas, late in season 2 Frank returns to his old ways and all the adults in his family, from his own father to his children and their spouses think it is darling that he spent the night with a woman.

    Too bad the writers toss out such a great opportunity to create conflict and break barriers (the barrier the media ring around sexual license). The show would be that much better.

  • Tony

    I’d like to play the angel’s advocate here, in part.

    The reasons why Christians make bad films have much in common with the reasons why Hollywood in general makes bad films. They are trying to invent artistic wheels. Hollywood has cut itself off from THE story, and along with it, the very principle of story, which is that we live in a morally ordered world. Nihilism doesn’t lend itself to artistic glories. The best you can do is Samuel Beckett, that dramaturgical tomb-haunter. There simply aren’t many ways in which you can say nothing.

    The Christian filmmakers haven’t cut themselves off from THE story, but given the miserable state of the humanities in our schools, they simply don’t dwell in a world of stories. They haven’t read Dickens, Cervantes, Tolstoy, Homer, etc. If you watch movies made in the 50’s that deal with some important moral problem — On the Waterfront, Gentlemen’s Agreement, Stalag 17, Picnic, An Affair to Remember, A Night to Remember, Twelve Angry Men, Marty, Requiem for a Heavyweight, etc. — you are essentially in a playwright’s world; you sense the presence of the great dramatists since the days of Aeschylus. I don’t mean that the screenplay writers and the directors are classically educated (though some were). I mean that they were immersed in a large repertoire of the immortal stories of mankind.

    Take that away, and while you’re at it, take away all of the electricity between men and women — that most disillusioning of the results of the Lonely Revolution. You can’t portray love, because no one understands real eros, everything having been inverted. Actors and actresses are not only morally compromised in their persons; they are morally destitute in their imaginations. Even the Christians cannot really imagine wholesome sexual attraction, just as good people in a sewer cannot really imagine fresh air.

  • Tex Austin

    Great discussion here, particularly Buzz’s comments about protestant aversion to the visual arts, and Scott W’s comments about pop-cultural ephemera inherently devaluing the sacred.

    An obvious point that I don’t believe has been made yet is that the best Christian films (which I would loosely define as films with Christian themes where the religion is treated in a positive light) are made by secular filmmakers. A few examples come readily to mind: The Roland Joffé’s “The Mission” (1984), and more recently, Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” (2011). At the risk of invalidating my argument, even Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, starring Russell Crowe, flawed though it is, was infinitely more worthwhile than what I imagine the best efforts of an evangelical filmmaker would look like.

  • Skip the movies. Experience something for yourself.

  • Tim

    I am not sure how many of you have actually seen this film but based on the majority of comments, the remarks seem to be about ‘Christian” films in general and not this specific production. I HAVE seen the film and, contrary to Ms. Williams review, I thought it was well done. The cinematography was excellent (in contract to most other films of this genre) and the story line is one we need to hear. I actually didn’t think it was too preachy at all. And the message of the movie is more about forgiveness and God’s gift of grace. When the main character shares the reasoning behind his life of chastity, he doesn’t do it in a ‘preachy’ way. He lays it out and goes on. He doesn’t condemn the others (again, which is what you might have expected). I suggest to all of you out there that have gone off on all these tangents totally unrelated to the movie, to go see the film for yourself. I think you’ll be glad you did. Don’t be turned away because of Ms. Miller’s review. With all due respect, I would say it is Miller’s review that is flawed, not the film.

    • Mike Hargadon

      Agree, and I noticed they put our critiques of Ms. Miller way to the bottom.

  • Ed Hamilton

    Just by looking at the trailer you are right. Its a shame that the film tells us about how it should go instead of just showing it. I wonder if the targeted audience would get what they were seeing if it wasn’t preachy- or even get the right people to the box office. But even so, a small dash of guidance could be given without making a film about the right type of romance that simply tells you what the right type of romance is. I hope the flaw is recognized and better attempts follow. Thank you for the article.

  • Mike Hargadon

    My wife of forty years and I, traveled through blizzard conditions on Valentines to see “Old Fashioned”. We thoroughly enjoyed the film, and could not disagree more with Ms. Miller. I believe many in the traditional values camp would, in fact, welcome criticism, if she had something of substance to dis.
    She mentions that film should “show me”, and “Old Fashioned” did just that. Character development involving true intimacy just takes longer than the shallow physical relationships common to many romance films.
    We are truly puzzled as to why Ms Miller found it tedious to view? We found her movie review to be tedious to read, as half of her hit piece was just a poorly written spoiler for anyone who may wish to see the film. Ms. Miller’s statement that Clay and Amber’s relationship, “lacks real spark, tension and chemistry,….” makes us wonder if she actually watched the film. The embrace in the grocery store was more than tension or chemistry: it was intimacy, and it was beautiful.
    We are grateful that “Old Fashioned” was an alternative to Fifty Shades of Porn”. This review reminded me of high school book report assignments, which required a specific number of words on books I only read to fulfill a course requirement. We give her an “F”.

  • Gail Finke

    I agree with what you say about Christian films, but OTOH many Christians (I know some like this) really WANT films and books to be preachy, to include little sermons and heavy-handed use of Bible verses and passages. I think they want this because they actually do it themselves. So in that sense, it’s realistic to them. They don’t think it’s overdone or unrealistic or preachy, they like it that way. I don’t know how you get past that to meet a mainstream audience, if it’s even possible.

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