Media Trends: March 2016

 
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Movies

In 2014, Hollywood released more big biblical movies—think Noah (starring Russell Crowe) and Exodus (Christian Bale) among others—than the previous 11 years together. And for those who remembered the television miniseries The Bible, aired in 2013, there was the follow-up, AD Kingdom and Empire, last year.

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With the release of Risen last month, Tinseltown is obviously continuing to churn out Bible-based shows at an unprecedented pace. Ironic, considering the continued decline of people across the Western world affiliated with any religion, much less Christianity.

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Risen tells the story of the resurrection of Jesus, as told through the eyes of a Roman military tribune tasked with solving the mystery of what happened to Jesus in the weeks following the crucifixion, in order to disprove the rumours of a risen Messiah and prevent an uprising in Jerusalem.

Hollywood’s persistence in producing movies based on the Bible demonstrates first and foremost that there is obviously a lucrative market out there. But is this a reflection of a rising Christian influence or acceptance of Christianity in Hollywood (and perhaps the broader Western world), or something else?

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Perhaps the answer lies in one major point: Bible-based films may use biblical narratives as storylines, but they may not possess any intrinsic Christian ethos, values or beliefs. Generally, they really are no different from Beauty and the Beast (released last month), Victor Frankenstein (to be released this month) and The Jungle Book (scheduled for release in April at the time of writing), for example. All are simply a loose retelling of classic stories most of us are familiar with.

Of course, Bible-based movies are a great excuse to start a conversation about something more spiritual. But they are no indication that the tide has turned for the Christian faith. As Joseph Fiennes, who plays the Roman military tribune, says about the Risen: it is “the most extraordinary story ever told, whether you believe it or not.” And therein lies the crux—people still need to believe. Otherwise, Bible-based movies are simply “a story.”

Television

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While the concept isn’t new—the movement only came to popular attention when small houses were used to accommodate Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans in 2005—the number of new television shows dedicated to tiny houses indicates it has somewhat moved into the mainstream.

Tiny House, Big Living first aired in Australia with the introduction of 9Life in late November 2015, a brand new channel to free-to-air television from the Nine Network. The show highlights how with “the right layout and high-end accents” tiny home owners can still feel like they are “living in style” in structures smaller than 20 square metres. Then in January, Foxtel introduced Tiny House Australia, a series that follows people looking to buy small, alternative housing for differing reasons.

There’s also popular YouTube channel Living Big in a Tiny House by New Zealand couple, Bryce Langston and Melissa Nickerson. The show, first launched in 2013, now has more than 100,000 subscribers and documents their journey as they build their own tiny house, measuring just 15 square metres and costing them $NZ26,000.

So is the growing interest in tiny houses a response to the soaring property prices and (un)affordability of living in most capital cities? Do financial and environmental considerations play a part in this downsizing trend?

Or is this, like the contemporary popularity of decluttering our spaces—and lives (thanks to Marie Kondo)—yet another of humanity’s attempts at obtaining happiness and fulfilment with things—any “things”? After all, we’ve tried the big houses and grown adept at acquiring material possessions. If that didn’t give us the contentment we yearn, perhaps we will succeed if we try the opposite?