‘Breakthrough’

It’s no revelation that certain pockets of Christian Americans believe that their belief system’s hegemony over the country’s values is under siege by the entertainment industry’s “progressivism.”

They claim that Hollywood especially brainwashes the impressionable masses by relentlessly promulgating ideas antithetical to their ancient worldview. Chronicling the gradual dethronement of the once-dominant has been fodder for art — and endless dissection thereafter — since the dawn of time, and Breakthrough can be seen as an (unintentional? Who cares!) meta-text on the matter.

If movies are a primary vehicle to impart American myths, then how does one of the central myths in American history — regardless of my personal beliefs, I’m not stating that Jesus is a myth…but America as a Christian nation is a myth; if you disagree, explain the separation of church and state to me — refashion itself to be relevant in a modern context, a concept that’s reflected in how the the movie decides to reposition this age-old faith in 2019 while still staying true to its essential ideals (it addresses this “evolution” directly in its crude use of rap as a symbol)?

Breakthrough serves as a sort of window into how the Church is approaching presenting itself in new ways to survive and thrive in the modern world, modifying their game to remain appealing to unconverted sheep, while also retaining what their existing flock’s always been about. How can Judeo-Christian tenets and lifestyles learn from Hollywood to stay afloat above the waves of an ever-changing reality, channeling what about the form they think speaks to audiences today, while also rejecting where the big screen’s gone too far. These mildly-reforming defenders fighting against the tides of history are like the kid on the poster: drowning, but flailing about, doing whatever they can to return towards the light of their former glory, a divine glow that once blinded a vaster majority of the nation.

For the record: swaths of Hollywood still perpetuate a lot of similar values, but rarely as nakedly as Breakthrough‘s explicit expression. An example of its transparent artifice: you know how lazy screenwriters will adorn classrooms with inspirational posters that OH-SO-SUBTLY comment on the movie’s themes? Breakthrough takes this tired trope to another level: the sign’s prominently framed in the background, totally in focus, plastered on a wall right behind the teacher in a one-shot…AND THEN SHE POINTS TO IT AND READS THE QUOTE ALOUD!!! That’s the whole movie in a nutshell.

The irony is that the City of Cinematic Angels can be just as obvious. The difference: at this point, I’m far more accustomed to its particular brand of obviousness. And as someone who’s fascinated with experiencing as many artistic perspectives as possible, religiosity laid bare is novel. Historically, it’s one of the United States’ core ideologies, but at least on the silver screen, it’s been largely replaced by a new sort of tradition (albeit one that inherited a plethora of the same structures). But within this landscape, Breakthrough‘s old can be made to feel new, which is exactly what the movie’s trying to achieve in a macro sense. Regardless of its success, witnessing how the powers-that-be (on Earth) wrestle with this dilemma bears intrinsic interest.

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