"True Detective," an HBO series that purports to show real detective work is probably not your normal look at the life of a real detective. Rather, it’s probably what a chosen writer at HBO thinks of the profession, complete with a bizarre rant against a church gathering.
"True Detective" is supposed to be an unfiltered look at a case the two detectives were trying to solve in the ‘90s. Like most detective series, it has the stress of pressuring detectives to close a case, or find someone to charge with a crime so that the community, and public officials, can feel safer and get a sense of closure.
The series, as portrayed by Matthew McConaughey (Rusty Cohle) and Woody Harrelson (Marty Hart), means that solving a crime is a long haul, involved long hours of driving, and exploring many leads. That much seems true to what many detectives probably face when trying to solve a crime.
What is different about at least one segment of the series, is when one of those leads brings them to a rural church group holding a series of camp meetings. While the camp meeting may not be a common today, it is was a typical form bringing the truth of Christ to a number of areas in the late 19th and earth 20th centuries in the United States. In some denominations, like charismatic churches and movements, it’s still popular, and is even broadcast on some cable TV stations.
Rusty would probably not be invited to talk about his faith at one of those camp meetings. In the third segment of the first year, one of their crime leads takes them to an outdoor church group, where they are standing on the outside, surveying the service. He is not impressed by the church, its pastor, or the people gathered in the meeting.
So disgusted is he by what he sees, that he spends a few minutes running down not just the group, many of whom can probably hearing him, but Christianity in general. Mcconaughey’s character is cynical toward the service and Christianity in general, while Harrelson’s character tries to put up a reasonable defense to his rant.
Here is the dialogue:
RUSTY: What do you think the average IQ of this group is, huh?
MARTY: When you are up there on your high horse, what do you know about these people?
RUSTY: Just observation and deduction. See a propensity for obesity, poverty, the yearning for fairy tales. Putting what few bucks they do have in a little wicker basket they pass around. I think it’s safe to say that nobody here’s going to be splitting the atom, Marty.
MARTY: You see that. You’re fucking attitude. Not everybody wants to sit alone in an empty room beat’n off to murder manuals. Some folks enjoy community. The common good.
RUSTY: If the common good’s got to make up fairly tales, then it’s not good for anybody.
MARTY: I mean can you imagine, it people didn’t believe? The things they’d get up to?
RUSTY: The exact same thing they do now. Just out in the open.
MARTY: Bull shit. There’d be a fucking freak show of debauchery and murder and you know it.
RUSTY: If the only thing keeping a person decent is the expectation of divine reward, then brother that person is a piece of shit. And I’d like to get as many of them out in the open as possible.
MARTY: I guess your judgement is infallible piece of shit wise. You think that notebook is a stone tablet? What’s it say about life, hm?
RUSTY: You got to get together and tell yourself stories from the Bible. Laws in the universe, just to get through the damn day? Naw. What’s that say about your reality, Marty?
MARTY: You think it’s a big scam. All them folks. They just wrong?
RUSTY: Oh. Yeah. Been that way since one monkey looked at the sun and told the other money - “He said for you to give me your fuck’n share.” People. So goddam frail they put a coin in a wishing well and buy dinner. Transference of fear and self loathing to an authoritarian vessel. Catharsis.
RUSTY (comments on the preacher): He absorbs their dread with his narrative because he’s effective in proportion to the amount of certainty he can project. Certain linguistic anthropologists think religion is a language of virus, that rewrites pathways in the brain. Dulls critical thinking.
MARTY: I don’t use $10 words as much as you, but for a guy who sees no point in existence, you sure fret about it an awful lot. And you still ???
RUSTY: At least I’m not racing to a red light.
MARTY: gives him the finger.
RUSTY (at the office testifying): We all got what I call a life trap. Gene deep certainty that things will be different. . . . Closure. Empty jars to hold this shit storm. It’s never filled, until the very end. Closure. No no. Nothing is every over.
RUSTY: (back at the camp meeting): The light at the end of the tunnel. That’s what the preacher sells. Same as the shrink. The preacher encourages your capacity for illusion, then he tells you to fucking virtue. It’s such a desperate sense of entitlement isn’t it?
MARTY: Surely this is all for me, for I, I, I, I’m so fucking important. I’m so fucking important. Fuck you.
This kind of treatment of the church and Christianity is not an anomaly. It’s not unusual. It’s rather typical that people in Hollywood; it’s typical of productions associated with HBO, that productions not only don’t try to understand Christianity and the people associated with it, they go in the opposite direction. If they show anything, it’s a distortion of Christianity, as though it the enemy.
There are virtually no HBO originating ideas for series or productions that present a true or real view of Christianity, the typical, well-known preacher who lives life as most other Americans do, caring about other people, with faults and virtues.
It’s the same with many other motion picture studios, including Amazon Studios, which produced a series based on a man who believes that he hears voices from God that make him want to kill people, and a church pastor who is obviously corrupt, holding church services to exploit the congregation.
It should be noted that True Crime was executive produced by the two male leads who star in the production, Matthew McConahey and Woody Harrelson, meaning that both actors knew all about the scripts and approved of them during production of the segment.
The segment was written by Nic Pizzolatto, who is an award-winning novelist and short-story writer. He is originally from Southwest Louisiana, and taught literature at several universities, including the University of Chicago, before going into screenwriting in 2010.
That he has won awards is irrelevant. What is relevant is that his creative writing is hostile to Christianity, and distorts what most pastors do when they preach, how most Christians act, their intelligence, etc.
Pizzolatto was hired by HBO to write, produce and direct segments of this series. He did not do it out of the goodness of his heart. It’s obvious that there was not a lot of concern as to whether or not the script would offend Christians.
What's worse about Pizzolatto's writing rant, is that it's probably racist. His probably attacks poor whites in the crowd of not too smart church goers, because it's acceptable for liberals to attack whites, not blacks who attend church.
The reason is that he probably thinks they vote Republican, or worse, for Trump, so that makes it okay. If he said that about a crowd of blacks at a church meeting, he would be labeled a racist. It wouldn't be smart either, since blacks are needed by liberal whites to vote for their liberal Democrat candidates.
Targeting whites is acceptable and won't get Pizzolatto, Harrelson or McConaughey into trouble. The worst that can happen is that you would be included in some liberal comedy writing, and all the liberals would have a good laugh. Such are are ground rules for people working in Hollywood.
It's a little pretentious, and a lot condescending and hypocritical, but following the rules correctly can win you followers and Oscars. Let's hope that in the future, Godless movie producers become more civil and tolerant of Christians who practice their religion, and provide better access to all of the major studios.
© 2019 Larry Ingram
Based in St Louis,
Larry Ingram writes about the news media, movies and culture, as well as topics like race, privilege, Christianity, religious expression and tolerance.
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