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Christians are furious over a tiny Pride flag on the set of a show about Jesus
A promo video for "The Chosen" included a shot of a camera operator's rainbow flag. Fans are flipping out.
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In one of the funniest controversies we’ve seen in a while, conservative Christians are losing their shit after a tiny rainbow flag was spotted in a promotional video for The Chosen, a show that tells the story of Jesus as if it were a multi-season prestige drama.
A number of fans are now calling for a boycott of the show while the show’s producers as well as right-wing hypocrites who often lash out against any corporate acknowledgement of Pride Month are urging everybody to just calm the hell down.
I’ll back up for the atheists reading this.
The Chosen generated plenty of (earned) media after a successful $10 million fundraising campaign. Since its premiere in 2019, the best thing you could probably say about it is that it’s not as eyeroll-inducing as other Christian shows. Unless you’re a Christian starving for Christian content about Christianity, though, you’re almost certainly not binge-watching this… or even regular-watching this. (The first season is available on YouTube. Season 3 just finished airing. There are supposed to be seven seasons in all.)
I would argue that, since the initial fundraising campaign ended years ago, the show hasn’t generated much attention at all outside Christian circles. It’s arguably popular within those circles, allegedly racking up 200 million views (or maybe 350 million) and getting stellar ratings on places like Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb… but don’t take those numbers at face value. The “views” don’t necessarily mean that many people watched a full episode. They just as easily include paid ads that interrupted your news feed when you were scrolling through Facebook and just ignored. And the ratings on those websites mean Christians are stopping by to rave about it, but no one else is even bothering to watch it. They’re not even hate-watching it. It’s just not on anyone else’s radar.
How badly does the show need publicity? Last year, when Season 3 was set to launch, the producers launched a poorly thought-out marketing campaign in which they fake-vandalized their own billboards to jump on the persecution bandwagon.
This week, the show published a short video giving fans a behind-the-scenes look at the filming of Season 4, in which the cast and crew members are joking around with each other and discussing the filming of some pivotal scenes. It’s the sort of thing fans undoubtedly enjoyed:
About 25 seconds into the video, though, there’s a tiny rainbow flag seen near one of the cameramen. And a conservative blogger for the right-wing group Turning Point USA demanded answers:
So did a number of commenters underneath the YouTube video:
To all of them, The Chosen has responded with a stock message: The show has a giant crew and not every member necessarily agrees with one specific brand of Christianity. The show should be judged on the final product, not the individual choices of everyone working on staff.
Obviously we’re not “promoting” anything because one crew member happens to bring something on set.
We’ve made it clear from the beginning we don’t have a religious or political litmus test for who can work on our show. We love our cast and crew, especially because even though they all come from different backgrounds and beliefs, they work their butts off for the show and for you. One crew member wearing something doesn’t speak for everyone—the show’s official stance on anything is to be found in the content of the show.
The show offered a separate message in response to Jon Root:
Just like with our hundreds of cast and crew who have different beliefs (or no belief at all) than we do, we will work with anyone on our show who helps us portray or honor the authentic Jesus. We ask that audiences let the show speak for itself and focus on the message, not the messenger, because we’ll always let you down.
To be clear, that’s hardly a defense of LGBTQ rights. The best the show can offer is: We’re not going to discriminate against LGBTQ people while we make a show primarily for people who love to discriminate against LGBTQ people.
But give them some credit, I suppose: They’re more interested in bringing on skilled crew members regardless of their personal beliefs than having a religious litmus test. The result is a more professional-looking product.
Evangelist Ray Comfort did something similar years ago when he hired professional actors to make an anti-gay film. I spoke with the lead actor of the movie, who said he supported LGBTQ rights but decided to do the movie because this was a lead role, which are hard to come by. Plus, he added, wasn’t acting all about inhabiting characters who don’t necessarily share your own views?
That seems to be the mentality of Daniel Fritz, the Steadicam operator who’s in a same-sex marriage, and whose flag led to this whole idiotic controversy. Fritz has celebrated his association with the Christian show:
I’m not all that concerned about the potential hypocrisy here. Fritz is a camera operator doing a job. The show presumably hired him because he’s really good at what he does. If The Chosen was all about culture war issues, we’d be having a different conversation, but it’s not.
And yet conservatives are trying to turn this into a bigger deal than it actually is. The right-wing outlet Daily Wire published a piece summarizing the drama but clearly leaning into the supposed blasphemy of the show. The site’s own co-CEO later chimed in, saying, “This is a disgusting piece, and I’m sorry we ran it.” (It’s for the best that he linked to the piece, since that criticism applies to everything on the site.)
Jon Root, the blogger who couldn’t handle the flag, is now demanding a boycott of the show because “The promotion of the Pride Flag is never acceptable in church or any form of ministry.”
The show’s creator obviously disagrees, but his response has been to downplay the issue rather than defend his camera operator:
“We’ve made no secret our cast and crew come from all different beliefs and backgrounds,” said Dallas Jenkins, the show’s creator and director, in a statement to Religion News Service. “I don’t believe personal workspaces on set are relevant to the content of ‘The Chosen’, but if someone wants to stop watching a free show because of it, it’s their right.”
Notice that Jenkins won’t name the enemy here. He won’t say that conservative Christians are the ones behind this firestorm. He can’t, because that’s the audience his show is catering to. That’s why he’s taking the coward’s way out and saying they have a variety of people working on the show instead of explicitly defending the person being criticized over nothing. He needs to do better.
So where are we at now? The same people who couldn’t handle a trans woman doing a short plug for Bud Light on Instagram and who decided Target has become too anti-Christian are now mad over a show celebrating the life of Jesus. Oh, and Chick-fil-A has also gone “woke.”
They’re eating their own and It. Is. Glorious.
The smart move in every case here is to support LGBTQ people in the face of faith-based bigotry, because the hatred is predictable and calculated.
The Chosen, unfortunately, is trying to have it both ways by saying a tiny Pride flag “doesn’t speak for everyone,” as if a symbol of civil rights and basic human decency is a bridge too far for the rest of the show’s team.
If that’s what Jesus taught them, then the show must not be worth watching.
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