As you know, Cinematic Doctrine has a Patreon page. Patreon is a website that allows content creators to coordinate support for their work. Think, like, a GoFundMe or PayPal system for fans to support content creators they enjoy, except they also receive some sick perks.
You know about this already. You’ve listened to the podcast. You’ve heard me during our call to action advertise the Patreon before. I’ve explained that, for as little as $3 a month, you can not only support Cinematic Doctrine financially, but also gain access to exclusive privileges.
One of these privileges is a Patron-Only voting poll. Each month, people who financially support the podcast can influence the show by voting on a film we review at the end of the month. Movies that our patron supporters have chosen over the last several months include: An American Pickle (the PG-13 Seth Rogan comedy vehicle), To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (the popular multi-cultural teen romance on Netflix), and American Gospel: Christ Alone (A Christian indictment of sleeping faith and the Prosperity Gospel. Also, our most popular episode this year).
In other words, thanks to our Patreon Supporters, we’ve been able to watch some great films and produce amazing episodes as a result. We cherish the opportunity to coordinate with our Patron Supporters in deciding movies to discuss on the podcast, and we look forward to the many more movies we’ll review in the future based upon our supporters’ influence.
Now, why all the details on this one Patreon support benefit? Melvin, are you just advertising the Patreon right now? No, what’s happening here is some clarification, transparency, and an apology.
Patreon isn’t just a system for fans to support their favorite content creators financially. Patreon also has some social-media functions. Therefore, if you click over to the Cinematic Doctrine Patreon you’ll see that I can post content of all kinds (photos, videos, links, etc.). People who support the Patreon can then engage this content with likes or comments.
A key form of content I can create for my followers is a voting poll. I can produce a title, an accompanying copy, and input poll options. However, the poll cannot be an open poll. By that, I mean users cannot add options. I, Melvin, the content creator who manages the Patreon, must input options manually, and Patreon Supporters then vote on pre-prepared options. As such, supporters of the podcast can’t say, “Boy, I want the Cinematic Doctrine guys to talk about The Princess Bride. If I support them, I’ll add that to the next monthly poll.” Unfortunately, the reality is that Patreon Supporters vote on a pre-ordained selection of films. That’s just how Patreon works right now.
We have an old post on the Cinematic Doctrine website detailing this, albeit not as explicitly as I am here. We also emphasize that the options chosen for each monthly poll will be relevant to the month, as well as include a new release or two (In example: Mank, the new David Fincher film, releases November 2020. That would make it a movie added to the movie poll, among a wild-card or two). All this to say, the Polls aren’t random and we take care to ensure they are relevant to the allotted month.
With this in mind, let’s move into some transparency, talk about Last Shift, the Patreon voting poll system, and what’s going on behind the scenes.
Understanding that I must create the voting poll in its entirety, including the options Patron Supporters will be choosing from, there’s a few things that go into this process:
- What movies fit a theme with that month’s releases; can the poll be built around the kind of movies releasing in that timeframe?
- What wild-card movie, basically a film that may be older and doesn’t fit the theme at all, can I input into the poll for those who might want something different.
- Are the films being put onto the poll appropriate to promote on the podcast?
The first two options are self-explanatory and easy to understand, but the third option can be deeply nuanced. So much so, there are times I’m preparing the poll and this particular stipulation has stumped my progress.
It goes without saying: movies can have inappropriate, challenging, and sinful content. Peruse the popular tab on Netflix and you’ll see this. Scroll through Film-Twitter and you’ll notice what’s popular is loaded with this stuff.
Thus, it’s important to ensure that what we discuss on the podcast, knowing it may lead others to check out these projects either with interest or curiosity, is something we stand behind entirely, and that we can ensure with bonafide facts and experience that it is worth promoting (even if in the negative). This may sound strange, since Cinematic Doctrine doesn’t have sponsorships and we are not explicitly promoting material with advertisements. Not yet, at least.
However, the difficult reality of a publication, whether it’s a book, newspaper, or website, manifesting the call for ‘freedom of speech’, is that we amplify speech, and it’s important for us to vet and safeguard what we amplify.
So how do we do this? Well, ultimately, we take a look at how our coverage of a film will benefit the Christian walk. We believe, in imitating Paul at the Areopagus in Acts 17:16-32, that Christians are encouraged to engage culture and learn about it for the purpose of encouraging and rebuking cultural beliefs toward repentance and acceptance of Christ.
This is achieved by covering a myriad of films and film genres because, as we see in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, Paul wants to move towards all kinds of people by being like all kinds of people, insofar as he is always like Christ. So, in covering all kinds of movies, we have the opportunity to pursue all kinds of peoples and their preferences, worldviews, etc. In Christ, we can confidently condescend ourselves and selflessly sacrifice who we are for the sake of loving and pursuing all people.
And we see this as aligning with the fulfillment of sanctification, that we continue to know God through his word and are becoming more like him because of it (John 17:17). In growing in the word, we more accurately apply the word to all situations, including the coverage of horror films and other such material. Why? Because we want to take seriously Christ’s call for The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20), to “go out and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that [Jesus] has commended [us].” And with the confidence of Jesus being with us to the end of the age, we can do what Paul does in Acts 17 and 1 Corinthians 9 with confidence. With faith.
Then, logistically, we peruse the IMDB Parent’s Guide for how aggressive, cynical, or violent a property is. Then, we inspect it for sexual and nude content, ensuring that the film has no nudity, as well as non-abrasive or absurdly overt sexual content (So, not only that a property doesn’t contain nudity, but also clearly provocative and borderline ‘softcore’ content with clothed or covered actors). We will also visit CommonSenseMedia.org for similar results.
The reason we watch for these things specifically has to do with how a director and writer respect or disrespect a few tenets of our Christian belief: that we are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) and are to be respected and cared for on that basis alone, and that creation is to be respectfully cared for and maintained as per the Creation Mandate from God (Genesis 1:28). Violence in movies, depending on if its real violence toward people or animals, goes completely against this, and even fake violence has the opportunity to go this far, but for obvious reasons (as it’s fake) is less of a chance.
Now, nudity in film immediately jeopardizes how one respects another’s image-bearing nature (again, Genesis 1:27). And biblically, the way we are to approach nudity, quite simply, is not to approach it at all outside of the confines of marital intimacy (Song of Songs) and medical aid. Rather, if one is to bare themselves, the typical biblical practice is to cover them up out of respect (Genesis 9:21-23). Not out of disgust of their human form, as is often prescribed to prudishness, but out of care for ones body.
As such, we vet films to ensure that we are not putting our listeners in the position to the exposure of outright disrespecting image-bearers in any capacity, either through the traumatic imagery of ultra-violence or in the inappropriate and provocative exposure of nudity.
Longtime fans of the show may be thinking, “This seems two-minded!”, as earlier episodes of the show, which are still available, contain reviews and discussions of films that contain overt forms of nudity and sexual content, as well as a review of a film so violent it literally traumatized me. Those reviews remain up as archival evidence of my own personal sanctification and the work God has done in me to destroy the callous heart I had toward this sinful and unwise practice. And even, in another sense, are up to bolster our catalog and increase exposure to the podcast. Will they be deleted some day? Possibly, especially as I say out loud that second reason. Sure, I have content in those episodes that clearly focus on God and his work, but why risk nullifying those words by, essentially, still promoting films we otherwise wouldn’t promote now?
And honestly, I’ve have deleted episodes before. We used to have a review for Wish Upon, but I deleted it because I felt I was slanderous and unkind in my review. It felt unprofitable in terms of pursuing the kingdom.
Furthermore, to emphasize how serious we vet and safeguard our responsibility of amplifying speech: It’s why, even though our episode on The Boys from 2019 was one of our top episodes, we haven’t reviewed its second season (and personally, I haven’t even watched it despite my positive remarks, at the time, for the first season). It’s simply more important to recognize what we promote on the podcast, even if we were to take the time to fairly criticize faults in a project, it may lead to danger in a way we aren’t comfortable with. If Satan will go so far as to weaponize scripture against Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11), how much more will he weaponize violence, sexuality, and nudity?
And this is where we get to Last Shift.
For the month of October, our Cinematic Doctrine Patreon-Poll included three horror movies: Host (a film produced during the quarantine this Summer over Zoom where each Zoom user is attacked by a vengeful entity), The Devil’s Candy (a film whose name is far more challenging than its actual content, as the film is overtly about the temptation to unwittingly idol-worship work over family, and one Father’s perseverance to overcome it), and Last Shift (a movie about a young, new police officer whose first shift is an evening position at an abandoned police station. Within are dark secrets and mysteries).
Of the three, Host is the only movie I hadn’t seen, and all three were clean as far as sexual content is concerned. Last Shift did have scenes of women in bikini’s, but they were intentionally non-sexual despite their arguably inappropriate inclusion. I would know, I just watched it, but we know that doesn’t give it a free pass, and we know that sinful hearts barely need a reason to act out.
Now, Last Shift won the Patreon-Poll, so I reached out to Carter about helping me out this week. He couldn’t. I then texted Daniel. Also couldn’t. I then thought about asking Kathryn, but she had just joined me for the previous episode on Killer Camp, and I knew the workload she was facing, so I decided to look for other options.
I then reached out to a fellow podcasting group to have a guest appearance on the show, but, understandably, it was too short notice. Then I asked a friend who said, “Sure, that could be fun!”
I then watched Last Shift, this being my second time, and realized it was not a good idea.
I wrestled with this, as this wasn’t a film I simply, behind the scenes, watched and decided, “We’re not doing this,” and moved on. This was a movie voted on by our Patreon Supporters, which meant that it was tied explicitly to the choices of those who financially support Cinematic Doctrine.
And yet, I could feel the Holy Spirit was upset within me, turning my insides within my skin, and saying, “You shouldn’t promote this movie.” It wasn’t because the film was bad in terms of technical achievement, pacing, execution, etc. Quite the contrary, I put it on the Patreon-Poll because I remember thoroughly enjoying the film when I watched it a few years ago. It’s a haunting independent horror flick that constantly throws its viewer for a loop. For all intents and purposes, it’s a well-made film.
But the Holy Spirit wasn’t happy. There was no cutting it. So I texted my friend, the one I had reached out to after all that panic trying to find a cohost, and said, “I’m sorry, I think I need to change things around this week. Let’s coordinate some other time.”
He then responded, “With all the hurdles trying to record this episode, I think you’re right: The Spirit wants something different. No harm no foul, brother!”
That “something different” is this: I’m choosing a fear of God over a fear of man.
I must fear God over man, and I cannot go through with a traditional review for Last Shift. As Patreon supporters know, September didn’t have a Patreon-Poll due to personal trials within the Benson household. There simply was no guarantee that we at Cinematic Doctrine could fulfill the September Patreon-Poll, and followers of the show will recall we only released two film discussions that month due to those in-house issues. I then decided that this month, October, we would be direct in our pursuit of fulfilling this Patreon privilege to our supporters. Patreon Supporters: you are financially supporting us, after all. So much so, you help us buy new equipment, and will soon give us access to improved streaming quality for the podcast. And for that, we are so thankful!
And yet, despite the hiccup that was September, and our pursuit of fulfilling this month’s Patreon-Poll with diligence, it’s simply not possible. Having just rewatched Last Shift, I can comfortably say that this is not a movie we want to promote. Ultimately, this is due to my own failure a month ago when I created the October Patreon-Poll, organized it’s polling options, and carelessly said, “Yeah, all 3 of these movies, including Last Shift, are worthy of your vote!”
To further dig my own hole, I’ll be clearer: I knew Last Shift had to do with occultism and demonic imagery. I knew a plot device used within the film was explicitly demonic, and I recognize a lot of cultural western Christians are already uncomfortable with non-demonic ghosts and ghouls. Some straight up don’t celebrate Halloween in the most innocent of senses: handing out candy and carving pumpkins.
And while we will still review horror films – or in other words, promote horror films – that may contain demonic or pagan imagery (we did discuss Sinister after all, and I still stand by that episode!), Last Shift was simply a bridge too far in terms of its content, portrayal of the spiritual and demonic, and ultimate message (which, frankly, I’m still not sure what the point of Last Shift is, even if I appreciate its technical merit).
Because, really, Last Shift is just too grotesquely violent. It isn’t gory, and it doesn’t go into the absurd violence territory of a Tarantino film (in other words, it isn’t cartoonish or comedic). Last Shift is more in line with realistic violence. Its images are stark and scarring, it’s lingering camera enjoys the macabre, and its tone is so obscenely dour that its message becomes muddled and cynical.
As Jessica Loren, the new police officer in charge of maintaining order in an abandoned, forgotten, and sinister building, the overwhelming dread and misery present in the psychotic and psychopathic narrative of Last Shift becomes too dangerous for us to cover on the Cinematic Doctrine podcast. It balances petrifying visuals with an uncomfortable level of cynicism that simply crosses the proverbial line we set for ourselves as a publication. There is no order to be maintained in Last Shift, it’s all chaotic, and what used to be a building bustling with justice is now left aside for spiritual chaos to control. If there is a message to be received by Last Shift, it’s that the world we live in used to feign order, but is now abandoned to the vile mechanizations of the enemy. It is hopeless.
And I say that as I try and interpret what Last Shift is trying to say. I try and do this all the time with art, because all properties of art say something – even if by accident. It’s just how art functions on a fundamental level, and if that’s what Last Shift unintentionally says, and that’s how it says it, then I absolutely don’t want to promote it on the show. That’s why I’m breaking solidified conventions with this episode, why I’m comfortable not having a cohost to discuss Last Shift, and why I’m comfortably saying to you directly that I am not promoting Last Shift on Cinematic Doctrine, even if so much in the last 2 months asserts that I should adhere to the Patreon-Poll now more than ever.
In fact, when I recognize how important it was for me to respect this Patreon-Poll, I think it sets the tone for how big a deal my mistake is, and how important it is to humble myself to you, our listeners and our supporters.
Which is why I apologize. By not appropriately preparing the Patreon-Poll, not only are Patreon Supporters let down by yet another month where their privilege is bungled, there is now a potential distrust in Cinematic Doctrine’s ability to appropriately vet and engage media for the glory of God. And to that, I humbly admit my faults, apologize, and ask for your forgiveness.
I could feign ignorance and say things like, “I’ve never run a podcast or publication before,” but the reality is that, with all the safeguards we have in place, there’s simply no reason for error, which asserts how bad this oversight was, and I say again, I’m sorry.
For the sake of ensuring I adhere to the Holy Spirit, I have to put myself on the line here and take full blame for what took place. And with that in mind, I must also fear the Lord over the fear of disappointing you, Patreon Supporters, or anyone else excited for a conventional episode of the podcast. And I know the Lord would be sorely disappointed if I went ahead with a normal episode for Last Shift.
Moving forward, we’ll be extra discerning in the films we cover on the podcast, what movies we input on the Patreon-Poll, and ensure the privileges allotted to Patreon Supporters are further respected, as the last two-months have been very difficult in terms of meeting the provided support benefits.
Hopefully, this explanation meets you well, and we ask that you continue to pray for our work on the podcast and the website. We want to glorify God with each word we say and keystroke we make. The more we pursue God, the more opposition we face from Satan and our own sinful flesh, and it’s important we remain vigilant and wise during these spiritual battles.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks so much for reading. Thanks so much for your continued support and listenership. Hopefully, this November and beyond, we can continue to improve and iterate on the content we provide.
Until next time, stay cool.
Consider supporting Cinematic Doctrine on Patreon! As a bonus, you’ll gain access to a once-a-month movie poll where you decide a movie we discuss on the podcast! You also gain access to the The Pre-Show, a Patreon exclusive podcast series where we casually talk movies, Christianity, and life itself.
Melvin Benson is the Founder, Editor-In-Chief, and Lead Host of Cinematic Doctrine. He’s written fiction and nonfiction for over a decade with short stories featured on the Creepypasta Wiki and Wattpad. His novelette Ethereal Temptation, a teen drama with a tinge of magical-realism, can be read for free here. His hope is to see King Jesus glorified as far as the east is from the west!