Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: “More Than One Lesson”

Posted by Maximum Fun on 5th September 2009

Your Podthinker has publicly put himself on record as a big fan of the film podcast Battleship Pretension. His curiosity was therefore piqued when Tyler Smith, one of your Podthinker’s two favorite Battleship Pretension co-hosts, founded a separate movie podcast of his own. As a cinema geek, your Podthinker grew even more interested. But what’s this? It’s a Christian movie podcast? As a non-Christian — a non-anything, for that matter — your Podthinker suddenly wasn’t even sure whether he’d be allowed to download it.

Yet even before hearing More Than One Lesson‘s [RSS] [iTunes] first episode, signs arose that the show would be Not What You Think, especially if You are a non-Christian — or, even more appropriately, a Christian — who has grown to fear explicitly Christian media and Christian “perspectives” on media. An informal poll of Christian stuff-fearing individuals reveals that they primarily seek to avoid:

  1. proselytization
  2. nonsensical claims
  3. moral scoldiness
  4. poor production value

But as any Battleship Pretension listener knows, Smith — who, by way of disclosure, has been a guest on one of your Podthinker’s podcasts — actively doesn’t proselytize, say things that don’t make sense, lament the presence of the word “damn” in the movies or talk up direct-to-DVD Christian sci-fi epics produced for a buck three-eighty. In fact, he’ll occasionally spend an impromptu monologue arguing against Christians who do those things! Given his extreme reasonability, even the most rage-filled, religion-loathing internet atheist would have to make an exception for him.

And it turns out that More Than One Lesson is indeed as popular with the atheists as it is with the Christians; so popular, in fact, that Smith spends the opening of one episode addressing the many atheists who have volunteered to contribute to the show (!). Afraid of misrepresenting the program’s perspective, your Podthinker would normally have trouble writing up an ostensibly Christian podcast, but one that Christians and atheists agree on? That’s too interesting to ignore.

The format could scarcely get any simpler: each week, Smith discusses a movie for the bulk of the episode, be it Gus Van Sant’s Milk [MP3], Greg Mottola’s Superbad [MP3] Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker [MP3] or another. Then, in what time remains, he goes to the back pages and talks about an older film that deals with a similar theme. Sometimes, in the longer episodes, he’ll have a guest with him, usually a local Christian friend somehow involved in The Industry; BP listeners will enjoy hearing him engage in the one-on-one conversation outside the usual setting, but it must be said that some of these guests sound somewhat less approachable than does Smith himself. And, while all super-nice guys, some will seem slightly alien to listeners who never interact with believers.

But then, More Than One Lesson as a whole couldn’t be more approachable, especially since one can approach it from a couple different angles. Christian audiences can presumably regard it as Christian Movie Talk That Doesn’t Make You Cringe, while non-Christian audiences can safely consider it Tyler Smith on Film. Though the show contains the occasional Bible quote and utterance of the J-word, the vast majority of what Smith and his guests say has to do with cinema and what humanity can learn from it. If these lessons tie in with a particular set of religious teachings, fine, but if the connection isn’t as direct, Smith doesn’t force it. His discussion of Jason Reitman’s Thank You For Smoking [MP3] and what the movie says about truth, falsity, rhetoric and argument exemplifies the show at its best: Christians can learn from it, non-Christians can learn from it, and maybe — just maybe — they’ll stop shouting at one another quite so much after listening.

Vital stats:
Format: “movie talk for the discerning Christian” (that’s the slogan)
Running since: July 2009
Duration: 30m-1h20m
Frequency: weekly, more or less
Archive available on iTunes: all

[Questions, comments, ideas, suggestions or threats for Podthinker Colin Marshall? colinjmarshall at gmail.]