Documentaries can be some of the most controversial types of film. They usually tell some type of story, whether it’s about a war that took place centuries ago, how unethical Seaworld is, or a man who was “catfished” into thinking the 50-year-old woman he dated on Facebook was 24.
There is also one general truth that is accepted about them: they are nonfiction and are meant to make people aware of something. They are not only meant to entertain, but to educate and provoke thought in an audience. So after being recommended by people whose judgment I trust to watch Bill Maher’s “Religulous”—yes, I’m a few years late—I found myself horrified how such a respected political TV personality could make such a bad documentary.
Now, I am Christian, but I am not saying that Maher’s opinion or point-of-view was wrong. I aknowledge that there are plenty of things wrong with all the various institutions of religions, especially my own.
What I am saying is that his movie is simply bad quality. He makes it very clear early on in his film that his opinion on religion is quite negative and that he believes religious people are pretty much ignorant and blind. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and perhaps Maher could have made a good argument if he wasn’t such a pretentious filmmaker.
If he didn’t cut off all the people he interviewed just to crack a joke or copy and paste reaction clips from pop culture to purposely make people look ignorant, then he could have made room for actual intelligent debate.
I would have enjoyed that more. He could have let people make themselves look stupid instead of forcing the idea that they were stupid on the audience. My biggest problem with this documentary is simple: Maher throws atheism in our face the same way he claims religious groups project their beliefs on society. My problem is not with his atheism, it is with his hypocrisy.
This is not meant to be a smear piece on Maher. He’s a funny comedian and his beliefs are completely valid. What is frustrating is the fact that a documentary as poorly orchestrated as this has such a huge following. It has an average of an eight out of 10 star rating. People whose opinions I respect praise it and make references to it when discussing religion. The documentary was entertaining, but if the main concern is to be entertaining while making a statement about religion than perhaps he should have had the creators of South Park direct the film. At least then we might have seen a musical number or a celebrity cameo.
Maybe my criticism of this type of documentary just comes from all those communications courses I’ve taken where we’ve learned to analyze arguments and ethical decisions in the media. I’d like to think in general that the rational people in this world would like to create an open-minded and tolerant future, but with extreme bias in documentaries and any piece of media that makes an argument, it doesn’t seem likely.
Overall, I think there are negative consequences when people choose to stand by and support someone’s belief simply because it agrees with their point of view instead of realizing that the claims are completely biased and one-sided.
If that statement sounds familiar, then perhaps it’s because that’s the argument against religion in Maher’s documentary— how ironic.