Americans Want More Movies with Faith Themes, Landmark Survey Finds

Michael Foust | CrosswalkHeadlines Contributor | Updated: Feb 19, 2024
Americans Want More Movies with Faith Themes, Landmark Survey Finds

Americans Want More Movies with Faith Themes, Landmark Survey Finds

A majority of entertainment consumers in the U.S. and around the world say movies and television programs too often perpetuate religious stereotypes and that they want to see faith more actually portrayed, according to a groundbreaking new survey. The HarrisX poll of nearly 10,000 entertainment consumers across 11 countries was conducted in collaboration with the Faith & Media Initiative and has received mainstream coverage, including in Variety and NPR.

The poll found that 69 percent of Americans and 63 percent of people around the world who consume entertainment say they believe entertainment perpetuates religious stereotypes. Only 31 percent of Americans say it does not. Further, 82 percent of Americans and 80 percent of individuals around the world say they believe it’s “important that the entertainment industry improves their portrayals of faith to make them more accurate.”

Entertainment consumers also say they want to see more faith themes in movies and TV programs. “Faith and religion” ranked sixth out of 18 themes that consumers say they desire to see in movies and television. It ranked 13th out of 18 themes in what consumers say is currently present in entertainment.

“Consumers say they learn about other religions through entertainment and see the potential for faith-inclusive content to create understanding and dialogue in society,” an analysis of the survey said. “Yet, respondents share that when they see their religion or faith -- and others -- included in mainstream entertainment, they feel it’s often sensationalized or that the portrayal leans on stereotypes.”

The survey also included 30 in-depth interviews with entertainment industry leaders. It quoted an unnamed director/producer who said of Hollywood, “I think that people want to impress a very, very, very unique culture in L.A. And oftentimes, that's at odds with really entertaining Middle America.”

It quoted an unnamed CEO as saying, “Statistically [religion] is probably underrepresented … if you make a pure statistical analysis to see how much gender, sexual orientation represented. Hollywood is cautious, and they do a pretty good job. In terms of religion, I think is not very much a topic they think of because unconsciously … they prefer to avoid potentially controversial topics.”

Jon Erwin, who directed I Can Only Imagine and is the only director in movie history to earn four A+ CinemaScore ratings, previously told Christian Headlines that Hollywood, too often, gets faith wrong. Erwin co-founded The Wonder Project, a new faith-based, values-driven movie studio.

“A lot of entertainment today chips away at faith, chips away at belief in things that are still worth believing in,” he said. “Christianity is one of those things. But so is America or entrepreneurism or the family -- or just a certain set of values on which Christianity rests. We're living in a very cynical world where it's tough to know what to believe in. And if you watch a lot of popular shows but also movies, you find yourself in a me-versus-everyone mindset, where it's hard to know what to believe in. And so we [want to create] content that restores faith in things that are worth it. … Christianity is life-changing for me and 2.5 billion people.”


Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Ridofranz

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist PressChristianity TodayThe Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

Americans Want More Movies with Faith Themes, Landmark Survey Finds