In the pro-Jesus, moneymaking tradition of The Blind Side and the latter-day filmography of Kirk Cameron comes — Justin Bieber: Never Say Never? USA Today reports that Paramount, the studio behind tomorrow’s 3-D Bieber documentary, “has screened the movie for faith leaders across the country and distributed spiritual discussion guides — the same tools used to promote The Passion of the Christ and The Blind Side as family-friendly fare.”
As the story goes: Bieber’s mother Pattie Mallette originally envisioned a Christian music career for her little wunderkind, hilariously telling the New York Times that when Bieber’s manager Scooter Braun first approached her, she “prayed, ‘God, you don’t want this Jewish kid to be Justin’s man, do you?’” But the religious partisanship is not quite so overt in Never: While the flick apparently features Bieber praying before concerts, the main Christian peg is a kind of vague declaration that, partially through faith, you too may one day become a multimillionaire teenage pop star, or whatever your own personal equivalent of that might be. (For the record, ours is “multimillionaire teenage pop star.” Never say never!) Or, as Paramount’s “spiritual resource guide” puts it: “[The movie] provides an opportunity to teach our children about … the power of prayer.”
Are you buying it? No? Here, allow Scooter to make an ineffectual case: “There are some stars who speak their faith because they’re trying to do outreach to that audience and there are others who share that side of their lives because that’s who they are. And I think that’s just who Justin is.” We certainly won’t be making any declarations about “who Justin is” around here — but screening the film ahead of time for faith leaders sounds much more like the former than the latter. You can’t argue with the logic: Presumably, Paramount is gambling that this tactic will sail right over the heads of the core tween audience (especially the non-goyim tweens) and right into the crossover Christian market, and that’s a safe bet. But it’s certainly a new, slightly queasier twist in the burgeoning pro-faith marketing game to try to sell the success of a teen star as the work of God. You got balls, Paramount.
(Also, bonus Scooter anecdote: “Braun, who’s Jewish, said he encourages Bieber’s faith because ‘I think it’s so important.’ He said the two regularly pray the Shema, Judaism’s most central prayer, before the start of each concert.”)