I’m a fan of Gerard Butler. I think he’s a great actor and that Scottish accent is lo maximo! However, I got a really icky taste in my mouth when I saw this poster and read the synopsis of the film…
I know that ‘Machine Gun Preacher’ is based on the true story of Sam Childers, a former troubled and drug addicted biker, who gave his life back to God and began a life of activism and service in the Sudan. I totally respect Sam Childers and the story. I am going to see the movie if it comes out here and I think that Gerard Butler will do an excellent job of capturing such an inspirational story. However, this poster comes off a bit paternalistic. I totally understand what they were trying to do. They were trying to show, in one picture, just how dedicated Sam Childers was and is to the people and children he is trying to protect. The poster misses the mark and I think it is too simplistic, which is exactly why it got into the turbulent, grey waters of paternalism.
You’ve got this strong, attractive white man with a nice body. He’s imposing, he’s dark, and he’s got a gun. He’ll f*ck you up, right? Then right behind him, you have a sad, distressed, frightened little black boy who is behind Butler’s hand–a gesture which is guarding the child and warning him to stay behind him. I get it! I’ve done that for my own children when they were in danger. Yet, we have to take into consideration that given this country’s history of patriarchy and paternalism, that this poster might just be a little on the distasteful side. I see both sides. I don’t want to villify anyone. The offense isn’t the poster so much as the obvious lack of education that lead to the studio, the director, whoever, saying, “This is it! We’ve got the best possible poster for this film”. Because at the end of the day, this poster will appeal to a white crowd before it ever will a minority crowd.
The poster also neglects the fact that Childers noble activism is a two-way street. Remember, Childers was a man who was on a path to self-destruction. Those people needed Childers, or someone like him, willing to give the time and the effort to help them. However, Childers needed those people too because they let him be great; they helped him to be a better person. Their noticeable absence, minus the child, is disappointing. This could’ve been so much better.
I hope the hijinks end with this poster and stay out of the film.
Click here to learn more about Sam Childers.