Morgan Spurlock asks 'What would Jesus buy?"
By Shawn Adler
MTV Movies Blog
November 21, 2007
The cover of my copy of the “What Would Jesus Buy” press
notes, a new movie produced by “Super Size Me” director
Morgan Spurlock, shows Mickey Mouse, arms outstretched,
crucified on the front of an American Express Card.
For an American of the 21st century, it’s about the
least shocking thing found in its pages.
MTV recently caught up with Spurlock to discuss the
movie, it’s exuberant centerpiece, the Reverend Billy
and the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir, and why both
advocate spending nothing on gifts this year for
MTV News: Reverend Billy advocates the “Stop Shopping”
movement. Are you the Grinch that’s going to steal my
Morgan Spurlock: [Laughs] There is this amazing
disconnect that kind of happened during the holiday
where the gifts you give equate love. By giving you
this, I love you this much. The more expensive it is and
the better it is, then wow you must really love me
because this was really expensive and hard to get and
hard to find. Well, at the end of “The Grinch” even his
heart grew three times that day, so maybe that’s what
we’re hoping — that after seeing this film everybody
will start to realize it’s not all about stuff, and
things, and crap under a tree.
MTV: It’s interesting because he rails against the
commercialization of Christmas in the guise of this
phony preacher, go to churches to perform — but he’s not
really making a religious statement.
Spurlock: I don’t think it’s a religious film; I think
it deals with a religious issue. And I think that the
film dances around this whole idea of what we look at as
religion in America today because this is where we go to
worship now. People don’t go to church, people go to the
mall. That’s become our real god — consumerism and
consumption. And we worship at that cash register all
day long and spend thousands and thousands of dollars.
MTV: Is there a part of the marketing machine you find
Spurlock: There is still a huge contingency that targets
really young kids — kids who can’t differentiate from
what a commercial is and what real life is. In countries
throughout Europe they’ve banned this practice. I think
that’s pretty insidious and, what’s even better now,
they’re starting to include credit cards with toys so
you can get a little toy MasterCard just like Mommy and
Daddy have. And I’m just curious, does it come with the
statement that talks about how much you owe every month
as well so the kids can start getting used to that?
MTV: Or mortgage payments –
Spurlock: [Laughs] Yeah, what happens is six months
later somebody comes and repossesses your toys. That
happens after about six, seven months. Toys ‘R’ Us shows
up and repossesses all your toys, “I’m going to need
that big wheel son,” “What do you mean?” “Well you owe
us some money.” Let’s really start to teach them
MTV: How about teaching them just not to buy stuff they
Spurlock: It’s your choice. You can buy whatever you
like. Anybody wants to go out and stock up, and cash
out, and max out all their credit cards — have a good
time. I’m not telling you not to. But there is a
personal choice that we have to make as consumers when
we ask ourselves what kind of a society and community we
want to live in.
You know, we live in a country that used to produce
everything, whether it was textiles or furniture or
clothing, all the way down the lists, everything was
made here. And now I challenge anybody and try and shop
for one day and only buy things that are made in
America. It’s impossible. We’ve kind of bought into this
whole idea that saving money is such a big important
MTV: Which means not only less jobs, but worse products.
Spurlock: Right, I mean, look what’s happening now with
all the product recalls. Product after product is being
sent back now. There are kids’ toys with lead paint in
them. There’s kids toys with date-rape drugs in them.
It’s one after the other. It’s like where do you stop
and say what are we doing? What are we shaping here in
terms of economy in our country because is saving a
dollar that important? Is the life of your kid that
important that it’s worth saving ten, fifteen dollars
when you make one trip to the store?
MTV: That’s Billy’s mission in a nutshell isn’t it?
Spurlock: This is Billy’s whole mission. Billy’s
message, and one of the things that I loved about it, is
that it’s about building a sustainable economy. It’s
building an economy that gets back to this idea of
products being made at home, of shopping locally, of
supporting locally-owned businesses, of getting that
money back out into the community, of trying to end this
cycle of shutting down factories and sending things
overseas just to save money.
There was a great scene that we ended up cutting out the
film about a Chinese Christian. She was preaching her
religion, and got arrested by the police, thrown in
jail, was tortured, shocked in the mouth with a cattle
prod. And when she was thrown in prison, her job was to
make Christmas lights that people would buy and hang on
their tree or put on their house during the holidays. I
felt that was such an incredible thing, that we’re going
to buy gifts at Christmas and put them under that tree
that has the lights of that woman who was tortured and
shocked in the mouth during THIS holiday.
MTV: So what would Jesus buy?
Spurlock: [Laughs] Maybe some sweatshop-free sandals, a
really good bagel, and fair trade robes.
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