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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 Christmas.

MTV News: Reverend Billy advocates the “Stop Shopping” movement. Are you the Grinch that’s going to steal my Christmas presents?

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 most crass?

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 American values.

MTV: How about teaching them just not to buy stuff they can’t afford?

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 deal.

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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