A brief observation that I thought merited a place on the Internet, relating to this quote from Alissa Wilkinson’s excellent recent essay:
In high school – this was around 1999 – I worked at the local Christian bookstore, and we had a poster in the store that I think in retrospect was distributed by a Christian record label or association as a marketing tool. It wasn’t just us who had it. Virtually everyone I know who grew up evangelical remembers it, too, and calls it the “if you like this you’ll love that” poster: if you like this secular band, you’ll love this Christian band (because they stylistically mimic the secular band but their content is safe). Here’s the Christian Britney and the Christian Goo Goo Dolls and the Christian N*Sync and the Christian Metallica, and on it went.
Mercifully, a lot has changed since I was a teenager, and a lot of people (Christian, formerly Christian, and not Christian at all) have written about the whole thing, and that’s not what I want to do here anyhow. The point is this: most of these parallel products have been, by definition, knock-offs, and were usually pretty mediocre. And everyone kind of knew it.
I was telling my wife Rachel about this passage, saying that I remembered these CCM posters from my own high school days. (I’m probably just a couple years younger than Wilkinson.) Rachel didn’t remember those posters, but she observed that the phrase “if you like this you’ll love that” reminded her of one thing: cheap perfume. “If you like Chanel No. 5, you’ll love Evanescence by Eduardo.”
And this is exactly right. Rather than CCM or Christian movies being more redeemed pieces of work or a distinct genre of their own, too often they are simply adopting a familiar marketing strategy: imitate the big brands at a quality that satisfies your core demographic, a demographic you’ve either chosen or guided to be as undiscriminating as possible.