Moral outrage is a super-fun tool for studio executives. Who needs expensive advertising when newspapers will cover a "controversial" movie for free? While responsible citizens nationwide develop their opinion on the same-sex kiss a possibly antisemitic Angelina Jolie shares with an emu, the film's quality somehow becomes a moot point.
The Passion of the Christ
While intellectuals yammered over the possible antisemitic subtext, studio execs really just wanted to know one thing: could Christ open a movie? Hell yes. The highest grossing independent film of all time, Mel's pet project demonstrated the economic upside of sincerely (if somewhat insanely) appealing to the Christian Right.
However, due to Hollywood's slippery grasp of "sincerity," similar attempts to harness such religious fervor (see: The Nativity Story, Evan Almighty) continue to flop miserably.
Don't remember it by title? Don't worry, neither did we, and now the Cracked IT guys are asking why we have "Dakota Fanning rape" in our Google cache.
Hounddog went to Sundance, but studios apparently put little faith in the buying power of the "Megan's Law" demographic, and the film was not picked up for distribution.
The question "Is America ready for dude sex?" suddenly became much scarier when said dudes were wearing cowboy hats.
Even though recent tragedies have caused some to drag this controversy back into the public eye, at the time strong performances by talented actors trumped prejudice, winning the film both critical acclaim and strong box office returns. However, it has yet to win over the all-important face paint wearing ex-professional wrestler demographic.