The 1998 film Holy Man tells the tale of a wealthy white male who works in the media industry meeting a mysterious African American who appears to have divine powers and spiritual insight. The wealthy white male who works in the media industry realises that his life is empty and he needs the wisdom of the mysterious African American who then helpfully leaves the wealthy white man alone at the end of the film.
In many respects, Holy Man is a lot like the 2003 film Bruce Almighty. The similarities between the films might make us wonder what’s going on in the media industry: are the white guys who write these scripts and direct these movies actually calling out for help? Should we check to see if they’re okay?
After I watched this film, I started to think about the religious element of the film. The pop-culture presentation of the ‘religious’ and ‘spiritual’ influences our public debate significantly. It’s not uncommon to hear people refer to themselves as ‘spiritual’ but not ‘religious’, reinforcing the idea that the individual is the only true authority when it comes to the non-material world. It’s also not uncommon to see ‘spirituality’ as a rejection of the material world (in both the ‘things made out of particles’ and ‘things that are sold to us’ senses). You can tell that Eddie Murphy’s character is spiritual because he has no possessions, is joyous and forgiving, and is the only African American in the building.
The film also emphasises the extraverted nature of pop-spirituality. Murphy’s character wants us to connect with others, to find love and meaning in being loved. The Holy Man world does not entertain the idea of the mystic who abandons society altogether to meditate in a cave for three years.
Instead, the film made me think of Adam Goodes.