Published March 25, 2011
A new independent film "A Virgin Mary" is slated to star former Disney queen Vanessa Hudgens, and promises to push the star even further from her good-girl roles of the past.
According to HollywoodLife.com, Hudgens has signed on to play the "slutty" friend of star Lily Collins, who plays Mary, a teeanger who makes a vow to have sex with her best guy friend if they’re still virgins by the time they are 18 years old.
And even though “A Virgin Mary!” isn’t set to start filming until the summer, it is already sparking controversy.
"The use of the title 'Virgin Mary' counts as a gratuitous insult to people who revere the figure of the new testament Mary – especially in a film with no apparent connection to the biblical story," media expert and syndicated talk show host, Michael Medved, told FOX411's Pop Tarts column.
Dan Gainor, VP of Business & Culture at the Media Research Center and head of the Culture and Media Institute is also deeply disturbed by the context in which the sacred "Virgin Mary" is being used.
"The very idea of the name of the movie is to offend so it gets to be 'edgy,' score points with some producer and get press," Gainor said. "It's this kind of film that shows why parents need to monitor everything their children watch."
The casting of Vanessa Hudgens to draw a teen/tween audience due to her Disney "High School Musical" fame has also raised eyebrows. A rep for Hudgens was not able to officially confirm the star's involvement in the project.
"There is this recurring theme in popular entertainment these days that virginity is a handicap, a plague, a burden you must rid yourself of before you turn 18," Melissa Henson, director of communications at the Parents Television Council said. "It’s a damaging message because it cheapens human sexuality and denies the value of true intimacy."
The controversy surrounding "A Virgin Mary!" comes just two weeks after we reported on ABC’s new pilot “Good Christian Bitches.” The comedy “Paul,” currently in theaters, has been criticized for Christian stereotyping with characters depicted as gun-toting creationists who believe the world is just 4,000 years old.
"Hollywood is ambivalent about religion in general and often stereotypes devoutly religious people of all faiths," Dr. Dionne Bennett, professor of pop culture and women's studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, explained. "I think this reflects classism as much as religious intolerance as devout Christians, for example, are often-depicted as out-of-touch with the world and lacking education, taste, and wealth."
But Bennett said it is important to wait until the film actually comes to fruition before condemning it.
"It is also important to make a distinction between the marketing of a film and the content of the film itself," she added. "Given award-winning writer-director Beth Schacter's, earlier film, 'Normal Adolescent Behavior,' it is likely that the content of the film will involve a thoughtful, complex, but disturbing representation of gender, friendship, peer pressure, and the difficult sexual choices today’s teens are asked to make in order to be accepted."
Deidre Behar contributed to this report.