Wednesday, December 24, 2008

That "bold" and "daring" Hollywood

I skimmed through a featurette on a movie called The Reader. As I haven't seen it, this won't be about the movie — it will be about about the movie.

With its very capable actors, The Reader (I gather) tells the story of a young man who has a sexual affair with a considerably older woman who turns out to have worked for the Nazis during WWII. Listening to the creative minds behind the story and the film, part of their intent is to blur moral judgment — how do you judge people when lives and situations are so complex? Regular people did atrocious things in WWII. How do you judge them, how do they judge themselves?

Springboarding off of this, I thought (not for the first time) about what makes the film industry see itself as bold, daring, courageous. This would be such a movie. The boy is 15, the woman is more than twice that. Were the sexes reversed, the relationship would be seen as statutory rape or child molesting, in America. See? "Daring." And humanizing someone who contributed to atrocities against Jews, blurring moral judgment (as I gather the movie does, from the doco) — bold, daring.

That's what's bold and daring in Hollywood. Humanizing murderers, rapists, homosexuals, pedophiles, adulterers, nihilists, and various forms of immoral and anti-social behavior. Not for the purpose of clarifying moral judgment, but for the purpose (as the doco states) of blurring the lines.

Now, my point isn't what you may assume it is. Obviously I can't fully judge a movie I've not seen. What I'm judging is Hollywood's narcissistic self-congratulation. It loves to tear down Christian values any way it can — though, paradoxically, it needs those values. Without at least ghosts and echoes of Biblical values, it can have no sympathetic characters, no uplifting message, no structure. But at the same time, it despises those values and wants to silence its own throbbing, guilty conscience by dismantling them - as well as anyone who affirms and tries to live by them.

It's Post-modernism on film. It's Romans 1:18-32, over and over and over again, in living color and CGI.

It's common for the artistic geniuses to "cover" themselves by saying, "I am not saying that [insert immoral/anti-social behavior here] is a good thing, but...."

Okay, fine. Let's accept the statement at face value.

So what would be a truly "daring, bold" film today?

How about a futuristic drama about post-abortion America, in which some pol or doctor or nurse or advocate is coming to grips with the bloody, human slaughter that (s)he'd enabled?

How about a drama about a couple in a sexual relationship, in which one converts to genuine Christian faith, and what follows — told from a perspective sympathetic to the convert?

How about a drama about a Christian family in which a member "comes out" as deciding to act on homosexual passions — told symphathetically from the perspective of family, opening up their self-reproach, doubt, fear; their struggling to understand how to keep God as God, and show love, grace and truth to the child who embarks on this path of repulsive self-destruction? How about portraying the "deeply religious fundamentalists" as compassionate, genuine 3D people?

You could suggest others, I'm sure.

But if the folks behind the last forty years of "bold, daring" movies truly aren't advocating and enabling and rationalizing the behavior they portray so symphathetically — then what could possibly prevent them from making movies such as these?

Except that they're not so bold and daring after all. And they really are advocates.

And they can't see it otherwise (Ephesians 4:17-19).

11 comments:

Mesa Mike said...

> How about a futuristic drama about
> post-abortion America, in which
> some pol or doctor or nurse or
> advocate is coming to grips with
> the bloody, human slaughter that
> (s)he'd enabled?

You mean, a futuristic drama about post-abortion America, in which some becoming-enlightened puritan is coming to grips with the oppressive, hateful society that he (no 'she' here, this person is a white male -- that's what makes it "bold" and "daring") had helped enable?

That's more like what Hollywood would consider bold and daring.

RT said...

"Bold and daring" Hollywood definitely is not. Plots (including the one you comment on) are mostly derivative and characterizations tepid. Humanizing "murderers, rapists, homosexuals" etc. is neither bold nor daring precisely because murderers, rapists, homosexuals, etc. are in fact human. Having been called upon in the course of my profession to defend, prosecute and judge such individuals, I have experienced the blurring of moral judgment that inevitably comes from humanization. It is more of an inconvenience than it is either "bold or daring."

~Mark said...

Easy one: how 'bout a movie where the Christian character isn't a complete nutcase?

candy said...

I notice that the most sympathetic characters in movies these days are the gratuitous homosexuals that are in almost all movies I see. I rarely see a mainstream movie that does not include a character that is the most compassionate, the most suffering, or the one that somehow saves the damsel from fashion ruin.

Kim said...

Some day, when all the "bold and daring" storylines have become regular, hum drum life, Hollywood will have to revert to being bold and daring by showing storylines where the characters are moral, truth-loving people.

Seems to me that the really bold and daring filmmaker would make a film that is contradictory to what typifies films these days.

Aaron Snell said...

It loves to tear down Christian values any way it can — though, paradoxically, it needs those values. Without at least ghosts and echoes of Biblical values, it can have no sympathetic characters, no uplifting message, no structure. But at the same time, it despises those values and wants to silence its own throbbing, guilty conscience by dismantling them - as well as anyone who affirms and tries to live by them.

It's Post-modernism on film.


This is why the biggest winners at the box office - the movies that keep Hollywood in business - are the traditional, superhero/supervillian, badguy/goodguy, clear disinct lines of good and evil type of films. It seems Postmodernism doesn't satisfy the masses.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Listening to the creative minds behind the story and the film, part of their intent is to blur moral judgment — how do you judge people when lives and situations are so complex?

Look. Moral judgment can be very difficult (besides, people love to misapply Matt. 7:1-5), but what's happening now is a complete capitulation to a no-judgment society where subjectivism, relativism, epistemic uncertainty, and political correctness are ruling the day which is giving great joy to the Father of Lies as he welcomes those entering the broad and wide gate.

There is such widespread aversion to being (mis)perceived and labeled as a harsh judgmentalist that people are flocking and rushing to the no-judgment end of the spectrum.

God judges. The Bible is judgmental. Jesus judges. And people don't like the Judge. The external, absolute, objective morality of Scripture? Or the internal, relative, subjective morality of oneself and Hollywood and the meanstream media and Madison Avenue and other loved-one travelers to the wide gate of Hell?

Humanizing murderers, rapists, homosexuals, pedophiles, adulterers, nihilists, and various forms of immoral and anti-social behavior.

While simultaneously dehumanizing Christians.

DJP, are you interested in doing a review of the movie "Doubt" starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep?

Jay said...

Humanizing murderers, rapists, homosexuals, pedophiles, adulterers, nihilists, and various forms of immoral and anti-social behavior.

What's wrong with that? There's a difference in humanizing and advocating. We're all sinners along the same lines. Realizing "the other" is a reflection of yourself and that the only thing that distinguishes you from him/her is Christ in you is a pretty important thing for people to realize.

I'm not saying that Hollywood does that, of course. I do think that some good can be gleaned from Hollywood, though. I, for one, am glad that homosexuals have been humanized. At least when I admit that struggle now I don't have to worry about people seeing me as some sort of freak, which is what kept a great uncle of mine "in the closet" until his 60s, after a failed marriage, divorce, and history of alcoholism and depression.

So, I suppose it's a bit of a Catch 22. No one in life is a clear-cut "good guy" or "bad guy." There is clear cut good and bad, though. We need to be able to see good and bad clearly in our art, but at the same time we need to be reminded that we all tend to lean towards the bad more often than not, and certainly do without Christ.

Oh, and Merry Christmas.

Fred Butler said...

I can recall back when Brokeback Mountain was released. On the radio and TV ads for this film, the narrator quotes some insipid critic as saying it was the "Boldest, groundbreaking original films ever made" or something along those lines.

At the time, I posted a blog article asking what was so bold and original about a movie glamorizing homosexual sin seeing that there were many TV shows and movies with homosexual characters who were portrayed as fun loving and one of the best friends a person (usually the girl who is the focus of the romantic plot) could possibly have.

A much bolder film would be to show a gay activist in San Francisco living a pro-gay life with all its debauchery and then in the middle of the film, he is born again, (truly born again) and he returns to his friends to evangelize them and warn them of the wickedness of their sin. Of course, he is violently persecuted because of it and how he deals with the reaction his old friends have against him.

I have a sneaking suspicion such a movie would never be made.

Ricky Rickard said...

Here is an idea for a radical movie plot: a person converts to Christianity and their life doesn't turn into sunshine and fairytales. They have actual struggles and hardships, and the movie portrays them as glorifying God even in the mists of the struggles. Now that would really be a radical movie plot by Hollywood standards.

Merry Christmas All!

Carol Jean said...

DJP said, "Humanizing murderers, rapists, homosexuals, pedophiles, adulterers, nihilists, and various forms of immoral and anti-social behavior."

Wait, homosexuality and pedophilia in the same sentence? Warren must have gotten to you (snark flag down).