Monday, January 11, 2010

Some Thoughts on Movies

I have been thinking about movies recently. I recently watched the trailer for Dorian Gray online and read quotes from Don Carson and Doug Wilson. These thoughts have propelled me to ponder the nature of film, the motivations of film makers, and the interests of the moviegoer.

Let me first make some observations regarding the trailer to Dorian Gray. The trailer tells the essential story of the film, which is that Dorian Gray somehow traded his soul for constant youth, though he indulges his evil desires he stays physically unstained by his sin, though his portrait becomes disfigured by it. He states that he must pay for his wickedness. Yet the trailer advertises the film with erotica--promising to allow the audience to participate in Dorian's fornication. This is the sort of contradictory message that Hollywood excels at.

This leads to a quote by theologian, Don Carson, in regards to Genesis 2. He writes, "What a strange way, we might think, to end this account of Creation: “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (Gen. 2:25). Hollywood would love it: what an excuse for sexual titillation if someone tries to place the scene on the big screen."

I thought briefly upon this, imagining how such a situation could ever be filmed without becoming pornography and it is plainly impossible. Through the fall, man came to know his nakedness (Genesis 3:7). As Carson notes, Hollywood would love this. What better than having a man and woman traipsing through a garden, naked, all in the context of a religious story?

And finally, the second quote is from Doug Wilson via Twitter. He writes, "Christian cultural engagement used to mean prophetic opposition to abortion and sodomy. Now some want it to mean watching dirty movies."

Wilson has a great insight into modern evangelicalism here. The truism of our age is "relevance"--is it not? We Christians, must be "relevant" to non-believers. How can we successfully communicate with non-believers if we are not fluent in their cultural milieu?

Now I would characterize Dorian Gray as a "dirty movie." The trailer alone testifies to this. It advertises itself as an escapade into hedonistic fornication. Even if the film finishes with a "good ending" it is dirty. Ponder again Carson's musing on a film in the Garden of Eden. A film with a man and woman, both naked in a garden, even under the pretense of the Bible, would be a "dirty movie." Could the call for "cultural engagement" possibly justify viewing such a film as that?

Yet I can fully envision Christians justifying viewing such a film under a variety of pretenses, even to quibble with the artist's conception of Eden, or of the script's integrity to the Bible. We Christians must think differently about cultural engagement--particularly regarding television and movies. Wilson is right, "prophetic cultural engagement" may not justify viewing pornography--it may only unreservedly condemn it.

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