As I’ve mentioned before, I’m married to a film-lover. My husband loves independent and foreign films, and in his free time he is a filmmaker. When we go out and see a movie, we spend the entire car ride home unpacking the symbolism and meaning of what we’ve witnessed. He’s taught me that movies are not a way to escape—they’re a way to engage and understand the people and world around us.
Now, we hear someone say that and our automatic assumption is they mean we need to see a certain movie to witness to people. I don’t agree with that. I think movies are a tool to talk with people, but you don’t have to see a film to understand its worldview or why it’s popular—you can usually find that out in a few minutes of conversation or Internet research.
No, what I mean is that good movies help us understand the people we know and the world in which we live. For instance, if you see a movie about the struggles of people of another race or nationality, you begin to sympathize with them in a new way. If you see a film about a family dealing with tragedy or loss, you relate emotionally to what they’re going through. It’s fiction, but it opens us up to those in our lives experiencing similar things in reality.
I was thinking recently about what I want to teach my daughter about movies. I want her to be a strong woman who uses her mind to investigate and understand the world around her. I want her to know what it means to truly love her Creator with the mind He gave her. I want her to make wise decisions about the movies she watches, and when she decides to watch one, I want her to examine carefully the message being presented.
I want my daughter to recognize the lies present in stories like 50 Shades of Grey—that it’s not just problematic for the sexual content, but for the message about her personhood. I want her to so cherish the fact that she’s made in the image of God that she understands the emptiness of placing all her hope and value in another human being. And I want her to know that the same lies in sexually explicit romantic films are frequently in G-rated, made-for-TV specials—the lie that a woman’s worth rises and falls on her ability to find, attract, and keep a man who fulfills her every desire. More than that, I want her to know that no earthly ambition will fulfill her, whether it’s marriage, children, work, or anything else.
I pray my daughter so loves the one great story of God’s rescue plan to redeem His people that she recognizes shadows of this story in the films she sees. When she watches E.T., I want her to see the similarities between this extra-terrestrial creature (as well as Superman, The Iron Giant and many others) and the Son of God. When she sees Frozen, I want her to recognize the gospel elements of self-sacrifice and selfless love. And yet, always, I want her to know why Christ is greater.
I want my daughter to know she never has to see a movie because everyone else is. I want to teach her to use practical resources to find out what a movie is about and what questionable elements it contains before making a decision based just on a rating. Rather than just entertainment, may she see that movies, like other artistic media, always present messages. I hope she realizes that sometimes movies with biblical themes, such as the film adaptation of Les Miserables, present a truer picture of the gospel than many movies actually based on the Bible.
I also want to model these things for my daughter. More times than I would like to admit, I have been amused at sin portrayed for laughs on TV shows or movies. I have been entertained by a light-hearted treatment of the very actions and thoughts that caused my Savior to die for me. I am convicted of this and want to view those films that show sin for what it is—devastating. I want to see things with messages of redemption, not those that lie to an audience by suggesting we are not broken. What I really want is to see truth.
As my daughter grows older and makes choices about what films to see, I pray she brings herself fully to them, her mind completely engaged in discerning what these movies might teach her, and whether or not they are lessons worth learning. I hope we have many conversations about life stemming from the stories she sees. And who knows? Maybe one day she’ll use her creative mind to make her own films—reflections of the one great story of the gospel.