Part 3 in the series: What Has Become Acceptable to Christian Moviegoers?
Recently I reviewed the film Nine, a musical loosely based on Fellini's 8 ½, about a genius filmmaker undergoing a personal and professional crisis. Though cautionary in my praise for the picture, I must admit I was somewhat seduced by the female cast: Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard, Nicole Kidman, Kate Hudson, Fergie, and Sophia Loren. Accentuated by a gilded Renaissance glow and romanced by a camera that reveals all that is seductive about the female form, each of the ladies is framed like a work of art. Indeed, had she been around, Da Vinci would have used Ms. Loren to model for his Mona Lisa. As I said in my review, I wasn't lusting after these women, but rather I looked upon Ms. Cruz, Ms. Kidman, Ms. Hudson and especially the ageless Ms. Loren in awe, realizing that woman was God's most elaborate creation. Her form goes beyond the sparkle of the stars, the shimmer of the sea, or the shine of the sun.
That said, perhaps I was a little too seduced. I think we can appreciate the female form without lusting over it. But the fact is, it's easier for the entertainment world to aim at our baser instincts than exalt the wonder of God's creations. The PG-13 rated Nine contains a strong moral (once you get past Kate and Fergie). A man comes to realize that a gluttonous appetite leads to spiritual decay. By film's end, our protagonist has learned that one wrong turn leads to another and another, until suddenly you become conscious that you are lost. Alas, the message seems secondary, the theme overshadowed by beguiling pole dancers in revealing underwear.
Let me give an illustration. If a jogging girl passes us on the street, it's a normal reaction for the male of the species to glance her over. But as we develop the spiritual side of our nature, we are to control that desire for a second glance. Again, while that would be a normal reaction, when you think of it, that's a pretty sophomoric reaction. Voyerism will result in no lasting gratification. All we've done by staring is take a step away from further spiritual development that day. That jogger is one of God's children and if that young woman is or will become a Christian, then she's our sister in the Lord. We're supposed to love her as Jesus does, not use her for momentary self satisfaction.
I stumble in this area, so I don't want to come across as biliously pious. I take that second glance more often than I care to admit. My spirit is willing, but the flesh, oh the flesh, how weak it is.
What's this have to do with movie-going? Well, let's face it, studios use women to entice and most women in show business are willing to be used in that manner. I must admit, my review of "Nine" reflects a more accepting attitude of what Hollywood uses to tempt us away from the things of God. (I'll try to be more careful in future critiques.)
Most films aimed at the teen demographic are geared to promote the idea that abstaining is no longer relevant. The world and the movies are telling them to have pre-marital sex. What's more, there's such crudity associated with the portrayal of sexual intercourse on film (There's Something About Mary, Fired Up, Jennifer's Body) that the screen version of the act lacks any loving intimacy between a man and a woman.
In the Oscar-nominated Shakespeare In Love from 1998, a comic scene features two men in deep conversation, while the one is fornicating with a naked woman. And in 2001, the English comedy/drama Gosford Park further dehumanizes the sexual act by featuring two people rutting away with all the sensuality of two dogs copulating.
In the 1968 space-age sex spoof, Barberella, Jane Fonda wore one revealing getup after another and did a striptease during the opening sequence. Certainly sex has been a mainstay in movie themes, but this was the first time drive-in goers were able to see a major motion picture star take off all her clothes for no other apparent reason than to stimulate the viewer. It led the way for legitimate screen pornography. And as we all know, one taste of the forbidden fruit is never enough. Today's culture is more accepting of promiscuous sexual relationships than at any other time in our history. And because we are bombarded by sexual imagery through every media outlet, including the adult bookstore at our computer keyboard fingertips, it's difficult not to succumb to the allure of sexual activity outside marriage. The Bible clearly points out, "But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit. Flee from sexual immorality" (1 Corinthians 6:17-18, NIV).
Even though we are new creations in Christ, Christians still battle the world, the flesh and the Devil. It's nearly impossible to avoid sexual media overload, but I think the Lord is pleased when we try to flee from the world's tug. You might keep that in mind when selecting movies, TV shows, etc.
That jogger I referred to earlier may be doing her best to show off her physique, either because she is proud of her training efforts, or possibly because she is pleasured by the suggestive power she possesses. That does make it tough for us, but she loses her dominance if we look the other way. Same goes for the movies. Filmmakers have a certain power, but not until we hand over the price of a ticket.
The Bible makes it clear that we are not to be governed by the world's standard. "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will" (Romans 12:2 NIV). The key word here is renewing. It's kind of difficult – renewing the mind when it's being bombarded by sexual imagery.
In the next column, fourth in our series, What Has Become Acceptable to Christian Moviegoers? We will examine Hollywood's worst folly. And ours.