Saturday, February 26, 2011

Fiddler On The Roof

Wow. Wow. Wow. One of the most dangerous and disturbing films I've seen in a long time. And I thought The Music Man was bad.

I need to review a film that I liked soon. :-D

This film objectifies women. It glorifies rebellion and impurity. It mocks God-given authority. It models men who are pious, kind, and wimpy (the tailor), old and stuck-up (the devout Jews), likable and underhanded (the father of the family that the film focuses on), or handsome, irresistible, and wicked (the husbands/boyfriends of the two younger girls). It models women who are unhappy and rebellious, who don't have enough character to see right through the hot guy who looks into their eyes and talks softly. And it makes a mockery of God's Law, and indeed of God Himself.

The film lays out the destruction of a family heritage- and portrays it as a good thing. The first daughter marries a good, devout Jew- she just doesn't do it the proper, traditional way. The next girl marries a radical Jew, and doesn't ask her father's permission- though they do want his blessing. ???

By daughter number three, she marries outside the faith. For a while, papa's strong on the issue, and won't give his blessing- he won't even speak to her. But of course, he bends there, too, by the end of the film.

How sad! How twisted! The modeling that a father can't say "no" to his daughter. "Look at her eyes... she loves him..."

If a father truly loves his daughter he will put weight to his words. Love doesn't mean giving someone what they want- but a person who acts in true love will give someone what they need.

Now, mind you, I'm not one who says that "tradition" is the standard. May it never be! Scripture is The Standard. God's Word trumps the word of any other- including my earthly father. BUT. My Heavenly Father has given me my earthly father and the traditions and heritages that I receive from him and others. Those traditions should be honored and respected, just as my father should be honored and respected by myself. If the traditions violate Scripture- may they be abolished! My father would say the same. May they never be placed on par with God's Word. But let us receive and honor those traditions which are rooted in Scripture with joy!

Yet, even if I am to abolish traditions, I must do it in an honoring way- not a brash, cocky, and irreverent one. In stead of confronting my father by tearing down his traditions in front of the whole town, it would be far better to speak to him in private! (Not only for Scriptural Principles' sake, but also so that if he ties me up in knots with the good reasons behind the tradition, I'm not so embarrassed. :-D)

Fiddler on the Roof basically lays precedent for rebellion, and for, really, the elevation of some sort of mushy, humanistic "love" over the love that God defines for us in His Law-Word.

Perhaps films like this are why we now think it's cruel for a father to refuse to attend the wedding of a Christian child to a pagan, or for a family to ostracize a homosexual child, or for a church to practice church discipline on an adulterous Sunday-school teacher. But where did Scripture give us a basis for this concept of love?

I said the film objectifies women. I want to elaborate. By abolishing patriarchy, by promoting a woman free to marry and "fall in love" and so on, by removing the God-given protections of a young woman's heart, the film, instead of freeing the woman, makes her a slave to the first dark-eyed and smooth-tongued teen-idol who comes her way. Is this freedom? Why can we not see that the young Russian who saves the young Jew from the men who were teasing her is far, far more dangerous to the girl than the men he saved her from ever were? They caused her discomfort for a moment- he destroyed her purity, her faith, her family, her future.

Interestingly enough, good ol' Hollywood always portrays the hot and radical young men who coo "I love you" as actually being faithful men of good character who would lay down their lives for their women. What a lie! The man who will steal a girl's heart most likely won't treasure it later. If he has no desire to protect your purity now, what makes you think that he will want to protect you when it really counts- when true love manifests itself? 20 years later, when you are not so pretty and have had a few children and a few years and a few pounds, do you think that he will treasure the heart that he stole on a whim?

Hollywood says yes. Methinks Hollywood be wrong.

Why do we see this as freedom for women?

(Sidenote- kinda like how the man who opens a door for a girl is upholding an oppressive patriarchy or an old-fashioned ignorance, but a guy who pins her in a wrestling match is promoting liberation for women... I applaud this young man)

The score was absolutely gorgeous. Break my heart, Isaac Stern.

It also had a very powerful ending and some very impressive filmmaking techniques- the silhouette dancing was fascinating and beautiful, some of the shots were great, and "Sunrise, Sunset" was like to make ya cry.

Also, one of the powerful lessons that we may take from this film is that we must not pass on tradition as such. We must pass on traditions along with the reasons behind them.

Nevertheless, because of the worldview... I'd have to give it 1 of 5, and I would only recommend it on the basis of it being a cultural classic, a great study in how not to live- worldview analysis-, and a very beautiful experience musically.

(Also, parental warning- there's a pretty scary scene for little kids where the father is recounting his dream of ghosts rising from their graves.)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Questionable Films

My mom mentioned that it may be wise for me to mention some of our policies on film-viewing, seeing as how I review films that some may find inappropriate. I praise God for a wise mother!

There is a website at which you may read detailed review about the actual content of many modern releases. This site has been very helpful. However, as the descriptions given are detailed- the profanity is denoted tastefully, but violence and nudity are described as shown in the film- I would recommend that it be used mainly by parents, and certainly with discretion:

I would also like to mention that we like to purchase films that have been edited for content:

I have also heard good things about Clear-play:

The convictions of a household on what to watch and not to watch are ultimately the responsibility of the head of the home as well as of each individual as he walks with The LORD.

In our home, nudity is the big no-no. Language is something that we really don't like, especially when they are irreverent with The Name of God.

Violence is something that my perspective has changed drastically on.

I don't any longer believe that violence in films is bad. Gratuitous, excessive violence, perhaps. But violence is a fact of life, and something that can be used to lend gravity to a subject that requires said gravity. We, especially as men, should be able to handle it.

Usually, anything questionable is first viewed by our parents. I thank God for that shield of our innocence.

There are some things that I want to watch because they are a kind of cultural artifact- The Music Man being one of them!- that I might not watch otherwise. They have shaped our culture and are referenced all the time. Other films have are edifying on the whole, though junk was added for flavor. Blech. Braveheart, my favorite film (which we own edited, by the way), is an example of this.

I desire to remain pure of heart and mind, to take every thought captive, and to be able to learn from the amazing works of art which are great because they conform to God's Order, though they don't obey in every way.

I hope that clears a few things up. Ultimately, let us meditate on things that are pleasing to God. Let us think on the "true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy" things. And don't you go watch something, regret it, and blame it on me. :-D

Friday, February 18, 2011

Do You Know The Music Man?

We watched two movies last night, one being the renowned classic The Music Man and the other Ridley Scott's epic Gladiator.

One models immoral men, loose and lawless women, rebellion against God-given authority, and many other worldview issues. The other, of course, involves gladiators.

But wait- The Music Man is a family film! There's no violence, no nudity, and not much swearing! (Yes, that's right, they swore "by God" flippantly more than once, and a certain young woman exclaims "ye gods!" throughout the film as well...) It's a timeless classic! It's... it's... full of dangerous philosophies.

But wait- Gladiator is a very, very violent film! Some of the gladiators are hardly wearing anything at all! Commodus is a pervert, and so is Proximo, the owner of the hero. I mean, come on- the film is rated R!!!

Yes. Horrors. And the film is also filled, filled, brimming with the modeling of Godly things.

So let's compare and contrast. Mind you, by this I don't mean to say that I agree with everything included in Gladiator- in fact, there is a scene that I haven't seen because my parents don't think it would be good for me. But by this I do mean to say that we need to stop going to the world to find out what films are good and what films are not, and we need to analyze everything we watch in light of Scripture.

Here are some worldview points that I took away from The Music Man:
  • Feminism - blatant and straight up. The husband tells his wife to sit down, she does so, then is encouraged by other women to stand up, does so, and stamps her foot.
  • Anti-patriarchy - and by the oh-so-hated term "patriarchy" I refer to the older, wiser, respected and Godly men of the town, who are shown in this film to be babbling fools and buffons, clueless tyrant-wannabes.
  • Anti-Christianity - the people of the town, who want to protect their children from sin, are presented as idiots. True enough, sometimes we do jump on bandwagons like that- shame on us. Also, the con-man hero of the film wants a girl with a "little sin". O.O
  • Anti-purity - the hero of the film is a loose, godless man, who bewitches the piano teacher of the town- the one model of righteousness and purity that we do have- to be his. By the end of the film, she is no longer pure, she no longer wants a man of character and vision, she doesn't care what filth this man has wallowed in in his past- she just loves him. Dare I say that that is not Biblical love? And by his little remark about him getting his "foot caught in the door," I suppose we are to presume that he then and there had a change of heart and was a one-woman man, a hard-working, loving father, married the woman, and they lived happily ever after. That doesn't usually happen, though, in reality... More anti-purity stuff... we see the young people of the town, who the parents are trying to restrain and protect, being proven right (again. Grrr.), showing up their parents for the ignorant legalists that this film presents them as being. Said young people are then seen doing all kinds of stuff that they shouldn't be. And these are the heroes of the film.
  • Anti-authority/parents - I already mentioned multiple times the idiotic portrayal of the elders of the town. This just deserves to be mentioned because God commands that we honor our fathers and mothers. This film does not model that.
Now, some thoughts on Gladiator:
  • Gladiator models a higher vision. Misplaced, yes. But the hero of this film has a vision for the glory of Rome, and a devoted faith in his gods. Sad that his vision only goes as deep as the kingdom of Rome, and not to The Kingdom of God. Nevertheless, if we place our vision rightly, we may hope to, like him, live our life for something bigger than ourselves.
  • In Gladiator, we have a good guy, a hero, a protagonist, who is good. He's moral. He does the right thing. Biblically, of course, we may question whether he should have been killing barbarians simply for the glory of Rome- but remember, that is the greater vision for which he lives. I don't mean to endorse everything that Maximus did- but to point out that, unlike the glorification of the loose trickster in Music Man, we see a hero who does (what he thinks is) right. We also see a villain who is truly villainous. He's evil. He's twisted. He's a pervert. And he should be brought to justice. And we're glad when he is. (Amazing acting by Joaquin Phoenix, I might add...)
  • Gladiator also glorifies good old plain-and-simple manliness. The hero is a man. He has a spine. He fights for justice and for the glory of Rome. He loves- he loves his family. How often do we see this? He cherishes his family, and weeps when he loses them. He desires to protect them and to provide for them. He's strong. He's not afraid of blood, he's not afraid of dirt. He does what needs to be done. He looks like a guy, he acts like a guy, he is a man. He does what's right and will die doing it if necessary.
  • We also see a respect for the elders. Marcus Aurelius, the Caesar that died, is seen as a great man, and is honored by the hero, while being despised by the villain. The hero himself is a married man, probably in his 40s, a seasoned war veteran, not some young, sexy, girl-faced teen. That's refreshing, honestly.
While we do see some perversions in Gladiator, they are not usually glorified. There are definitely things in the film that I wish weren't there. But as a whole I find this film to be far more edifying than The Music Man, which, though "cleaner", is full of dangerous worldview messages.

Quick notes from a filmmaking standpoint:

The Music Man had some of the most creative and enjoyable usages of music that I've ever seen in a musical.

Gladiator was simply very, very well done- a work of art in acting, directing, and scoring, especially. Ridley Scott's use of dollies and cranes were very impressive and effective. Russell Crowe's crying scene when he finds his family is honestly the most impressive bit of acting I've ever seen by him. Very, very moving. And, of course, Phoenix nailed his part.

So. My thoughts. I hope that you found them edifying.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Joy - What does my Father want me to be doing?

This week, we're moving. We're actually only moving about three miles from our current house, but we are moving, nonetheless. We're packing our stuff- which, for once, is an apt noun for the concept it represents. The schedule is definitely not the normal. Which brings me to my point.

Ps. 37:4- delight myself in The LORD.

Gal. 5:22- a fruit of The Spirit is Joy.

All throughout Scripture there is a gleeful delight and joy that is modeled and extolled for us. Something that I have all too little of.

But it hit me today. When I knew my schedule was going to be thrown off. It wasn't going to be "my day". And I was prepared for it- and so, I was able to enjoy most of the packing process for the day, because I came into the day expecting to have to do things that can absolutely be fun, but that aren't what my ideal schedule would be. I came prepared to obey.

When I focus on what my father and my Father want me to be doing- packing, in this case- when I surrender myself willingly to obedience to God and the authorities that He has given me- I have so much more joy than when I obey because I have to, regretting every moment that I can't spend practicing piano or composing music, or, even worse, wasting time online.

It's a common question around our house: "What does your father want you to be doing?" Sure, sometimes it's used as a club or a cattle-prod from one sibling to another, but it's a good question, nonetheless. We are all in our earthly father's household, and so we are to obey our earthly father as the authority placed above us by our Heavenly Father. And when we are doing what our Father wants us to be doing by doing what our father wants us to be doing, it brings joy!

For those of us who are in our fathers' households, it is pretty easy to know what we should be doing. God wants us to obey our father, our parents, and so what they tell us to do, subject to God's Law, is what God tells us to do. And we couldn't be doing anything better.

Women have this clarity oftentimes for their whole life- obedience to their father turns into obedience to their husband. For us men, we will one day be leaving our father's household and starting our own- and before we do so, we must be prepared to take the responsibility of leading a household in obedience to our Father.

And doing it with joy.