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.


Anonymous said...

Isn't Gladiators main theme revenge?

Rebekah said...

Not having ever seen "Gladiator", I don't have an opinion there, but I agree with you about "The Music Man". I actually have half of a blog post written, that's very similar to yours. It's really a very sad movie, if you think about it. There's no justice, no repentance - Harold Hill is sorry that he's caught and scared that he's going to get punished. He's not repentant. He never so much as said that he was sorry for anything! - and as you said, the leaders/parents are portrayed as idiots. The man who wants to bring the con-man to justice is one of the worst! (The anvil salesman - I don't remember his name.) It's really very sad if you think about it - the worldview is so polluted!

It does have a few good songs and I like a lot of the soundtrack. The newer version has great cinematography and image quality, but the worldview is even worse. (Praying to Jupiter for instance.)

So, a good post! You're posting more than me lately - that's amazing! :p

To the KING be all the glory!

Gabriel Hudelson said...

Rebekah, great point about his unrepentance.

Anonymous- good question. Yes, this is something that bothers me.

It's a careful balance between promoting a desire for revenge and promoting a desire for justice.

Even in Scripture we see "the avenger of blood."

Further, when the state as appointed by God to administer justice fails to do so, the righteous men must stand up- how far we take that is an issue of wisdom.

We also must bear in mind that the emperor gave his authority to Maximus- Commodus is wrongly holding the authority of the state and is furthermore abusing it.

While Maximus' values are misplaced, and his motives are, perhaps, sometimes selfishly motivated, nevertheless, I would not immediately jump on the bandwagon of "it's revenge- it's bad!"

JOker said...

Then why jump on the band wagon of muisc man is feministic?

Gabriel Hudelson said...

Joker- I don't think it's a bandwagon, and if it is- it's true!


Aubrey Hansen said...

I agree with your thoughts on "The Music Man," Gabriel, and it's a shame because the movie had a lot of memorable music and could have been quite charming. But I think that is the real danger of some films - an otherwise charming and clean story puts forth dangerous worldviews.

Sadly, I think the reverse can also be true. A clean movie can have bad morals, and a movie with a good moral can have unhealthy aesthetics. Neither is necessarily good for watching, dependent on a lot of factors. While I believe you that "The Gladiator" has a solid morality, I personally would not watch it for the content issues you mentioned.

Grace said...

Thank you for this review and this blog! Music man is a favorite film of mine for the music and dancing, but I hate all the awful messages in it, and usually just skip to the musical numbers! :)

Jennifer said...

I'm very glad you love Gladiator and Braveheart; what films indeed. I'm also delighted that you distinguish between pillowed godlessness and brutal, honest Godly messages. I disagree though that a husband should order his wife to sit down; she should stand if she wants. I am curious, what is your age?

Gabriel Hudelson said...

Hey, Jennifer, sorry for the long time no reply. I'm 17.

Gabriel Hudelson said...

While I would agree that, at least sometimes, there are better ways to lead one's wife, if a shouted "Sit Down!" came, what should the wife's response be?

Corey P. said...

Gladiator = one of the most epic pieces of "manly" filmmaking ever. A favorite for sure. :)

Renata said...

To sit down. :)

(Titus 2:3,4,5)

Great post Gabe!

~No.#3 child