Thursday, May 28, 2009

#84 Focusing on "that one scene" that
ruined the movie


Christian culture has a tenuous relationship with movies. Even PG movies have no shortage of cursing, violence and innuendo, and it’s hard to appreciate the movie as a whole with all that thrown in.


If you were raised in Christian culture, you will have inferred this mainly from your parents and your friends' parents. Watching a movie rated anything other than G with them has the potential to evoke in you a feature-length anxiety episode over what their reaction could be. When a love scene comes on or a bad word is said, the parental figure will begin to stir malcontentedly before saying "I think we should turn this off" or something to that effect. If the parental figure is in another room and hears something questionable from the TV they'll either say "What are you kids watching in there?" or make some disgruntled harumphs before coming in and evaluating for themselves. If you feel that old sensation of fear shooting through your chest and into your legs as you imagine this, then you may have been raised in Christian culture.


Consider, if you will, The Raiders of the Lost Ark. When this movie came out, Marion in her bra was actually more controversial with Christian culture than was all the copious, spurting violence. Consider also Backdraft. Those firefighters sure were valiant but the love scene on the roof of the firetruck is a deal-breaker for this movie. The language in Top Gun was a giant problem and rendered it completely unsuitable for Christian culture viewing, to say nothing of the take-my-breath-away-silhouetted-tongues scene.

Many youth group screenings of The Princess Bride have been conducted while youth group leaders hovered by the VCR so they could fast-forward over the part where Inigo Montoya calls the Six-Fingered Man a son of a bitch. At day camps this writer worked at, parents said Bambi was too violent to be shown so The Little Mermaid was shown instead. When the parents protested again, it too was banned because Ariel disobeyed her dad.


Fear not! There are many places out there to help you find clean family movie fun. One site used to reissue movies with all objectionable material taken out (at the expense of the plot and any nuance and subtext) but then a judge ruled they can't do that anymore (something about copyright infringement). Now they offer movies with "no graphic violence or sexual content, no nudity, and no harsh profanity." They don't state where they draw the line on harsh, but from reading their reviews you can surmise it falls somewhere between darn (not flagged) and crap (flagged).


Why couldn't the Bible be more clear on where to draw the line? Dang it! (Is saying dang unwholesome talk?) Could God actually want us to wrestle with this? It's more difficult to put these things up to scrutiny and deal with them in the context of relationship with him than it is to follow cultural mores. And...there's the rub.

51 comments:

Rye said...

Yes, my parents still are raw about Dirty Dancing.

The Thief said...

Reminds me of a time in seminary, I was working out with my good friend (on campus). We were listening to Tupac. Someone else came in and complained vociferously about the lyrics (swear words).

So my friend changed the music to something (non rap) without swear words, but completely misogynistic. Violently so.

The complainer had no further complaints.

sigh.

Anonymous said...

They seem to ignore the ideas, but have no problem fighting about the words. I wonder if that carries through to any other part of the culture.

Simone said...

Did you delete my comment or did I fail to submit it. Hot dog! I can't be bothered. I came back to ask if the dance sequence at Jack Rabbit Slim's was the only Christian acceptable part of Pulp Fiction, but since Mia is dancing with a man that isn't her husband, maybe not.

Trev said...

I was kindly asked by someone recently to stop saying the words "bugger", "arse" and "douche" in their presence - all this after they had just finished telling their bible study group about how much they love the movie "fight club" - but they have to skip through that "one" bad part. Really?

stephy said...

I haven't deleted anything but Lauren said her comment didn't take eiether. The Christian culture I grew up in was totally fine with dancing & we were encouraged to go to dances and try out for cheerleading. Maybe a little weird.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, the years of watching even the most innocent movies in a state of tension fearing something my parents wouldn't find appropriate have now come flooding back to me. Thanks a lot. Haha. No really this is so very true. And of course, when I was finally allowed to watch PG-13 and R rated movies it could only be for violence such as war movies, none of that dirty sex stuff. I remember my dad taking me to see the second Matrix movie and the panicked objections to the sex scene. Oh the awkwardness.

jeremy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jeremy said...

Come to think of it, I don't know how many times I've heard fellow Christians say, "Yeah it was a kick-awesome* movie, but there were a few [f-bombs/boob shots/love/fight] scenes that were rather unnecessary and I had to leave the theater," or "it was awesome but really secular."

* - I think kick-awesome is starting to catch on for an alternative to badass or kick-ass.

Mark (under construction) said...

We Christians don't need to watch pagan godless movies our culture has produced master pieces instead like -

Jesus the mini series
The Miracle Maker
Thief In The Night - these are productions we can proud of. I put the Davinci Code up there as well, like these are movies we can learn stuff from and help us grow.

My wife and I invite friends around for a meal and a viewing of The Robe monthly.

Anonymous said...

christian culture loves Lost

Magnus said...

What did Evangelical culture make of the Battlestar Galactica revamp?

brackman said...

i didn't grow up in christian culture but my wife did. i started going to church at 13. even after we started going to church my parents weren't tough on what we watched, within reason. my wife grew up in a GARBC church(super duper fundamental baptist)her parents were really strict, no denim worn to church, but they would watch Baywatch as a family, no joke, but there were certain movies you couldn't watch. very interesting.

Until... said...

i can remember sitting next to the tv watching a movie and turning the volume down when a bad word would come on....

pure_light said...

Every time I watch a movie with my mom that has bad language, she tends to follow this pattern:

1-3 bad words: "Ohhh bad word bad word"
4-6 bad words: "This movie is REALLY BAD, I just might turn it off"
7+ bad words: "Ok, I'm turning this off. Horrible, horrible..."

;)

George said...

My parents weren't that much of a pain in my ass. Probably because my dad wasn't really around.

I'm glad I grew up in a weekend Catholic household. I wouldn't trade it for any other type of religious upbringing.

joyous melancholy said...

Don't forget, the kid says "Jesus Grandpa! Why'd you read me this thing?!" in The Princess Bride. Taking the Lord's Name In Vain. Big no-no. I know people who've completely dismissed the entire film because of that.

How 'bout this one? Harry Potter is banned because of the witchcraft. But the Narnia movie The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is fine because CS Lewis was a christian. Also, The Wizard of Oz tends to be a family favorite, witches notwithstanding. My mother refused to see the play Wicked because it was about the witches, but when her friend told her it was really good she just had to go.

I stopped trying to understand years ago.

Kynn said...

Stuff Christian culture likes: Murder.

Steve said...

Kynn:

Unfortunately, you are correct, witness the murder of the doctor in Kansas; not to mention Christian culture's tolerance, even celebration, of war and other forms of violence--as witnessed by some of the other comments above. Sex? dirty. "Bad words"? No. Violence? Fine!

Steve said...

Stephy,

Here's a link to a new book on Wal-Mart and christian free enterprise, something to consider as another post, if you haven't done something like this already:

http://www.amazon.com/Serve-God-Wal-Mart-Christian-Enterprise/dp/0674033221/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1243948823&sr=1-1

stephy said...

Wow...thanks Steve. That book title brought tears to my eyes. I have to read it now.

Jared said...

anyone else seen the use of "WTH" instead of "WTF"? For some reason i find it not only hilarious but a little endearing... btw, heard about this site from grapesofrad.com podcast.

Aaron said...

- "Enemy at the Gates" Although a violent sniper film (but Christians aren't bothered by violence), the "one scene" is where they're in the barracks, and the women starts to give the guy the most graphic and out of place and LONG handjob I've ever seen. When I saw it in the theater, the audience was laughing by the end of it.

- "Pretty Woman" Somehow a movie about a goddamn whore is perfectly fine, but Christians don't like it when Julia Roberts gives Richard Gere a beejer in the hotel room.

- "Home Alone" When Buzz tells Kevin "I wouldn't let you in my room if you were growing on my ASS." Even though "ass" is in the Bible (a fact which I would repeatedly remind my mother about), Christians don't like it when children use swear words.

- "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" Jessica Rabbit. Also, the baby who uses swear words.

Cynthia said...

My absolute funniest memory from any church service ever happened 2 years ago. Our 30-something, extremely earnest, associate pastor who used to address the congregation as "Beloved"...until he realized everyone found this endearing, but also really,really funny...was showing a video clip during the service. He spent a good 5 minutes apologizing in advance for a character's use of the word "damn", insisting that he did not approve of or use that kind of language and hoped that no one would be horribly offended. Having giving us fair warning he began the clip...which was being shown with captions for the hearing empaired...first word to be heard over the speakers and to be seen in yellow letters in 6 inch font..."FUCK!!!!". Priceless. On the bright side...no one even noticed when "damn" popped up.

Emilie said...

Wow...A friend referred me to your site today and once I started I had to go back and read every single post. It was strange yet somehow rewarding to see my upbringing so accurately described in each post. Every post was spot on, almost frighteningly so.

CLR said...

Hi,

I'm an MK/Pastor's Kid currently studying in Europe (Germany). I'm writing a short paper relative to "bands with Christians in them" for one of my classes, and was wondering if I might quote from one or two of your posts (the one with Bono especially). Alas, the paper will be in German :-/

Likewise both my blogs are not in English either, but maybe you'd like a couple of the pics I posted...

Anyways, kudos for the critical discussions of Christians Vs. Pop Culture :)

stephy said...

No problem, you can quote whatever you like. It's an honor!

Seth said...

What gets me, is the Bible has sex, violence, rape, war, disobedience, etc. But to have the same thing in a movie, even when it's in a context where it makes sense and it isn't glorified, isn't okay. The other part that bothers me is family friendly fare can be safe to the point of being meaningless.

Jen Smith said...

That whole awkward moment when viewing movies with parents....I totally win.

I live across the street from my parents (dad=former deacon in a Southern Baptist church, I=reformed Presbyterian), but never bothered to forward my mail.

I joined Netflix, and often rent movies with plans to share them with my parents; so, my dad got into the habit of opening the Netflix envelopes that arrived.

He opened one and was putting it in the player when I went to their house. I left work early in order to get the mail first.

He was really interested in the film because A) it starred James Spader whom Dad has a man crush on thanks to Boston Legal & B) my older sister wouldn't let him watch it when he was visiting her house.

He made me some popcorn and reluctantly I sat down to watch the film with him...the film was "Secretary" . . .

AWKWARD!

Tinley said...

Great post, but I must add: Marion's bra was in Raiders of the Lost Ark, not Temple of Doom.

bill h said...

very funny blog. Good stuff! I'd sure like to use the film clip from planes trains and automobiles at the rental counter for a sermon, about losing your patience...

Anonymous said...

I guess none of you Jesus freaks saw "Scarface" when it was on HBO, did you? You missed great, evil scenes and wonderful lines like, "Say hello to my little friend."

Happy to be a Jew! I saw "Scarface" and much, much more.

Saul Menowitz

stephy said...

Saul,
yeah, are you kidding? Scarface was out but Passion of the Christ was encouraged. You lucky Jews.
xo

Chris said...

So glad "Tinley" corrected the Marion's bra comment...I just found the site and didn't want my first comment to be negative (nerd-ily pushing up my glasses). Pretty funny stuff here...there was also that "perfect breasts" comment in Princess Bride...very dodgy. I remember feeling so secular when I went to a city wide, all school leadership retreat and they showed "The Breakfast Club" and no one worried about watching it...in fact, we were supposed to! : ) Funny days.

Anonymous said...

Actually, our people secretly love The Passion of the Christ. It's a film about our ancestors nailing your god to a tree. What could be better than that?

Saul Menowitz.

Cafe Mocha Momma said...

Stephy, so is the point of your post that parents shouldn't monitor or censor what their kids see?

P.S. Glad you changed your blog's description. I was beginning to feel left out!:o)

stephy said...

I'm not sure if there is a point to my blog. It would just be nice if people read it and then thought about why we do the things we do.

George said...

I was at Gospel Music Week in Nashville last year, and some company was there, marketing a special DVD player that skips over the film's "bad" bits for you...

Ash said...

LOL. It's total code for, "God, I loved that movie...but I'm afraid my "holy" card will be taken away if i don't shift uncomfortably while disclaiming that one scence...therefore: "It was sooo good, if they'd just left out that ONE SCENE."

So silly. :P Just say you like the movie.

Holly said...

I went and saw Harry Potter 6 with my evangelical christian mom. Thank heavens I'd seen it already or else I would have been super annoyed. (Im a Potterhead, yeah whatevs)
Spoiler alert! The part when Snape magically heals Draco's wounds, my mom said audibly:
The Anti-Christ!!!!
I was immediately exasperated and embarrassed. Also, when we went to see Australia on Thanksgiving, my mom and dad got so uncomfortable with the sex scene they kept loudly whispering things like:
I thought this was PG??!!! much to irritation of everyone around us.
Remind me to never watch movies with my parents again unless they are rated G.

jaigner said...

This is seriously the best post ever. Just thinking about watching a movie with my parents that was made before 1966 (the year my dad claims was when you had to start using discretion when going to theaters) instantly makes me anxious and panicked. Although they wouldn't let me watch Psycho, either...not sure if it was the "adult" themes or the "horrible" shower scene.

I remember one time my mom forwarded me this email about a dad who wouldn't let his kids watch a movie, even though they said there were only a couple bad parts. He decided he should teach them a lesson by baking dog poop brownies. When they balked, he said "there's only a little bit" or something like that.

Give me a break. Some of those folks in the setting where I grew up would probably censor parts of the Old Testament (if they ever read OT law) or where Paul talks about Christians submitting their bodies when he's really talking about male genitalia.

Dave Wahler said...

To be fair, moviegoers who do not count themselves members of Christian culture will also rant about "that one scene" they don't like in a movie. By way of example, the aforementioned sex scene in Matrix Reloaded has plenty of detractors among the secular viewership (myself included). The difference, of course, is that non-Christians (and more reasonable Christians) typically do not censor such scenes or organize boycotts of the entire film. We just call that scene "lame" and move on.

Anonymous said...

Wow this brings us memories. In fact, I'm 22 now and have a college degree and I still worry about what my mom will say after we watch a movie together. We went to see "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" over Christmas and it was a very quiet ride home.

Howard said...

I recall some years ago when I was seeking to show a group of movies that were 'saying' something we needed to consider. Most of the group (evangelical christians) actually refused to attend when they discovered that included in the program was Schindler's List. I asked why...
"Because it contains nudity".

That really says all that needs to be said about 'christian' culture.

Rich E said...

since those scenes are usually put in to give the movie an r rating, so more people will go see the movie, they would not be there if it were not for greed, so wahts the point ???

Laura Ells said...

I was never allowed to see The Little Mermaid because of how Ariel disobeyed her father. I always felt so alone.

stephy said...

You're not alone anymore.

Rachel said...

Omg... I've never seen a post that so perfectly describes how uncomfortable it was/is to watch films with my parents. I was allowed to see very little growing up, and got lectures about the few I could see. There was quite a long lecture about the Little Mermaid, for the very reason you mentioned. I also got a long lecture about Pinocchio because my mom said "always let your conscience be your guide" was a terrible motto for life. That honor needed to be left to the Holy Spirit. I decided later to ditch the holy spirit in favor of my conscience and never regretted it. :)

Human Oddity said...

From what I've read in the comments, a lot of religious parents only stick to religion when it's convenient. Maybe that's why it's earned such a contradictory reputation? Not saying I know what's right, but if you're going to be religious, why take so many liberties?

Tim Prevett said...

A group of us watched JFK at Theological Seminary 21 years ago... it was uncomfortable with the amount of 'F' words used in the film... thankfully a matronal figure's question to turn it off went unheeded!

Maria said...

One of my favorite stories to try and explain my childhood to people who didn't grow up in Christian culture is about movies.

When I went to the movies, without my parents, and the rating was PG-13 or higher I had to give a report when I got home about why the movie received that rating.

Took me a long time to actually enjoy watching movies.