<%image(20050914-fight.jpg|73|99|fight club)%> After two full days of hanging out with Barry Taylor, an expert on Christianity and pop culture who romps around the L.A. area, I have had my world mildly rocked by his ETREK class. Nothing major as far as the big stuff, but I certainly have walked away from the first meeting of his class with my fair share of surprises. For instance, in Barry’s opinion the movies Fight Club and Josie and the Pussycats are incredibly important films that comment on our culture. The crazy thing is that after watching some clips and discussing them, I’m pretty sure that he’s right. I’ve also learned that I don’t get out much to watch movies . . . well maybe 2-3 movies a year . . . tops.
So what’s the big deal about Josie or the Fight Club. What makes them significant? Though I have not seen them in their entirety, the clips we viewed showed a strong critique and questioning of some major facets of our society. Fight Club dealt with, on one level at least, the self-help and medication addiction in society. The church was only a host to these groups, not offering anything else of significance. The concept of image and materialism was also brought up in a hilarious scene where a guy basically makes his apartment look like a page from an IKEA catalogue. After a pilgrimmage to an IKEA on Sunday evening, I can relate.
Josie and the Pussycats takes a shot at trends, materialism, the soul-selling drive for money in the music industry that’s behind many stars, and the ridiculous way that we behave around celebreties and follow their every move, seeking to imitate them. In a sense, the celebrities are the “prophets” of today. People look to pop culture icons for an interpretation of the world and the best way to go about living in it. In an almost juvenile and excessive manner, the creators of the movie create one giant hyperbole in their quest to comment on our culture. Unfortunately (I guess for them at least), the marketed the movie poorly and it tanked.
Barry also pointed out that we can learn a lot about a movie from the opening scene of a movie. When comparing the movie version of Romeo and Juliet from the 60’s (I think) to the one from the 90’s, the opening scene of each tells it all. In addition, the opening scene of the movie “Saved” speaks volumes about the kind of one dimensional people we are dealing with who have essentially created Jesus in their own image. Saved employs a similar critique of Christians by taking everything to an extreme, but capturing enough of reality to get us thinking. It’s like Ned Flanders meets South Park in many ways. Oh, and lest we think it’s an attack on us, the movie was conceived and put together (in part at least) by a Christian.
So while most movies may not appeal to us or provide a high level of entertainment, there’s another level to film, music, etc. that we must responsibly engage with at some level. We need to figure out what the creator of the movie is trying to communicate. Is it critique? Is it a defense of something? What does the movie say about our world? Do most people agree with this? What does the film tell us about our world and how does this affect our understanding of the Gospel? Should we share it differently in light of what we can glean from films?
One example of this that comes to mind is the movie Matchstick Men. After Nicholas Cage’s character is deceived out of all his money by his partner and a women pretending to be his daughter, he sets about rebuilding his life by working in a carpet store. One day his pretend daughter comes in to buy carpet with her boyfriend. It’s the perfect moment for revenge and I sat waiting for him to pounce on her a make her pay. He actually extends grace to her, finds out how she’s doing, and still treats her as his daughter. The forgiveness and grace are freeing for both of them, and it is a powerfully redemptive moment. Even if people today aren’t too up on sin, I think that we can find a connection with conversations about revenge, guilt, and forgiveness.