DISCLAIMER: The fact that a movie is referred to in this post does not imply that the movie is recommended by the editor, the blogging team, the GMT leadership team, any particular local church, or my pet gecko. Complaints may be directed to my pet gecko.
The most influential preachers of our day do not stand behind pulpits. No. Instead their audiences pay to be preached at.
It’s hard to find a movie with an absolute message in our postmodern world. Sometime in the nineties, the movies started dancing around the idea of absolute truth—right and wrong. Now you’re lucky to find a single movie with a world-view which includes moral absolutes.
Now I know people tend to lose it the moment someone mentions the word “philosophy.” Try throwing in words like epistemology, metaphysics, and ontology and you get the raised eyebrow and the long “riiiiiight.” So let’s talk about some movies instead.
Movie 1: The Emperor’s New Groove
In Mary Poppins, it’s a talking umbrella that tries to act as Poppins’ conscience only to be firmly rebuked with “Practically perfect people never permit sentiment to muddle their thinking.”
In Emperor’s New Groove, it’s “shoulder angels.” The bad angel says “He’s trying to lead you down the path of righteousness. I’m gonna lead you down the path that rocks.” If that ain’t a commentary on the hedonism that is 2009, I don’t know what is.
Then the bad angel proceeds to offer a handstand as an argument for doing what he suggests (allowing the talking lama to die). To the objection that this is a poor arguement, the good angel says “No, he’s got a point.” It’s funny. And it’s ok to laugh. But we need to realise that this is classic postmodernism.
Watch! Here it is:
“Look guys, you’re sorta confusing me so… be gone or however I get rid of you guys.”
He then proceeds to rescue the talking lama. Not because it’s right. No. But because everyone knows in their heart what is right.
Morality is relative. Arguments for good or evil are “confusing.” You know in your heart what is right. Postmodernism at the movies.
Movie 2: High School Musical
The smash teen hit movie franchise of the decade, High School Musical is another showcase for postmodernism at the movies. Take Troy, the popular athlete-becoming-singer who has it all and the brilliant Gabrielle, his girlfriend. They are the heros.
Then there’s the villain: Sharpay and her sidekick Ryan. Problem is by the end of the movie (and definitely by the end of HSM2), you’re not sure whether you like the heros or the villain better. Oh, make no mistake, the villain does her fair share of evil scheming, but they wouldn’t want you to think of it as evil per se. Maybe, “unfortunate.” Otherwise, how could we end the movie by singing “We’re All in This Together”?
Daring heros and dastardly villains
So why do movies still have the hero/villain plot structures in the postmodern world? Wouldn’t it be easier to live in a world without moral absolutes if you found some other way to tell stories?
I think the answer was explained decades ago by Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer when he talked about the “mannishness” of man. What Schaeffer meant by that is that even while man tries to pretend the universe is the one he imagines it to be complete with no God, no creation, and definitely no absolutes (savour the irony!), that world doesn’t actually exist! Instead, the world that actually exists is the one God made complete with moral absolutes and an inborn knowledge about God, sin, and guilt.
I suggest that this explains the whole hero/villain plot concept that “plagues” postmodern movies. We can’t get rid of these ideas because these ideas are an accurate reflection of the way God made us and the world and nothing in all the world will ever change that.
Well, if you read down this far, you just delved into *whispers* philosophy. Don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone.
Two for the road
Two quick links today.
- Some thoughts on the Missions deputation problem from a Student Global Impact source here. Perhaps this would be a good topic for someone to bring up for discussion here at InFocus.
- For those of you born in the eighties or later like I was (or at least didn’t pay much attention to pop culture), check this out. This is Michael Jackson at age 14. Oh. My. Word. DISCLAIMER: The above disclaimer applies to this link as well. Please address all concerns to the gecko.
Grace to you.