Saturday, July 14, 2007

Profane

Posted by Teresa at 4:52 PM

From the Episode: House vs. God

Here is an excellent read by Ross Douthat titled 'Lost and Saved
on Television' (found via Think Christian). Douthat suggests that
'envelope pushing' television might not be necessarily a bad thing.
If Christian conservatives keep demanding PG-rated content perhaps
that material that delves deep into the issues of sin and morality
will be lost. Here is a quote from the article:

Yet religious believers have also profited in certain ways from the
crack-up of the old middlebrow, PG-rated common culture, even
if it’s sometimes hard to see the gains through the gore and exhibitionism.
This is the great paradox of twenty-first-century popular culture in
America: For all its profanity and blasphemy, the new culture arguably
takes religious issues and debates more seriously than it used to in a
more decent, less decadent era.

I see more and more shows debate the issues of religion and morality.
For example, shows like 'House' and 'Law and Order' often deal with
issues of faith and morality. Dr. House is an atheist who sees everything
in only scientific and medical terms. His professional life is great but his
personal life is a mess because of a drug problem and arrogance. He is not
happy and theists can conclude it because he rejects God. Douthat
specifically talks about the programs 'Lost,''Galactica,' and 'Sopranos.'
He writes:

Whether The Sopranos’ creator, David Chase, believes in a literal hell
I have no idea—but his show believes in it. Just as Lost and Galactica
tease out their metaphysics through hallucinations and dream sequences,
The Sopranos deals frequently in private visions—mainly Tony’s richly
detailed dreams, which are more psychological than metaphysical,
but also a pair of theologically fraught near-death experiences.

I know a lot of the television content is distasteful without any
redeemable value. But what if taking away the smut also takes
away the thought provoking television?

2 comments:

Jason on 7:12 PM, July 14, 2007 said...

Somehow I think is stirring up America like He did ancient Egypt. Perhaps He's provoking this country, like pharaoh, to separate the Good from the Bad from the Ugly (good movie by the way) so as to supernaturally take what the Bad has and give it to the Good when the Bad self-destructs. I think He did this in WWII with Hitler. Much of the waealth of the Vatican came from Nazi loot.

Make any sense???

Phil on 2:12 AM, July 16, 2007 said...

It was revolting to say the least. Violent, dark, a practical orgy of violence and sin. Robert Rodriguez had tapped into the banal psyche of the collective dark side of America in his movie Sin City. I can't say that I liked it, but it is odd to appreciate something one doesn't necessarily like. There had been movies to use very similar styles. A fully animated background had been used with such movies as Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Later, the movie Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow would use a fully animated background. So what set Rodriguez's picture apart?

It was the violence. The gruesomeness to be exact. It addressed subjects that most people would much prefer to avoid. I am not talking about sex, murder, cannibalism, and such sins. I am talking about a deeper more malevolent part of us. I am referring to the dark sides of human nature itself. Rodriguez (and I suppose I should add Frank Miller, because he produced the graphic novel upon which Sin City is based) created a world where the moral underpinnings are completely removed. I believe anyone who believes the world of Sin City is a reflection of world, in as much as it shows our world as it is, is very much mistaken. Rather Sin City is an alternate universe where evil is just another decision like trying to figure out what clothes to wear or what book to read. It is a world based not on our Judeo-Christian ethics, but on the dualist ethics of the ancient Middle-East. The irony of the movie is that we human beings can never truly escape our judgement of what is good and bad. We always will side with what we believe to be good. The heroes in the movie are deeply flawed, but they are also desperately loyal to what is good. One cannot feel as if one has not stepped out of Dante's Inferno after seeing this film. We feel as though we could kiss the real ground after the movie is over because it is part of a generally good world.

Another such movie was David Fincher's Fight Club. Based on a novel by Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club follows the lives of men fighting in underground...well...fight clubs. But it is more than that. It is about how people will give over their lives to follow a man who places his own beliefs at the forefront. One of the main characters, Tyler Durden exemplifies the charasmatic sociopath who follows his own desires and rules with the fervor of a Nietzschen superman. This charisma leads him to become the object of affection for the shades of men who inhabit all of the dead end jobs of postmodern America. In essence, the movie documents how an Hitler could easily rise today and in our own country.

On a lighter note, take The 40 Year Old Virgin by Judd Apatow. Apatow's protagonist is a forty year old virgin trying to deal with a society that is obsessed with sex. The odd thing about the movie is that it operates on a sort of yin-yang balance. On one hand we have the purity of virginity and sex, while on the other the crass and banal everyday life. Point and pointlessness meet in this movie in a way that is so real that it is almost not cinema at all.

All of these movies have one thing in common. They would not be allowed if movies were more strictly controlled by moral watch-dogs. They are probably the best cases to be brought up by those who advocate pushing the envelope.

However, there are strong counter-cases. These counter cases include: Casablanca, Citizen Kane, and seemingly every movie made in the year 1939. These movies were tightly regulated. One couldn't curse or show sex. And it is partially because of these guidelines that the movies' scripts are as tight as they are. Casablanca left to the audience's far superior imagination the sex scenes between Ilsa and Rick. Citizen Kane is rife with the undercurrent dark psyche that drives Charles Foster Kane while the film shows the mask that he tried to show to the world. The philosopher/evangelist/doctor/missionary, Albert Schweitzer, once stated, "We wander through this life together in a semi-darkness in which none of us can distinguish exactly the features of his neighbour. Only from time to time, through some experience that we have of our companion, or through some remark that he passes, he stands fro as moment close to us, as though illuminated by a flash of lightning. Then we see him as he really is." That describes the entire point behind the movie.

In essence, these movies are classics in ways that the previous three movies will never be. They require a brilliant audience. The counter cultural messages have to be disguised as innuendo (i.e. Rick's discussion with the wife who has "done a bad thing" to help her and her husband) or the fact that Rosebud refers to something complete different from the sled in Citizen Kane.

My greatest fear with modern movies is not that they are corrupting our youth or even our culture, but that the mass of people are not smart enough to understand what they are saying. We don't have the grounding of morals or the intellectual stability to really grapple with the subjects in modern movies, let alone movies from the golden age of cinema. If we aren't bright enough to understand what the director is trying to get across than maybe we shouldn't be making movies like Sin City, no matter how impressive they are.

 

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