Beauties, Beasts, & Boycotts

The past two weeks have seen a spike in controversy surrounding the upcoming live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, both from Christians at home and Russians abroad. The controversy relates to the director stating in an interview that the film will have a gay character and a “nice, exclusively gay moment” towards the end of the film.

Since this statement, Franklin Graham and many others in the evangelical community have called for a boycott of Disney for pushing an LGBT agenda, and at least one theater has announced it will not be showing the film.

Over in Russia, the film has been given a 16+ rating. The Russian Culture Ministry gave the film this rating after Russian MP Vitaly Milonov petitioned them, writing in a letter to the ministry, “In this case, society cannot be silent about what film distributors are offering under the guise of a children’s tale…The obvious, blatant, shameless propaganda of sin, of perverted sexual relations.”

One left-leaning pastor named John Pavlovitz called the reaction in the Christian community “unprovoked jerkery,” and many news outlets are quick to point out the perceived hypocrisy of people who enjoy the central plot of romance between a girl and a beast but object to a homosexual subplot.

I don’t think it is entirely fair to term, as Pastor John Pavlovitz did, the call for a boycott as “unprovoked jerkery,” After all, the boycotters weren’t the ones who took the film and made it political–the filmmakers did that. So we can debate whether it’s “jerkery” to boycott the film, but it was hardly unprovoked.

But with all this controversy swirling in the air, I thought I would take a stab at some of the arguments from Christians on both sides of the issue and seek to find a viewpoint that communicates love to our homosexual neighbors, integrity and consistency in our living, and commitment to the truth of the gospel.

Why Christians Should Boycott

“If I can’t sit through a movie with God or Jesus sitting by me then we have no business showing it,” – statement from the drive-in theater in Alabama when announcing they would not be showing Beauty and the Beast.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things – Philippians 4:8

  1. Watching the film would be an implicit show of support to an opposing worldview. In some ways, censoring culture might be compared to “baking the cake.” Some Christian bakers may not have a problem baking a cake for a homosexual wedding, but others may feel that baking the cake is an implicit show of support for beliefs that run counter to their own, as much as they may love and care about their homosexual friends. In the same way, going to watch a film after the creators deliberately state it is advancing an LGBT agenda may seem to be a violation of conscience to some.
  2. Consider portrayal. Some might say, “Well, we watch other movies with depictions of characters transgressing God’s law all the time, so isn’t it hypocritical to treat this film differently?” While I do agree that sometimes Christians put homosexuality on its own pedestal as if it’s some sort of super-sin compared to others, I do think it’s important to consider portrayal–are these issues portrayed in a positive or negative light? One other difference here is that we know in advance what the movie’s perspective is.
  3. Consider the weaker brother. Paul says with reference to food offered to idols:

“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. – 1 Corinthians 8:9-11

There’s definitely a discernment aspect to the culture we take in, and we need to ask the question: even if I can be edified by what I am doing (or at least not harmed, although that begs another question: if the best we can hope for is to not be harmed, should we really be doing that thing?), what about the people who are looking at my life? If I listen to a song that in its lyrics objectifies women but mostly just enjoy the beat and the sound (as I sometimes do), I’m enjoying the music and not being consciously influenced by the negative message, but what about a brother or sister who comes along and hears me listening to the song and is harmed by the song’s worldview?

Here’s another passage to chew on:

If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?” – 1 Cor. 10:27-30

Why Christians Shouldn’t Boycott

  1. It will probably be a fun, entertaining movie. This point is a bit of a non-sequitor but something I can’t help but bring up as a lover of the cinema.
  2. Wasn’t LeFou always gay? Since the announcement and ensuing controversy, the director noted that his statement has been exaggerated and that subplot is really just that–a minor, subtle subplot in the larger story. Why let a political kerfuffle stop me from going to see a movie I’ve been waiting for for a while?
  3. It’s inevitable in culture to get some bad with the good. As Christians, we need to have discernment. This might be a good opportunity to have a discussion (with children, friends, family, etc.) about worldview and God’s design for sexuality.
  4. What message does a boycott send? For the discerning Christian, this film won’t be harmful, and it’s important to cultivate an attitude of love towards the gay community, even if we believe their lifestyle runs counter to Scripture. What message are they hearing if we deliberately boycott this film for the explicit reason that it contains a depiction of a gay character?
  5. Wouldn’t this be (for many) a double standard? Following on the previous point, many Christians watch movies that have positive portayals of sin in them all the time–adultery, theft (*cough* Logan *cough*), rebellion against parents, and more. What makes this movie so special that it deserves to be boycotted? There’s a double standard here, and I believe that we’d consume a lot less media if we limited ourselves to only that which exclusively conveyed a Christian worldview.

So which side do I come down on? I’m still deciding, but I lean towards the latter viewpoint. Thinking through the different arguments has made me conscious of the fact that I don’t think as often as I should about the effect watching certain movies or shows may be having on me, and that they might indeed be harmful.

The Answer

 

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these. – Mark 12:28-31

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. – John 14:15

Jesus commanded his followers to love him above all else, and if they do love them, they are to keep his commandments. We are also commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves. Even our gay neighbors. There might be a tension for some between these two statements–showing our love for God through obedience him (even if that means using our voices in the public square to decry positive displays of what we consider wrong), and showing love to our neighbors.

In the Phil Vischer Podcast last year, the hosts talked about the idea of “proxy wars.” In the Cold War, the US and the USSR didn’t fight one another directly (MAD and all that); instead, they fought a series of “proxy wars,” conflicts in Asia and the Middle East where each superpower would arm opposing sides in smaller conflicts. They were miniaturized conflicts that represented an underlying larger conflict between America and the Soviet Union. In a similar way, some of these current controversies–transgender bathrooms, cake-baking, and now Beauty and the Beast, are proxy wars between competing worldviews. The deception, of course, is thinking that winning an individual conflict (or even several) will solve culture’s problems. Truthfully, only when a people is convicted of sin by the power of the Holy Spirit and brought into relationship with God can there be an end to this conflict.

In the meantime, faithful Christians must use discernment as they seek to love and obey God above all else, love their neighbors as themselves, and speak the timeless truths of Scripture to society.

Guardians of the What?

A movie about a wanderer who calls himself “Star Lord,” a green-skinned warrior, an ent, a tattoo-covered felon, and a raccoon. Hardly what one would expect to be the makings of a popular Marvel franchise.

hr_Guardians_of_the_Galaxy_46Featuring downright obscure characters from the Marvel universe, my initial expectation was that Guardians of the Galaxy would be an Avengers-esque knockoff, in space. Well, I was wrong–it was one of the most original Marvel films of the past few years!

The story kicks off with Peter Quill (a.k.a. Star Lord) obtaining a powerful orb, one that a number of villainous individuals also want. Heading the list is an alien named Ronan. When he sends green-skinned Gamora to take the orb, he doesn’t know that Rocket Raccoon and Groot are also trying to catch Quill in order to collect the bounty on his head.

After police arrest Quill, Gamora, Rocket, and Groot and imprison them in a high-security facility with an inmate named Drax, the group forms an unlikely alliance in order to escape the prison and…save the galaxy!

Quill is the enterprising, slightly-cocky wanderer, Gamora, the warrior. Rocket is the team strategist, Groot is…well, a tree of few words. Drax is the slightly dense muscle of the team who has trouble understanding idioms. When someone comments about lots of things going over his head, he responds:

Nothing goes over my head. My reflexes are too fast. I will catch it.

Word plays abound. Without taking itself too seriously and with a large dose of humor, Guardians manages to make up for its lamer parts by being a fun, funny, sci-fi action movie.

The Faces of Evil

Overview:

Title:  The Faces of Evil: Interviews with Individuals on the Scale of Evil

Rating:  Three-and-a-half to four stars (good to excellent)

Director:  Deborah Renope

Writer(s):  Tiffany Ship, Deborah Renope,  more

Contact:  View contact information here

Release Date: March 2, 2010 (USA), 1st Cycle of Spring (Harbold), more

Genre:  Documentary

Tagline:  The faces of evil are manifold…are you one of them?/  World-renown reporter Tiffany Ship’s last assignment was her greatest./  From those that brought you Blood Magic: Cannibalism and Spells more

Awards: Giant Slayer Honor™, Academy Award for Best Documentary™,  more

Also Known As:  Burzum (Mordor), I Thaur (Rivendell), more

Parental Discretion Advised:  See why here

Runtime:  Ninety-six minutes

Country:  Many-earth

Language:  Common Speech.

Filming Location(s):  Thornfield Hall

Company:  Juniper Tree Entertainment™: Dedicated to Discussing Nasty Topics

Synopsis: World-renown reporter Tiffany Ship seemed to have done it all.  Mighty warriors had admitted to their dark pasts, daredevil monster hunters had revealed their shadowy techniques, charming princesses had determined to defy their cruel fathers, and enchanted frogs had finally come to grips with their form—all this has been accomplished under Tiffany Ship’s persistent questioning.  But now, she tackles her toughest guests yet amidst the scenic, haunting environs of Thornfield Hall in Hathersage, in the county of Derbyshire, England.  In her final assignment before her tragic death, Tiffany Ship interviews a Dark Lord, an Evil Queen, an Assassin, and an Enchanted Thrall for their insight into the world of evil.

Cast: 

Tiffany Ship………..Herself 

The Dark Lord……..Himself

The Evil Queen…….Herself

The Assassin……….Herself

The Enchanted Thrall…Itself

Deborah Renope……(Voice) Herself

Trivia:  Tiffany Ship reportedly had nightmares concerning her death in the weeks before filming began more

Goofs:  Deborah Renope’s name was spelled incorrectly as “Debra” in one of her credits  more..

Quotes:  Tiffany Ship:  “Do you have friends?”  The Assassin:  “Well, yeah, of course I do…” more

Soundtrack:  The original score was composed by Eithne Brennan more

Plot (Spoiler Alert!):

The audience is first introduced to the interviewees:  the Dark Lord, the Evil Queen, the Assassin, and the Enchanted Thrall all make their appearance.  Tiffany Ship then asks their names.  The Dark Lord, seated majestically in his dark robes, claims that his has been forgotten.  The Evil Queen smiles, adjusts gold and ruby crown, and simpers: “Oh, call me Brianna.”  The Assassin stretches out her legs and says: “Well, I can’t tell, you know, security reasons.  Just call me Melissa.”  The Enchanted Thrall plucks nervously at the chain round its neck and states, “Master would kill me if I told.”  Tiffany Ship then proceeds to inquire more basic facts, e.g.: Where do you live?  “In mine fortress,” replies the Dark Lord.  What about your parents?  “Oh, I disposed of my parents years ago,” frankly admits the Evil Queen.  What’s your favorite color?  “Oh, I dunno,” says the Assassin, “Black, navy, browns, greens…whites…anything that blends in.”  What’s your favorite food?  “Um, well, um,” hesitates the Enchanted Thrall, “Well, um, ham sandwiches, not that I get it much.”

Tiffany Ship embarks on more personal questions aimed at discerning real character.  For example, she inquires, “If you had to take over a kingdom, how would you accomplish it?”  “Why, I would send mine armies to pillage and slaughter and burn, of course,” says the Dark Lord.  (“What if you didn’t have an army?”  “Uh…” meditates the Dark Lord, “Then I would send mine demons to terrorize and tear apart.”)  The Evil Queen’s scheme is a little more complicated: “I would enchant the king, marry him, and then stab him in the heart after the wedding.”  (“What if it was a queen?”  “Then I would have her murdered, or do it myself, which, I can tell you from experience, always saves trouble.”)  The Assassin thinks a moment, then replies: “Well, I would have to know more about the situation, of course, but I would probably poison the royal family’s food, or perhaps the guard’s food, or even influence a weak-minded vassal to aid me.”  (“Does it make a difference if the target is a faerie king or queen?”  “Well, you have to be a lot more careful…” the Assassin begins.)  The Enchanted Thrall sighs: “Well, my master would tell me the kingdom he wanted, then I would do the usual: worm my way into the king’s confidence, then poison his mind.”  (“Do you get any reward from your master for doing this for him?”  “Oh, not ultimately,” is all the Enchanted Thrall reveals.)  The questions become more and more soul-searching.  “Would you kill a baby in order to gain your ends?”  “Why wouldn’t I?” demands the Dark Lord.  Tiffany Ship eventually asks:  “Why are you evil?”  The Dark Lord inquires: “There’s something else?”  The Evil Queen embarks on a lengthy speech on the benefits of sorcery.  “It pays the bills,” the Assassin states, matter-of-factly.  “I am enchanted,” says the Enchanted Thrall.

Finally, Ms. Ship asks: “If you could be immensely wealthy, I mean, if you had the opportunity to be good, you would have riches and power and happiness, but you would be good, would you take it?”  The Dark Lord says immediately: “No.  It is an incomprehensible thought.  I can’t even think it.”   “Oh, I would take the riches,” confides the Evil Queen, “but ultimately you can accomplish so much more being evil…wait…are you suggesting that I am somehow imperfect?  Everything I do is good and wonderful, you know, and for my own ends.  You are insulting me.  Do you know what I do to people who offend me?  Well first I…” (View Parental Content Advisory)  “Well, I dunno, I guess so…yeah, maybe…I guess,” says the Assassin.  Then, watchfully: “Why do you want to know?”  The Enchanted Thrall puffs up its three-foot-six body and proclaims: “Though I be punished for this with three weeks of bread and water, I must speak the truth.  I WOULD.  I’m sorry, Master.”  However, the Evil Queen has been offended, and she storms out, proclaiming her desire and determination to have revenge.  Even the brave Tiffany Ship grows pale.  At this point the interviews cease.  The director’s voice cuts in, and narrates how a few weeks after the interview Tiffany Ship fell down dead at on a park bench while eating a fruit salad, which upon investigation was found to be poisoned.

It is the general consensus that the Evil Queen was behind the tragic occurrence.  Of course, the Evil Queen was never brought to trial as it is difficult to enact human’s justice system in the Other Lands.  Additionally, it was rumored that the Evil Queen had the support of the Dark Lord and his massive army, and authorities were unwilling to risk a war, despite support from many Other-Worlders themselves. The audience is then reminded of the risk of evil, and how they should never give into it, along with a reminder of the great work Tiffany Ship did, and ultimately died for.