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Finding the Gospel in (Spite of) “Red Sparrow”

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With the amount of time I have taken to write about Jennifer Lawrence, one might assume either that I am obsessed with her or that I have something against her. Neither is true. It just so happens that my desire to write about loving our entertainers as we love ourselves keeps intersecting with news developments related to Jennifer Lawrence. And so I keep writing about her. #SorryNotSorry

In a recent blog entry, I examined Lawrence’s starring role in the sexually violent film Red Sparrow, and how she claimed in an interview that the movie helped her feel empowered. After being the victim of a photo hack that released nude pictures of Lawrence onto the internet, her choice to go nude (and much more) for Red Sparrow allowed her to reclaim what the photo hack had stolen: her autonomy.

To a degree, I get where Lawrence is coming from. The sexual offenses committed against her in real life took place without her consent, so she turned the tables (so to speak) by willingly participating in si…

My Appeal to Those Suspicious of #MeToo

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It was quite a controversial piece, written by a political activist. This piece addressed the entertainment industry, and how women have been especially susceptible to abuse and degradation. To be honest, the hard-nosed emphasis on how women are at most risk of victimization came across to me as a bit sexist: as if women were somehow inferior to men. Initially, I wasn’t quite sure if I could get behind it.

Now, if you think I’m describing a modern-day op-ed, you would actually be mistaken. I am referring, rather, to the words of the eighteenth-century abolitionist William Wilberforce in his mouthful-of-a-title bookA Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians, in the Middle and Higher Classes in this Country, Contrasted with Real Christianity. In section five of chapter four, Wilberforce addresses a problem in the performing arts in particular. Here’s how he begins this section (and I encourage you to read it in its entirety):
It is an undeniable fact, for …

Jennifer Lawrence’s Tragic Sexual “Empowerment”

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If asked to pick my favorite actor working today, I would be hard pressed not to choose Jennifer Lawrence. An exceptional thespian, Lawrence is especially skilled at communicating raw emotions through characters facing extreme trials: Ree in Winter’s Bone, Katniss in the Hunger Games films, Aurora in Passengers, and the nameless woman in mother! My admiration for her acting ability has only increased with the passage of time.

As one interested in Lawrence’s development as an actor, I thought it appropriate to examine her most recent project: the sexually violent spy thriller Red Sparrow. In the words of Refinery29’s Anne Cohen, “An actress famous for her reluctance to shoot nude scenes doesn’t just suddenly decide to go full-frontal, which makes this decision worth examining.”
Consider just one sequence in the film, once again in the words of Anne Cohen:
In the late stages of her training as a Sparrow, an elite breed of Russian spies taught to extract information with their bodies and th…

“Shape of You,” Objectification, and Harvey Weinstein

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I’m not hip. My exposure to most pop music involves hearing the songs my wife adds to her Spotify playlists. If not for that, I probably wouldn’t know much (or anything) about Adele or Taylor Swift or One Republic or Imagine Dragons. Aren’t you glad she’s in my life? (I am—immensely.)
Being the unhip hipster that I am (you know, uncool before it’s cool to be uncool), I only first heard Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” several weeks ago. It caught my attention for a couple of reasons. First, it’s catchy. And second, it reminded me of Harvey Weinstein.
My mind made an immediate connection between the song’s lyrics and Salma Hayek’s 2017 op-ed for The New York Times: “Harvey Weinstein Is My Monster Too.” In it, Hayek describes how Weinstein manipulated and harassed her. The abuse came to a head when Weinstein allegedly threatened to shut down Hayek’s pet project—the movie Frida (which, at the time, was in the middle of production)—unless she agreed to add a lesbian sex scene to the film, dur…

Exposing Sexual Predators is Good, But…

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The only thing that shocked most people in the film industry about the Harvey Weinstein story was that suddenly, for some reason, people seemed to care. That knowledge alone allowed a lot of us to breathe for the first time in ages. These are the heartbreaking words of writer/actor/director Sarah Polley in her New York Times piece The Men You Meet Making Movies.

Polley continues:
I’ve grown up in this industry, surrounded by predatory behavior, and the idea of making people care about it seemed as distant an ambition as pulling the sun out of the sky.
Polley’s testimony, among countless others, has saddened and sickened me, though it also gives me hope. It appears that we as a society may be growing more serious about dealing with sexual violence. Open secrets are becoming more open and less secret, and that is good. I applaud the bravery of women (and men) who have shared their #MeToo stories in an effort to affect change.
At the same time, we must focus on more than just the extrem…

Sex in Game of Thrones: It’s More than Just Awkward

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Game of Thrones seems to have it all: impressive storytelling, strong production values, gripping drama, enthralling intrigue, and shocking twists. This is no run-of-the-mill TV show. A ton of people, including many Christians, profess a love for the series.
So, as a lover of speculative fiction myself, why haven’t I jumped on this bandwagon/love boat? The reason starts with one word:
“Awkward”—actors often use this word when they refer to the filming of nude and sex scenes, and we can’t deny Game of Thrones has plenty of these.
Yet many Christians find enough redemptive material in the show to watch it anyway.
I’m among those who have reservations about the show’s graphic sexuality. But my problem isn’t ultimately that the sex and nudity are a potential stumbling block for those serious about moral purity. That issue is secondary. After all, we can shut our eyes or fast forward or use products like VidAngel to skip scenes that we find awkward.
However, most actors have no such escape…

Delighting in God through Entertainment

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I recently had the privilege of teaching a class on the topic of enjoying God through the pursuit of entertainment. We looked at six considerations, three of which addressed the pitfalls of legalism and three that addressed the pitfalls of licentiousness. I got a little carried away with a 32-page PowerPoint presentation. (The image included here is from the first slide.)
Preparing the material for the class proved to be a rich and rewarding experience. One particular benefit included the realization that much of my focus on this blog as of late has been on the licentious side of things. It helped me see that there are some legalistic pitfalls I would do well to address. I will likely use the material I prepared for some future blog posts.
In the meantime, you can check out an audio recording of the class by visiting my SoundCloud account. I hope you find it both encouraging and challenging.