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Showing posts from 2020

On Actor Exploitation: Confessions of an Alleged Killjoy

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Regular visitors to this blog are well aware of a particular thematic drum I keep beating: the sexual exploitation of our entertainers . It is a drum I will continue to beat. From time to time, however, it is helpful to zoom out and take in the larger picture. Now is one of those times. Over the years, I have highlighted dramas like Fifty Shades of Grey , television shows like Game of Thrones , and comedies like  Knocked Up  and  The 40 Year Old Virgin . I have also highlighted the experience of individual actors , including Jennifer Lawrence , Evangeline Lilly , and Margot Robbie . Reading these exposés might lead some to think of me as a pessimistic killjoy with a Pharisaic dedication to condemning anything and everything I can lock my sights on. My point, however, is not to condemn the filmmaking industry outright, nor to condemn all use of sexual themes in entertainment. (In fact, I have defended both on this blog, including here and here .) Nor has my point been to mischaracte

Salma Hayek and the Sexual Cost of Stardom

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After two decades in Hollywood, actress Salma Hayek did an interview with The Orange County Register . She was asked if she realized being a sex symbol was the only way to open doors in the entertainment industry, or if she “found out later and had to accept.” She answered, “I did not know that in advance, but I saw that it was the only way to sneak in.” [1] When she moved from Mexico to Los Angeles back in 1991, the only way for her to “sneak in” was through the use of her body as a bargaining chip. She discovered Latino actresses like her were “typecast as the mistress maid or local prostitute.” Being viewed primarily as a sexual object didn’t just last for a brief stint. It lasted for years. In 1995, Hayek got a big break as a lead actor in Desperado , but this career advancement came at a high cost: having a sex scene sprung on her. Says Hayek , “[The scene] was not in the original script, I have to say. I think it was one of the notes that came after they showed the screen test

The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen

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“There’s nothing to watch.” How many of us have said that? More importantly, how many of us have made that complaint while scrolling through hundreds of options on our television? The problem really isn’t that there’s nothing available—only that there’s nothing good available. That’s the elusive nature of visual media—finding something good to watch. Movie trailers can be helpful, but they can also be misleading. A particular trailer might steer you away from a film you wouldn’t like, but it won’t necessarily provide a guarantee of what you will like. That’s one reason why I follow a small handful of film critics. Reading their collective thoughts on a film of particular interest can help me better ascertain whether or not said movie will please my emotional and mental palette. And one of those critics has just made finding the right movie a lot easier. A NEW AND WELCOME RESOURCE There’s a new book in town: The Best Movies You Never Saw . Recently released by film critic Joseph

Should You Criticize Movies You Haven’t Watched?

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It is inherently problematic to condemn a specific film or television show from the sidelines, without personal experience of what that work of art communicates. When Christians dismissed Darren Aronofsky’s 2014 film Noah , for example, many of them did so on erroneous grounds, not knowing what was actually in the movie . Blind condemnation is dangerous and unhelpful. When it comes to pornographic content, however, we move away from the debatable and ambiguous elements of artistic merit, and toward more solid distinctions between right and wrong. Hypersexualized storytelling methods are an aspect worth criticizing. A Christian can—and should—condemn pornographic material without having to engage each instance on a case-by-case basis. Thus, I am comfortable and confident to condemn pornographic techniques used in any mainstream film, whether I’ve seen that film or not. Such condemnation is not unfair to the work as a whole. That is why I have spoken up about certain films I haven’t

An Incarnational Approach to Racial Sympathy

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It’s a scandalous concept: Hebrews 2 tells us, “[Jesus] had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest…” (v. 17). God the Father is even said to have made the Son “perfect through suffering” (v. 10). The very thought is baffling. What was it about the perfect son of God that needed perfecting? Nineteenth century theologian  Albert Barnes  provides some helpful commentary: [Christ’s] subjection to his humble condition…made him such a Saviour as man needed, and qualified him fully for his work. There was a propriety that he who should redeem the suffering and the lost should partake of their nature; identify himself with them; and share their woes. It was necessary, Scripture tells us, for God the Son to experience human life and suffering, which somehow perfected His ability to sufficiently sympathize with us (see also  Heb. 4:15 ). Jesus didn’t relate to us from afar; He drew near, suffering  with  humans,  as  a human—and

A Public Plea to the Director of CUTIES

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Ms. Doucouré: Even though I have grave concerns over your feature-length debut, I am also troubled by the overt hatred you have received since Netflix picked up Cuties for mass distribution. The uncharitable names you’ve been given, the perverted motives imputed to you, and the death threats you have received are wholly inappropriate. They are tantamount to violence against both your humanity and the God who created you with dignity and value. I recently discovered an interview in which you shared from your heart the catalyst for writing and directing Cuties . Several things you said resonated with me: “Our girls see that the more a woman is overly sexualized on social media, the more she’s successful. And the children just imitate what they see trying to achieve the same result without understanding the meaning. And yeah, it’s dangerous.” “…isn’t the objectification of a woman’s body that we often see in our Western culture not another kind of oppression?” “I think all togethe

When the Culture War Turns Into Guerrilla Warfare

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It’s not every day you get to hear a VeggieTales character read one of your articles out loud. Okay, so it was actually Phil Vischer (the voice of Bob the Tomato) who highlighted my recent piece, If You’re Fighting the Culture War, You’re Losing . More on that in a moment. In the article, published at The Gospel Coalition, I ask this question: “Is a warlike posture the proper response to an increasingly anti-Christian society?” The problem with the culture-war approach is not that it (rightly) discerns opposition from the world. The problem is in the chosen mode of response.   By embracing the culture-war paradigm, many Christians adopt—likely inadvertently—an “all’s fair in love and war” perspective. After all, in a war you don’t turn the other cheek; you strike back as hard, or harder, than your opponent. That’s how wars are won. . . .   To engage with our culture in a militant and hostile manner is to forsake our role as ambassadors. It’s trading our diplomatic visas for

TENET (2020) – Film Review

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I don’t typically include a synopsis in my movie reviews, and this will be no exception—in part because there is no adequate way to describe the plot of Tenet without simultaneously explaining too much and failing to explain enough. Let’s just delve into the review. As a reminder, I rate movies based on three criteria: objectionable Content (C), Artistic merit (A), and my personal Preference (P). (C-A-P. Get it?) CONTENT (C): 9 out of 10 Nolan’s films are often dark, and certain characters, actions, and plot elements of Tenet are no exception. Nevertheless, the filmmaker shows a great deal of restraint, hinting at the evil of its villains without being gratuitous or sadistic. Take, for example, Andrei Sator, the main antagonist played with calculating coldness by Kenneth Branagh. Sator oozes menace, but mostly through words, facial expressions, and body language. Abuse and violence are often hinted at, but blood and gore are virtually non-existent. Tenet is a great example of how h

The Neglected Role of Popular Culture in Christian Parenting

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There’s a saying that goes something like this: “You don’t fully appreciate something until it’s gone.” An opposite and equal truth is this: “Sometimes you don’t fully recognize your need for something until it appears.” Prince Naveen discovered that Tiana was what he never knew he needed . Narnia fans don’t know what they’re missing until they discover scholar Michael Ward’s findings about Lewis’ “secrets.” And I never knew I needed Avatar: The Last Airbender in my life until my wife introduced the show to me.* Yes, sometimes you don’t fully recognize your need for something until it appears. In the particular case of this blog post, the “you” is Christian parents, and the “something” is the book The Pop Culture Parent . With the combined insights of its three co-authors (one whom I know personally , one whom I know online , and one whom I stalk online ), this resource explores a much-neglected facet of parenting: engaging popular culture with and for your children. In a soc

The Hidden Meaning of The Chronicles of Narnia

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What if there was a secret cipher that unlocked a meaning behind C. S. Lewis’ beloved  Chronicles of Narnia ? What if Lewis used a concealed template to map out each book in the series, with a specific contextual aim that can be completely missed unless you know exactly what to look for? That is the intriguing premise of Michael Ward’s much-praised book  Planet Narnia . As an unofficial Lewis aficionado, my wife recently read through Ward’s book, pausing between chapters to relay what she had learned to me. The material in  Planet Narnia  provided for many a night of excitement, discovery, and discussion. Even as someone who has digested most of this book’s thesis second-hand, I find myself convinced by Ward’s paradigm-shattering work. Understanding the key to Lewis’s true and foundational intent for  The Chronicles of Narnia  unlocks the secret to numerous mysteries about the books: Why does Father Christmas make an appearance in  The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe ? Why is there a