A Question on Movie-Watching

July 2, 2007

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I wonder if after reading this you’ll all think I’m a fundamentalist or something for asking the question, but I’ll ask anyhow.

Since the acquisition of Netflix (the most amazing thing in the universe) I’ve been engaging in a lot of movie watching. Usually I try to see movies that are good pieces of filmmaking that leave me with plenty of things to think about later, like Babel or The Last King of Scotland and so on. Sometimes, however, a lot of things I’d rather not be seeing are introduced in the film; occasionally they actually pertain to the plot, but most of the time I consider them completely unnecessary exaggerations of nudity of violence.

I remember David’s statement in Psalms 101:3, saying he will set no wicked thing before his eyes. I wonder if we should take the same stance, forfeiting some truly remarkable art in some movies because they include unncessary displays of sexuality of violence. And if we don’t take that stance, why shouldn’t we? Is it something we just have to deal with in a fallen world, cleaving to the good and abhorring the evil?

I ask because lately I’ve found myself saying, “Yeah, this was a really great movie, except it had plenty of sex and violence.” What do you all think about this, or am I just a fundamentalist for even asking?

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6 Responses to “A Question on Movie-Watching”

  1. Matt Says:

    Use your Christian Liberty to search for the redeeming qualities of the films that you are watching… 🙂

    Personally, I don’t care about the sex and violence in the movies that I watch… I’m interested in the characters and the stories that they tell, because most film is about telling us something about ourselves as humans.

  2. Matt (the Link one) Says:

    I’m not 100% sure where to draw the line. However, there really should be one. You can always fast-forward through raunchy parts and overly violent parts, definitely. However, what Christian do you know that would watch pornography and not know it’s wrong, at least who is conservative in belief? There obviously has to be a line somewhere then. You know, in the 7th century, priests and bishops in the east were forbidden by the Council of Trullo to go to plays because of the offensive themes they had. I would say it is DEFINITELY wrong to actually deliberately watch a sex scene, since it makes sex too average and either tempts us or numbs us. One even worse effect is watching that type of stuff and thinking we are so cultured for being able to experience it ‘objectively.’ Lets us feel superior to other Christians and on equal ground with the non-believing intellectual elite, too. That makes about as much sense as watching someone in the bathroom and feeling cultured; the difference is, our society praises sex and its acceptance as the sign of brains. It just means it feels good, and lots of smart people enjoy it. I also think too much violence is bad, too, although I don’t have a real reason to back that up since I don’t think about it much; I do think that, just like a kiss, some violence is ok; but like sex, too much violence is offensive and shouldn’t be watched, although I can’t say where that line is drawn definitely for either.


  3. I don’t think you’re being a Fundamentalist by asking the question. All Christians should be concerned–in proper measure–about what they do and see, just as God has said, “Be holy, as I am holy.” But, I don’t know that I can say exactly where the line is, either, unfortunately.

    I wonder, though, if certain artful aspects are enough to “redeem” a movie filled with violence or sex. Is a sculpture that has one or two points of beauty but is otherwise hideous praiseworthy? Perhaps in a small degree. I think it may be faulty reasoning to say that a movie is good based on its artful aspects if it is full of unredeeming qualities as well. And certainly there are plenty of artful movies that have less violence and sex that may be more worth our time.


  4. I fully second Michael’s coment. I suppose my question is whether nudity is bad, or even sexuality and violence. Plenty of that in teh bible, yet that won’t stop us reading it! But I guess it would depend on what we do with it inside.

  5. Natali (Dahling) Says:

    You know, I have to agree with you. Babel I think is an adequate example of this. I felt it detracted substantially from the film to include so much nudity and violence–and the entire subplot with the Japanese chick. It was entirely unnecessary. And while it didn’t bother me (but then, I wouldn’t be attracted to the female gender either), it might be harmful to others. For example, watching a violent scene where a guy is going around shooting people in the face does not make me want to do the same. However, it could be different for others.

    There isn’t really a definite line, I don’t think. And a lot of what constitutes something as being “wrong” is because of the feelings/reactions/thoughts that the act induces (ie, seeing a naked person could induce lascivious thoughts, etc). Sex, violence, drugs, and alcohol are all praised in today’s culture–and, as Matt (the Link one) said, the acceptance of these is encouraged and even glorified.

    It’s a personal matter. I suppose that technically, yes, we shouldn’t watch that. But I think that if you can watch these things and separate yourself from them (within reason, naturally) that it… isn’t okay, exactly, just… Well, for lack of a better word, acceptable. Sort of like if you’re an alcoholic, I wouldn’t go into a bar, were I you, unless you’re able to control that desire. And even then, why tempt yourself? Does that make any sense?

    Unfortunately, I feel that Hollywood injects needless scenes of sex and violence just because that’s what the majority of the audience wants to see. I’m afraid there isn’t really many choices. Either watch it or don’t.

  6. Will Says:

    This is really a very human question, the kind of thing that image-bearers should be asking themselves. No shame in that.

    Every work of art will be imperfect in declaring the glory of God, even though many artists don’t realize that using creativity does declare it, more or less. And that imperfection can – and will – be a distraction to other image-bearers who interact with it.

    The question is, what distractions are manageable? I think it’s a mistake to justify hurting yourself because of a work’s beauties. However, if elements are really not going to cause you harm by their distraction, then just chew the meat and spit out the bones. And enjoy! After all, it’s the glory of God.


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