Arts, Media, and Entertainment

And the Winner Is . . .

The great Christian thinker Francis Schaeffer once wrote that philosophy -- often dismissed as irrelevant -- is, in reality, a powerful engine that drives cultural change. Ivory Tower ideas filter down into popular culture, including films. There, they influence millions who often have no notion of what they're consuming along with the car chases, love scenes, and popcorn. This brings us to the Academy Awards of Sunday night. If you watched them, you already know that the films Hollywood chose to honor had little to do with quality and everything to do with philosophy and worldview. As Christian film critic Barbara Nicolosi acerbically put it, Hollywood's choices affirm, once again, "just how very, very sick America's storytellers have become." Several awards, including Best Picture, went to Million Dollar Baby, a film that promotes euthanasia. Five Oscars went to The Aviator, a film that celebrates billionaire Howard Hughes, the man who bedded dozens of starlets, made unwelcome advances to many others, and ultimately died of syphilis-induced insanity. Oh, and then there's the nasty little film called Sideways. This film suggests that it's fine -- even funny -- for a man to engage in an orgy of sex with strangers just before his wedding. That got an award, too. Films that were nominated, but did not receive awards, included one intended as a warning against making abortion illegal, and one that celebrates Kinsey, a twisted researcher whose now-discredited theories continue to degrade America's view of sexuality. Meanwhile, one of the greatest films ever made, one of the biggest box-office hits of the year, worldwide, and the biggest independent film in the history of the world -- that is, The Passion of the Christ -- was ignored. It's gotten to the point where you can't help but laugh at the pretense that the Oscars actually honor the best films, and at the intrepid efforts of Hollywood to make its choices seem relevant. And, I might add, laughter is a better response than simply getting mad. Critics who do little more than count up the four-letter words and sex scenes, and then issue an outraged press release, only boost the audience. Instead, Christian critics like Barbara Nicolosi take a more sophisticated approach, pointing out that movies like Million Dollar Baby and The Aviator are mediocre films, and they celebrate degraded values -- not worth the price of a ticket. That is the message we need to press home to our friends and to our impressionable kids. They need to know that everyone embraces one philosophy or another -- a worldview that defines his or her conception of the world, of reality, and of human life. These beliefs are woven into movies -- often in subtle ways that viewers miss. That is why it's so important that we teach our kids how to find the worldview message in every film. This week, especially if your kids are home because of the snow, why not teach them a little philosophy. Rent some of the better films and watch them together. Help them identify, not only the filmmaker's philosophy, but also what makes for artistic excellence. Schaeffer was right. Philosophy is a powerful engine that drives social change. And the time for philosophy lessons is before our kids walk into the multiplex -- not when the lights go out.


Chuck Colson


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