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Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films with Wisdom & Discernment
Inter-varsity Press / 2002 / Paperback
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According to Brian Godawa in Hollywood Worldviews, there are two extreme positions to avoid in viewing movies: the cultural anorexic, who avoids all movies; and the cultural glutton, who almost always watches movies with little or no discernment or thought about the content. The problem with the first is related to one's ability to redemptively interact with their culture. The problem with the second is the fact that movies are always based on a worldview, and they usually are produced to promote that worldview.
Thus, especially for Christians, but also for all who are concerned about American culture at the beginning of the twenty-first century, this book offers a wonderful antidote to both extremes--become a discerning viewer, who understands both what worldview is being presented and how it is being presented. The goal of this book, according to Godawa, is to help us to appreciate art (movies) better by understanding how they are formed and what they wish to say.
Godawa is a strong Christian, but he is also an accomplished screenwriter. He takes us on a fascinating tour of storytelling, worldviews and spirituality in the movies, and offers informative reviews of several contemporary movies. He includes an appendix on sex, violence and profanity, looking at how the Bible deals with all three to see how movies should deal with them. His passion for truth, especially truth as seen through movies, permeates this entire book.
Ultimately, Godawa hopes to enable us to see how movies can subtly affect us, causing us to change our ideas or even life because of what we see in them. For all the good that can be found in movies (and Godawa is quick to point out where that good is), Godawa knows that much of the contemporary movie culture is an infection of our faith, and will slowly turn us from the truth of God as revealed in His word. Thus, he aims to educate us in critical movie watching, so that we can cull from movies that which is good, and reject that which is less than good or even that which is evil.
An award-winning Christian Hollywood scriptwriter offers this rather uneven book on how to watch movies discerningly as a faithful Christian. Godawa's purpose is not to help readers decide which films are worth seeing (for that he refers them to Christian Web sites), but rather how to "read" a film for its messages as opposed to absorbing it only as entertainment. One of his main arguments is that Christians should engage the world of popular culture in order to reform it. Unfortunately, it is not always clear who he expects his audience to be. Sometimes he writes very simplistically; he ends his definition of "worldview" with the phrase "it is our view of the world" and details elements of stories and myths that many high school graduates would be familiar with. But other sections use very academic prose about complex philosophies like existentialism and postmodernism. He reveals a clearly defined, even narrow, view of Christianity by asserting the "correct" way one should live or interpret the Bible. "Rare is the movie that paints an accurate portrait of heaven and hell," he tells us. (Just what, exactly, would an "accurate" portrayal look like?) The fact that each chapter ends with assignments and discussion questions gives it a strong pedantic twist. Despite these flaws, in the hands of the right audience conservative Christians willing to approach it as a textbook and who don't mind having a few movie plots betrayed this guide will encourage more thoughtful film consumption without killing the fun of moviegoing. (July) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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