To End All Christian Films
A movie that takes evil seriously
by Eric Metaxas
(This is a review of “To End All Wars”, …Read More
Eric writes about faith, life, culture, and the things that he cares about.
At twelve o’clock stood New York Governor, George Pataki. At one o’clock , White House Press Secretary Ari Fleisher. At two o’clock was former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani. At three o’clock , just across the aisle, were Katie Couric, Matt Lauer, and Ann Curry. Everywhere one looked were pundits and anchors and government officials, so many of them that you thought you had fallen into your tv set.
I trust this finds you as miserable and stupid as ever. I am pleased to take a respite from our usual tutorial and venture into something a bit broader, but vastly instructive for our larger purposes. To wit: I shall today croak a paean of praise to a particular work of middlebrow non-fiction. The genre has been particularly good to us, Wormwood! Do you remember The Passover Plot? Or that excellent hoax by Erich von Daniken, In Search of Ancient Astronauts?
Hey, everybody, are you celebrating? It’s the 20th anniversary of We Are The World! I confess I’m not celebrating, although I am mystified and somewhat entertained at the idea of marking this “anniversary”. Because for something to be remembered doesn’t it have to be, well, memorable? As far as I know We Are The World is memorable mostly as a kind of harmless pop-trivia 80’s joke, like mullets or Alf.
Pray do not ask me, dear reader, how the following correspondence fell into my possession. Suffice it to say that the C.S. Lewis Estate’s legal counsel prevents me from revealing very much on that subject, and my own legal counsel says I mustn’t tempt fate on this score. I chafe sorely at these constraints; nonetheless, the litigious nature of modern society is not easily gainsaid.
For me, the main purpose of art is transportation. I’m not talking about murals on the sides of buses. I’m talking about the singular ability of art to pull us, Alice-like, through the Looking Glass and into other realms. I have always maintained that the fictional depiction of such journeys — as when Aeneas descends into the Underworld, or when the Pevensi kids go through the wardrobe to Narnia — is really about what happens when a person encounters art.
Sometimes a movie comes along that perfectly captures the zeitgeist — that practically cans it and pickles it — and you know you are looking at something with legs. Such is Gary Ross’s Pleasantville. The movie’s appealing premise is that two kids from the rad nineties — brother and sister — are magically projected into the black-and-white world of a fifties sitcom called “Pleasantville,” where they are cast as Bud and Mary Sue.
Once upon a time I was a huge Scorsese fan. But now I sometimes think he’s a movie director instead of a writer simply because it’s hard to get words on a page to actually drip blood. The impression is not completely without basis. His macabre early short, The Big Shave (1967), features a man, in close-up, shaving himself into an unwatchably bloody mess—and that’s all, folks.
Bring up the name Roald Dahl and you will get explosively mixed reactions. For every reader who celebrates his writing as magical and fun—half the households in America, it seems, possess at least one battered paperback of a children’s book by Dahl—there is another who will decry his dark cruelty, his juvenile desire to shock and subvert, not to mention the misogyny and even anti-Semitism with which he is charged.
When Disney’s Pocahantas opened in 1995, The New York Times Magazine published a parody titled “Mohandas,” which pretended to be a review of Disney’s animated version of the life of Gandhi. Pocahantas was typically bleached and sugary, so “Mohandas” pretended to review a similarly Disneyfied life of Gandhi, complete with treacly coming-of-age ballads (“The Man in the Diaper”), hyper-idealized historical characters (Disney’s Gandhi looked like Mr. Clean and was voiced by Michael Jackson), and fictional sidekicks (a sassy cow voiced by Whoopi Goldberg, and an animated spinning wheel voiced by Jackie Mason.)*