Friday, March 31, 2017

The Gospel According to Beauty and the Beast

The newest trend in Disney productions is to take what was animated and make it new again with live-action films.  With the technology available today, this is nothing like live-action has seen before.  The latest in their live-action portfolio was released earlier this month - Beauty and the Beast. 

The animated version that debuted in the early 90s became one of pantheons of Disney princess movies, and started a trend in that decade for an onslaught of Disney princesses.  I loved that movie. Even though I was way beyond the age of the target audience, I went to the theater with my Mom to see it and fell in love with the story.  The last theatrical stage production I took my Mom to see was Beauty and the Beast, so it holds a special place in my heart.

A few weeks before this movie release, news hit of a an openly homosexual character being portrayed by Josh Gad.  He plays the sidekick of Gaston, LeFou, and it was reported - though not seen in film yet - that Disney had made this character so overtly homosexual that they've now gone down a path of no return.  I'm often skeptical of the media (Trump is, right?) and don't believe everything I see or read until I see or read it for myself.  Journalists live for the hype, so I withheld my judgment until seeing the movie, which, I was fortunate to see on opening night.  

First off, before I provide any commentary on the movie itself, let me say a few things.  I don't go to Disney for my theology.  Do I believe that homosexuality is a sin according to what the Bible teaches?  Yes.  Do I expect Disney to withhold Christian values?  No.  I'm also not a mother of children, but I have many friends who are, so I'm sensitive to that as well.  As I was growing up, my Mom and Dad didn't shield me from the things of this world.  They raised me in a godly home, with godly principles, and anything they felt on the fence about, they would watch with me or before me.  Then we'd discuss it.  In my early teen years, Judy Blume was a hot Young Adult writer who produced some steamy fiction that many of my friends couldn't read or her books were being banned from school libraries.  Shock alert:  I read them, and at the approval of my Mom.  Why?  Because she read them too and we talked through what we read.  How did the character in this story respond to situations?  Is this how I would respond as a godly young woman?  Instead of throwing me in a Christian bubble, my parents walked into the world with me.  Saying I'm forever grateful for them isn't really enough.  

The live-action movie was exquisite.  Many people know my affinity for Cinderella, but Beauty and the Beast comes in a close second, but her live-action film wins over Cinderella's version.  The way the story was expanded to bring out more depth was amazing.  It's definitely one to watch again and again.  And for LeFou?  His actions could be interpreted as simply the loony character we saw in the animated film or homosexual, but for someone of a young age, unless they followed social media on the hype, they wouldn't automatically assume he was homosexual.  It definitely didn't hurt the movie at the box office...and honestly, might have helped it, which is why when these types of things get blown out of proportion, we need to be wiser in how we react.  

Was Disney's intent to shroud a homosexual character in the form of LeFou even if it wasn't overt?  Doesn't matter if they did or didn't.  I'm sure every media I take in - books, movies, television shows - all have a back story from the producers and directors I may never know, but only be a subtle appearance.  I don't expect anything in Hollywood that is not based in biblical values to be something to tout the Truth from the Word of God.  Simultaneously a movie based on the book, The Shack, was released, yet I heard very little from Christians on the damaging message that movie presented, under the guise of a "christian" movie.  That would take another blog post, but the Bible teaches us to beware of false teachers who take the Truth of God's Word and twist it even a smidge to make us feel good and accept what is false for truth.  If you want to get in an uproar about something, wave the flag on The Shack.  

The messages that should outshine the rest in Beauty and the Beast is the sacrificial love that Belle showed when she took the place of her Dad being locked up at the castle. (spoiler alert)  This comes straight from John 15:13, "No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends."  Even Belle's love for the Beast speaks to a Scripture that described how God views man, "Man does not see what the LORD sees, for man sees what is visible, but the LORD sees the heart." (I Samuel 16:7)  

The world is never going to give us the love story that is pure and true.  We can only write stories that can maybe have a whiff of what true love is.  The greatest love story of all time is about The One who gave His life for me and loves me beyond all my outward faults and appearances and covers me with His Righteousness.  Now, that is a tale as old as time.   

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Why I Love This is Us

Last night I watched the season finale of the new NBC drama, "This is Us."  For the first time in, oh, forever, I'm actually watching a show in real-time.  That never happens.  Never.  Even the handful of reality shows I watch are watched on demand.  Yet this show captivated me so much I don't want to miss it as soon as it airs.  And, I watch the episode again, maybe more than once, because I love it so much.  

I'm not the only one in love with this show. My social media feed fills up on Tuesday nights when this show is on.  It's been a long time since a drama like this one has drawn so many people into its fold.  It's this observation that made me examine why I love this show so much.  

There are a lot of things to point out - the acceptance of an interracial adoption at a time when it wasn't so much the norm, a woman battling weight issues, the challenges of the every day life of a normal American family, the realism found within this family.  But I can narrow it down to one major thing.  The men on the show. Specifically Jack Pearson, played by Milo Ventimiglia. If you haven't watched the show and intend to, spoiler alert ahead.

Jack is the father of the children who star in the show.  In this first season, we've seen the birth - and adoption - of his children, the love he has for his wife, the struggle with alcohol that is becoming more evident, and the way he parents his children.  In the season finale, we learned even more about his family background that was hinted to before. The refreshing thing about Jack is the writers aren't portraying him - or any of the men for that matter - as weak, meager men like most dramas and sitcoms do these days.  Jack is strong.  He fights for his family.  He fights for his marriage.  Yes, he has his faults, but he admits to them.  He's not perfect. And we know that Jack has passed on, though we don't know details.  

We've seen Jack proclaim he doesn't want to be like his father, who was abusive to his mother.  We learn in the season finale that he was a Vietnam Veteran and didn't come back angry at the world and his country.  And we see how his parenting is being played out in the lives of his children.  So many touching scenes to represent that, but one comes to mind.  His son, Randall, suffered from panic attacks, and Jack knew how to calm him down in a way no one else could.  Now in adulthood, with his father gone, Randall's brother, Kevin, comes to the rescue of Randall's latest breakdown.  Just like his father, Jack, would.  There are some many more examples, but are beautifully written in a tapestry-like way that make the most impact when watched on the screen.  This is one of the most exquisitely-written shows I've watched in a long time.

Thank you, NBC, for allowing a show where men are portrayed in a way we rarely see in today's television shows.  Thank you, Hollywood, for producing a show that doesn't push agendas every week.  I'm worn out over everyone - on both sides - pushing agendas in my face.  You've brought a show to the screen that is so well written and pricks the heart of the viewer in a way few shows do.  We need more of those kinds of shows.  And more Jack Pearsons in our lives.