Movies, motives, mamma mia!

By  Mary Sawchuk, Youth Speak News
  • February 12, 2009
In my first lecture on religion and film in January, the professor had us question our attitudes towards culture through the use of movies. He said that film is the best medium to find out about the problems that exist within our culture. I agree with him, but only to an extent.

I saw his point about movies as the means for finding out problems in our culture, but as the class continued he failed to point out if it is necessary to have a lot of these problems exposed.

I would suggest that movies are a tool used by the filmmakers to manipulate viewpoints in society. Do people come to see certain action and attitudes as the “right thing” because their favourite actor or actress did it? 

Although many films reflect or present popular political or philosophical questions, many movies are presented in a questionable way. Increasingly, movies cannot seem to avoid scenes of seduction and unfaithful relationships that are often glorified. An example of this is the James Bond movies. Bond films depict the classical, universal idea of the struggle between good and evil, with James Bond emerging as the hero after his battle against the villains. And though perhaps the heated scenes, with Bond always getting the girl, are used as a way to depict Bond’s weaknesses, how much of these have to be shown on screen? I find that many scenes are unnecessary, and could be just as easily implied than shown. I think as people watch more and more movies they begin to accept whatever they see, particularly those who do not have the proper instruction or knowledge of ideas or concepts that are presented in films.

An example of a movie that presents a moral question is the musical Mamma Mia! As much as it is an entertaining musical production, it treats immoral concepts lightheartedly. It opens with the scene of an engaged girl mailing three letters to three different men who all had  relationships with her mother. The daughter invites them to her wedding in Greece, with the intention of finding out which of the three is her father.

It concludes happily, but to me it was unsatisfactory. Being a musical, this movie has a positive tone, making it seem that despite what happens or has happened, everything is OK to do. 

Sometimes you don’t know what you will be faced with when watching a movie. What I do is consult the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ web site which provides information on films and their plots. This review section of their web site gives a rating and provides an idea of what can be expected and whether the film contains violence or sexual situations.

Reviews such as this and others do not give you an answer as to whether or not you should watch the movie. You make that decision for yourself. The reviews do provide a very basic outline of the plot and tell of questionable situations in the film.

There are excellent movies being made. When a new movie comes out and becomes popular why not ask the question how and why does this movie benefit or hinder my life, especially spiritually. 

(Sawchuk, 21, studies literature at Redeemer University College in Ancaster, Ont.)   

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