Last night I watched a romantic comedy with a friend and I couldn’t help remembering something J said to me once (or maybe it was someone else, or I read it somewhere. Anyway, I just remember the conversation I had with J about it). I’ll tell you what it was in a moment, first I want to write about the movie.
In the movie we watched there was this guy and girl, best friends, who clearly felt more for each other than friendship, but were always missing each other and were never able to be together until the end (…spoiler? I haven’t even named the movie, but it’s a romantic film so of course they get together in the end). All through the movie I groaned whenever one of them was close to telling the other how they felt only to find that the other was in a relationship with someone else.
As I reflect, this movie wasn’t as bad (subjective term) as some romantic films. Neither of the main characters cheated on their clearly-wrong-for-them-partner to be with their best friend (a.k.a. love of their life). But both of them ended up with dissolved marriages before the end. But that’s okay, right? They can finally be together now.
And I know there are other films where you as the viewer are waiting and hoping for a marriage to break up so that the ‘real’ lovers can freely be together. Of course, the film makers always spin it to make it okay in our minds. The marriage wasn’t happy, the spouse was having an affair, the spouse was…etc. (because it’s often the spouse’s fault).
Here’s what J said: Why is it that in movies we still root for the characters who have fallen in love, waiting and hoping for them to get together, when it is at the expense of a spouse or partner? We want them to be together even if it means breaking up an existing relationship that one (or both of them) has. Why are we okay with broken marriages in movies for the sake of ‘true love’? Somehow we suspend our morals, not just our disbelief, when we get hooked into such a story.
While I suspended my belief in the importance of marriage during this movie there were a number of other things in the film that did grate against my morals, and I noticed them. Drunkenness (when does good ever come of it?), lying (this one especially grates when you just want the character to tell the truth about their feelings!), and sex outside of marriage (this one doesn’t always grate, particularly if it’s with the ‘right’ person, the love interest). So I didn’t suspend all my morals. But it’s not as though the film was asking me to endorse those things in the same way.
More could be said on this topic from the perspective of the action or crime-drama genre. Sometimes we suspend our belief that every life is valuable and murder is wrong when we watch these genres. We may even suspend our views on justice if it means the bad guy gets caught.
So what should I do? Give up romantic comedies and just watch G-rated films (or no films at all)? Maybe. I don’t want my culture (or the pop-culture seen in films) to shape my morals. But I don’t want to disengage completely from my culture either.
I guess part of this issue can be dealt with by moderating the amount of input these things have in our lives. As a Christian I get my beliefs and morals from what God says is right and wrong because I believe that he created the whole world and everything in it, including us, and so he not only knows, but made, the best way to live. So the input of the Bible, God’s words, in my life should be far greater than any input I get from my culture. In fact, the Bible should shape the way that I view my culture, and everything else.
I’m sorry that movies can cause me to suspend my morals for the sake of the story. But after it is over I remember reality, I turn again to look at God and ask him to shape me, knowing that I am a work in progress. And maybe in the next film, whatever genre it is, I’ll see more of it through God’s eyes.