While his movies may be about "Bad Dads," he loves characters too much to let them fail in a way that would keep us from sympathizing with them. The injuries they inflict never quite match their ensuing judgment (or lack thereof).
In fact, until Fantastic Mr. Fox's Rat, there really wasn't a truly evil character in any of his films. Instead, his stories are full of hurting, generally-decent-if-somewhat-misguided people. While some filmmakers inflate the wicked and the heroic, Anderson flattens them.
Caring for God's Image
Part of what we feel, then, when we watch a Wes Anderson movie is empathetic care. He sees the broken bits in everyone, and senses that they might have been fixed. Perhaps without realizing it, Anderson has run smack into the fact that humans are made in God's image, broken reflections of his glory. As Gordon Spykman puts it, "We are imagers of God. Imaging God represents our very makeup, our constitution, our glory, and at the same time our high and holy calling in God's world."
Anderson can't really decide if his characters can redeem themselves, or if they are just rats in a garbage pail behind a Chinese restaurant. But he knows people are valuable. And this value demands a response.
That's why I wish I'd stopped and watched the movie with my fellow counselors that summer night. The few weeks after my talk with my camper were full of prayers and long conversations. I wouldn't admit it at the time, but I wanted to fix him. Some of this was good. I confided to a trusted group about him and we did our best to put pieces in place that would help him when he returned home.
But if I had joined in the movie night, I'd have found guidance from a director who does not share my ideals, but is more willing to sit in people's pain than I am. I abstractly claim that the teenage camper is a glorious ruin, a mirror of God chipped and scarred by the Fall. And yet too often I give such people the dignity of a sixty-piece puzzle.
Now that I reflect on it, Job's friends did do something right. They came, they sat, and they suffered quietly until Job was ready to listen. And, for as long as he brings his stories to the screen, Wes Anderson will do the same.
Andrew Barber is in his final semester at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis and spends his time rooting for the South Carolina Gamecocks to win the SEC Championship. He has written film reviews and editorials for various sites including The Gospel Coalition and RelevantMagazine.com, and you can follow him @flybarber14.