"How can any Christian who takes the Bible seriously want to watch (or review) Sex and the City?"
"Anyone who could actually find something redeeming in [Sex and the City] is too awfully familiar with the world."
"Sex and the City is a pornographic film. You should either abandon your stated Christian aims and mission statement, or stop condoning pornography."
"Is this really Christianity Today??? Are you guys really serious about Jesus, the Bible, holiness, and biblical truth?"
And so went some of the letters we received in response to last week's review of Sex and the City.
We totally understand why many people would have no desire to see Sex and the City, choosing to avoid it because of its portrayals of pre- and extra-marital sex and rampant materialism. I myself have no desire to see it, mostly for those reasons.
But to slam us for reviewing the film makes no sense. Our mission statement is to help readers make discerning choices about movies—not to make the choices for people. Our review clearly warned readers of the sinful behavior in the movie, while also noting some of its redeeming factors—like the universal longing for love and companionship, what it means to be a true friend, and more.
But some folks believe that when it comes to a movie like Sex and the City, there should be no choice—they've decided that no one should see it, period … at least no one who calls themselves a Christian. They think we should essentially have a three-word review: "Don't watch it!" But that's not what we're about. We trust our readers to make their own decisions; we won't make those decisions for anyone.
As for why we review movies that depict sinful behavior, it's because such films depict real-world truth, and the truth is sometimes ugly. To suggest that one cannot find redemption amidst the muck is preposterous; often the best kinds of redemption come from out of the muck.
But here's another reason for reviewing SATC and other uncomfortable films: It's good to sometimes enter into the minds and worldviews of others, even of those we completely disagree with. It's good to see what the world looks like through the eyes of even the depraved.
Do those words make you uncomfortable? Or angry? Don't blame me, then. Blame C. S. Lewis, because they're essentially his words.
In his book, An Experiment in Criticism, Lewis writes, "We therefore delight to enter into other men's beliefs … even though we think them untrue. And into their passions, though we think them depraved. … And also into their imaginations, though they lack all realism of content."
Lewis is writing mostly in the context of reading books and poetry, but his thoughts on criticism apply just as well to film—or any art form, for that matter. He continues: "This must not be understood as if I were making the literature of power once more into a department which existed to gratify our rational curiosity about other people's psychology. It is not a question of knowing (in that sense) at all. It is connaître not savoir; it is erleben; we become these other selves. Not only nor chiefly in order to see what they are like but in order to see what they see, to occupy, for a while, their seat in the great theatre, to use their spectacles and be made free of whatever insights, joys, terrors, wonders, or merriment those spectacles reveal… .
"This, so far as I can see, is the specific value or good of literature considered as Logos; it admits us to experiences other than our own. … Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realise the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors." (Or, I might add, movie directors.) "We realise it best when we talk with an unliterary friend. He may be full of goodness and good sense but he inhabits a tiny world. In it, we should be suffocated. The man who is contented to be only himself, and therefore less of a self, is in prison. My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through the eyes of others. Reality, even seen through the eyes of many, is not enough. I will see what others have invented. … In reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do."
That, dear readers, is why we review "objectionable" movies. Because our eyes "are not enough for me." We will "see through the eyes of others" and yet "remain" ourselves. It is our own "experiment in criticism." If that kind of thinking is good enough for C. S. Lewis, it's certainly good enough for us.
(For further insights into our mission and philosophy, click here.)
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