Where Have All the Classics Gone?
I just saw Finding Nemo. Trusted friends (adults and children alike) told me it is a must-see. But my wife and I still emerged from the theater wondering what, exactly, we had just received for our investment of $15 and two hours of our life.
"To praise, exalt, establish, and defend." The great Roman Catholic journalist and author G. K. Chesterton, in one of his gem-like short essays, urged all Christians to do these things when they came across worthy literary or artistic expressions. Modern literature, media, and culture contain little that is positive or edifying, said Chesterton. Those that don't major on the degraded, the corrupt, and the dysfunctional still blow an uncertain trumpet. They haven't much to offer that can build up audiences.
Chesterton argued that it's our job as Christians to seek out cultural products that say something worth saying—and then to recommend them to others. "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things" (Philippians 4:8).
Certainly, Finding Nemo is artistically well done, sweetly humorous, untainted by any of the decadence that so disturbed Chesterton. But the problem my wife and I had with it is this: We've seen it all before. It's the Disney formula. Despite the (tired) theme of love between father and son, in the end it's just well produced mind-candy. Its message is pasteurized. It does not feed much in us beside the desire to be entertained.
Every time I see such well-meaning but empty movies, I remember Neil Postman's arresting title: Amusing Ourselves to Death.
OK, yes: I do keep coming back—the media lemming that I am.
It goes ...