The Oscars, Worldview, and "The Shape of Water"
And the winner is…..yet another film that most of us won’t want to see. Learn why more Americans are ignoring Oscar-winning movies. Did you watch the Academy Awards? Even if you didn’t, you may have heard that a film titled “The Shape of Water,” a romantic fantasy set during the Cold War, won the Best Picture award. “The Shape of Water” features an amphibious manlike-creature which has been captured in the Amazon. It’s taken to a government research lab, and a janitor named Elisa falls in love with the creature and helps it escape to her apartment, where they engage in sex. Of course they do. You see, the Oscars—and the movies the film community chooses to honor—remind us that every film has a worldview message, for good or ill. I have not seen the film and probably won’t, but Ted Baehr’s MovieGuide, a Christian film review site, points out that while “The Shape of Water” is “masterfully executed and beautifully designed,” it’s also “spiritually and morally empty,” filled with extreme violence, foul language, torture, graphic sexual activity, and Bible-quoting Christian villains. Sadly, much of this is par for the course these days. But MovieGuide did not simply add up the number of obscenities and scenes of violence and sex; It also identified the film’s underlying worldview: “The Shape of Water,” it says, has a strong Romantic view—that is, it celebrates the philosophy of Romanticism, which teaches that “sexual impulses and the sinful desires of the heart should be lived out” enthusiastically, not “suppressed or rebuked.” This is, of course, the exact opposite of what the Christian worldview teaches. IndieWire film writer Anne Thompson notes, “The Best Picture Oscar usually comes down to how the Academy wants to see itself, and the message it wants to send.” Evidently, the message it wants to send is a depraved one. Maybe that’s why, according to the research, far fewer Americans go see R-rated films than they do films rated G or PG, and why fewer and fewer Americans—tired of the preening, vulgarity, and political agendas—bother to watch the Academy Awards. But if you love films as much as I do, I have a suggestion to make: Instead of going out to see beautifully crafted trash, gather up a handful of great films on DVD and watch them instead. Among my own favorite are two directed by the immortal Frank Capra. The first one, “You Can’t Take It With You” teaches that life is not about piling up money, but doing what we really love and being good to our families and neighbors. The second Capra film, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” is a powerful depiction of an ordinary man who discovers how corrupt the political system is, and the price of fighting it. Released in 1939, it’s now considered one of the most important films ever made. Another classic is “Chariots of Fire,” about Olympic runner Eric Liddell. It’s the story of a man who is willing to sacrifice a great worldly honor in order to remain faithful to God. I also recommend “The Apostle,” starring Robert Duvall, about a deeply flawed preacher who loses his family and his church, and who begins all over again in the Bayou. It’s not for kids, but what a powerful film. Another favorite of mine is “Signs,” a science fiction film about a priest who loses, and then regains, his faith in God’s goodness after the world is attacked by aliens. You and I live in a world in which depictions of evil are beautifully designed, rehearsed, and filmed by talented directors and attractive actors. These films deeply influence our culture—which is why we need to teach our kids how to identify the worldview of every film they watch—and not be taken in by the false messages many of them promote, including movies intended for children. And then help them seek out films that inspire them to live lives of heroic virtue—and which point to the reality of God and His love for us.