Thursday, January 26, 2012

Boring Is Better

That's the title for an article I wrote for the January/February issue of Immerse Journal. It explores the intersection between faith and film (a subject dear to my heart) with a particular focus on slower "boring" films and how they might be connected to our spiritual formation. An excerpt:
Allow me to make two assumptions here:
1. None of the students you disciple have viewed The Tree of Life.
2. Nearly all of your students have viewed either Transformers: Dark of the Moon or The Hangover: Part II. 
Many of us simply accept this as normative. Why is this the case? What are the cultural values behind these habits? What causes audiences to stay for two and a half hours of surface-level entertainment and walk out on spiritual depth after seven minutes? What does our film-watching say about our spirituality? 
Obviously, all of this begs the bigger question: Why do we even go to the movies? For entertainment? Escape? Diversion? Our culture equates a trip to the movie theater more with a visit to the arcade than a viewing of the latest Rembrandt exhibit at a museum. And why not? Our lives are already far too busy and exhausting: why make us work to appreciate our entertainment? When I'm tired at the end of a frantic week, a Friday evening trip to the movies is just what I need to relax, to turn off my brain and zone out. It is a 90-minute escape into another world. 
Is art only meant for entertainment and escape? Shouldn't it also edify? 
It seems reasonable to assume that movies as an art form could enlighten and stimulate us, moving us past mindless entertainment into mindful engagement. Movies could make us better people. Yet many moviegoers have cultural barriers that prohibit such edification.
You can see the current issue here. Subscribe to Immerse here to read the entire article.

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