Only a movie?

Yesterday I had a few of my (year 7-9) Sunday school kids over to watch Kung Fu Panda on dvd. We made some popcorn, drank soft drink, and in general it was a good afternoon.

Trying to have a discussion afterwards, I asked them if they could see any Christian, or other messages in what they had seen. The majority response seemed to be that there were no such messages, as it was “only a movie”.

Though in reality we moved from there to playing wii sports, if I had been better prepared, and if they had been in a better mood to discuss things, I would have tried to explain that there’s no such thing as “only a movie”.

Movies provide one of the last points of shared histories that people can have. You might have nothing in common with someone, but you can both talk about how you reacted to “the usual suspects”.

Movies, too, often have underlying messages of redemption or even a saviour character: sometimes a Christian message can be taken away, at other times, a movie captures the zeitgeist of the time, and helps the viewer understand what the people around them are thinking.

In the case of the PG-rated “Kung Fu Panda”, there are messages of what is important in life, of what happens when you die, of the importance of hard work, but of the greater importance if being passionate and funny. We see that it’s ok to ignore your parents if you’re chasing a dream, that old people can learn from young people, and, of course, that good always triumphs over evil. How many of those messages will kids watching the film take on board? It’s not easy to say. But for parents, and people who have the repsponsibility of teaching kids, it’s worth thinking about.

Something I’m hoping to be better at this year is engaging with movies, and talking about them with other people. Does anyone have any tips on how to do this?

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6 Comments

  1. Good on you for trying … 🙂

    I think it’s hard to get this kind of group of people talking about such things – they have almost been “trained” I suspect to think “that kind of conversation belongs in Sunday school or Youth Group” with questions and answers and generally around the Bible. I suspect it felt like a question from left centre for them. I suspect it will be easier with people who don’t have that ingrounding … that’s what I find.

    I do have been around lots of resources in helping what you are thinking … I’ll have think about them.

  2. I read something on how to do that once. But that was two or three years ago when I didn’t have a Delicious account. I remember exactly where I read it, though: Bec posted it on the old WebSalt blog when it was hosted by Blogspot. Or rather she posted a link to an article about rom coms and how damaging they are from a Christian point of view, and I started reading the related articles on the site, and there was one about talking about the world views of movies with your kids.

    Of course I can’t find the site at the moment … grr …

  3. There’s a useful book for teachers and trainers called ‘Movie Clips That Teach and Train’ – see http://tinyurl.com/99q4ma

    It lists 101 Movies and the parts of them that can be used as lessons, plus topics raised and discussion questions. Many of them suitable for under-18.

  4. I think it was in M. Night Shyamalan’s stinker Unbreakable that “Mr Glass” talked about comic books as being the graffiti of modern culture, the pictures drawn on the walls that talk about human dreams and desires – what we really want to be. I would prefer movies to comics, simply because of the broader impact movies have.

    Since Jaws in 1975, movies generally are not merely the light and shadows we see on the cinema screen but are an avalanche of media information on billboards and posters, lunchboxes and football advertising spots, mobile phone themes and chocolate bars. You don’t have to have seen a movie to be impacted by it or have an opinion on it.

    The irony is that most movies reference other movies, often without ever realising it. Tarantino does it (most of the time) obviously but You’ve Got Mail is a remake of a remake! Think about how many times Psalms are referenced in the New Testament, or by Jesus through the gospels!

    Maybe one approach is to parallel the memeology of a movie to the memeology or flow of a thematic throughline in the Bible?

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