Theology and Film Podcast

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« As it is in Heaven | Main | Film Review - "Dead Man Walking" »

September 26, 2007


gordon millerick

In placing a comment for podcat 10 I desire to open with a statement "if you live a lie long enough, you will end up believing that lie to be the truth". What do I mean by this statement.
Society today in its headlong search of extracting wealth from the populace, has lead a lot of society to believe whatever the spin doctors wish to tell them. Concerning the media of film (Including television), we are lead to believe that the controlling bodies have, for our protection and assistance, placed upon each movie a rating. If you compare the ratings of movies in 2007 to the ratings of 1997, a lot of MA and even some G films of 2007 would be R rated in 1997.
The lie is that these rating are for your protection and the controlling bodies have your best interests at heart. Decipher through this lie to discover that what the controlling bodies mean is , we wish to make maximum monetry gain from this film and in doing so we are not concerned if the film desensitizes the viewing public.
Where does this lead. The viewing public does become desensitized, which then allows unacceptable behaviour to become the norm. Disrespect, self centredness, greed and lust then become the normal behavior and mindsets. This is sold of as "well everybody does it" or "I'm just going with the general flow". You now believe the lies that society has brainwashed you with. This is a sad inditement of our society and is agaist the teachings of our lord and Saviour.
Yes I do believe that popular culture can be and is bad for our physical health and more importantly , our spiritual health. Dr Shane Clifton,s ending words of Podcast 10 has excellent wisdom contained witin them. Roughly Dr Shane stated, look at the films from a critical aproach. In other words , look wisely at films and what you are being lead to believe. Search for scriptual answers. To grab an overused but under understood phrase, "what would Jesus do". Jesus Taught love not greed.

Jacqueline Worcester

I rather ejoyed Dr shane Clifton's podcast. Especially where he talks about viewing movies critically and analysing, why they have the scene in the move.

I agree with what Shane said about culture and the reason why for instance a nudity scene is in the film, and that we ought to engage - critically in popular culture.

If we were to take a fundamentalist view of getting rid of all sexual references in all of our media including the bible, Song of Solomon would be said to be sexualizing women and would be inappropriate for young viewers.

I do not believe we can be dogmatic about what Christians should or should not watch, I believe it is upto the individual to use their own common sense and to wade on the side of caution when it coems to certain media.
I personally like the way our ratings sytem is set up, as it warns the viewers before hand what you are about to watch. If a movie for example has sex scenes and nudity in it I am less likely to want to watch it. Than a movie that has say: Mild course language and adult themes.

Watching the films for this subject has really broadended my view of what I deem acceptable and unaccectable, and I find myself looking critically and with a firmer awarness of waht is portrayed and why.

While I do believe that the media including film has the potential or power to cheapen life it also has the power to challenge it.

For example I had never really thought through my views on the death penalty and I would have said I was for it, before I watched the movie Dead Man Walking. Now however it has changed my mindset for what I believe is for the better.

Joshua Ballard

I don't really have that much to say, except that I am going to sound much like a gun loving American.

"Popular culture doesn't kill people...people kill people"

After all...popular culture is simply (!) that which people produce and accept. Even our reactions are for and against individual expressions of culture.

I wonder how much of the White Culture's titillation at seeing a white womans breasts in a movie is the result of a rebellious expression towards restriction or coercion? As was stated, to see the African village dweller's breasts is not nearly as controversial as seeing a white woman on T.V.

I can easily imagine there are large groups of people that participate in the rejection of the culture by expressing "cultural disobedience"

By the same rate...I agree with John Piper on this particular issue...nudity is especially problematic because violence, and death are just faked in movies etc. The fight sequences in a film are choreographed as to not be truly violent, or at the very least not be simply documented rage. When you see a woman naked in a are ACTUALLY seeing that woman naked. It isn't being faked. This is a problem within any culture that views nudity as a special relationship forming event, but outside of these cultures, they don't continue to have the same impact.

You hear about Porn Stars and Prostitutes that no longer see genital sex as the primary relationship forming event, but arbitrarily determine some other intimate action as the "special" act to be reserved for their Partner.

I would immediately assume that in African villages where seeing a woman's breasts has completely different cultural significance, there are other acts which function in a primary relationship forming event between an exclusive male and female, which would be taboo in any alternate expression.

There are way too many cultural issues to deal with when determining whether or not to watch a film, so to avoid the "culture war" stuff...I'm just gonna say...

"To the pure, all things are pure"

I think when we realise that something isn't's because we (individually, and corporately) aren't.

Then we groan for the transformation by the Holy Spirit.

I think it is through THAT lens, that we can begin to realistically critically assess ourselves, and culture.

Ribekka  Byberg

I really liked the podcast. I think it is very important as Shane said, not go to any of the extremes, by either not engage with contemporary culture, or the other extreme that engages uncritically. I do think that there are damaging elements in our culture today, and film expresses these things many times in a raw, explicit way. I don’t believe that we need to watch a movie that puts rape on agenda in order to understand that this is an issue in our society. But on the other hand, we can learn from different movies, as long as we are able to critically view them, no matter of our personal stand with the topic.. if that makes any sense..
I personally find it hard to choose what movies to watch and not to watch. I question myself, cause I can laugh about Friends, and get fully into Greys Anatomy without feeling “guilty”, but if I see a sex scene in a movie, it is somehow different to me. But the thing is, the moral that is portrayed in Greys Anatomy and Friends can be the same as in the “bad” movie I chose to watch. I sometimes think it is worse with tv, because it influences over time, and it makes you as a watcher sympathise with wrong moral behaviour…

Anna H

I really enjoyed this podcast. I think what we watch and don't watch is greatly influenced by our own personal convictions and life experiences. I think the way in which you approach film makes a big difference in how you percieve it's content and message. Watching a film purely for entertainment will affect you in a completly different way to critically viewing it.Outside of academic circles film's primary purpose is for entertainment and I think it influences the values of society more then we realise. People spend more time watching television then with their own families and friends.
I think what concerns me most about pop culture is it's influence on young people and kids. Young people are engaging less and less with their parents and positive role models. Media has become the new babysitter for kids and teenagers. What they see to be normal and 'the right thing to do' is derived from dolly magazine or home and away. As christians we can watch films critically knowing our convictions and beliefs, however for young people who are in the process of forming theses beliefs, TV has become the new 'teacher' in a sense to their world view.
When it comes to what I watch and listen to I can only rely on my own personal convictions. I think as we grow and mature our response to how we perceive and engage with pop culture will change. Their will always be the black and white areas, however I think the grey areas will be subject to change.

Kristina Fuglesten

I do remember seeing a movie with sexual reference from the first time, I was probably around 8 or so it was a Norwegian movie with a rough language, the picture is still stuck in my head. The fact that the movie was in my own language made it more personal. It is funny that 13 years later I handle movies differently. I can distance myself from the actors more. I can divide between reality and art, and also between the society and the life that I choose to live personally.
I am used to be confronted with sexual references because it is everywhere in media. I agree with Shane that the purpose behind the references are crucial to if I can approve of the film or not. I seems like many sex scenes at put in just to keep people interested. I react on rape scenes more than adulterous scenes. When it comes to violence I have an even smaller range of tolerance. If is is historical movies like Troy I can distance my self because people are being killed in large numbers. In The Gladiator I didn't care about the crowds of people who died but when the wife and child of the main character died it disturbed me greatly.
When it comes to deciding weather to watch a movie or not I would say that age and maturity is very important. What is okay for you might be damaging to others. I guess we should be better at knowing ourselves, and setting limits. Because when you have seen the movie you can not erase the pictures.
It is helpful to have a conciseness that tell us individually if we should watch the movie or not. …

lance davis

Very complex subject coupled with a well created and thorough podcast. The sources cited and examples given were very clear and challenged my perceptions of culture, politics, and the effects of media.

The comments so far show people frustrated as they pour out their ideas of what's unpleasing to God and, like josh, might fear sounding too one-sided in perspective while still admiting there cannot be black and white solutions for every decision.

I think if we really could sense, for ourselves, exactly how it feels to walk in a few different people's shoes for awhile and physicall and emotionally sense what offends them and what they struggle with and what experiences they have to draw from, we would be completely shocked! Like the impact of a rape scene from a woman's perspective.
I'll never forget on a double date watching "the message" (basically a film which uses the story of joan of arc for an outlet for really cool arty camera shot-concepts) When that graphic war-related rape scne hit, both girls started crying and both ended up half running out of the theatre. I felt so dirty and irresponsible for allowing that to happen. But even had I known it was there would I have realized the effects and refused to watch it or just said "oh, there's a bad scene" and not given proper warning? While I knew it was absolutely terrible at the time, perhaps I'll NEVER know the real affects.

I guess the trick is being responsible and mature in our criticism. Not mature as in growing old enough to classify something as 'Ok to watch' that used to be 'bad' but growing in our maturity to know the difference and choose accordingly.

Rachelle Marcos

This podcast has truly challenged my approach to popular culture. For all the years I have been growing up, I have tried to avoid movies with sexual content especially coming from an Eastern culture where sex is considered taboo. It is our church culture back in Indonesia that we don't mix secular songs with church songs. We would never hear secular songs at church let alone movies. It may have changed a little bit now but it wasn't like that at all back then.

I think it is really important as Christians to be aware of what the present culture is shaping this generation to be. Having an open mind to the media and trying to understand the message is indeed important. But I also believe that it is unnecessary for Christians to immerese ourselves in 'destructive' entertainment. Therefore, I fully agree with Dr. Shane's opinion that we need to be critical and distance ourselves from movies.

I believe that it is best for Christians to practice discernment and wisdom in terms of watching movies. Be in this world but not of this world. It is our responsibility as well to feed ourselves with things that are more valuable in life than mere entertainment.

Koki Sato

That's very interesting topic of this week.

Culture is something that we cannot separate ourselves from it. We are in a particular culture and social context. whether we influence or are influenced by culture, we all engage in it everyday. As Shane explains, there is a certain danger that culture through the medium of the film has and we always face it by being demanded to make own ethical judgements.

Awareness in ethical analysis is the important key in order that we perceive or recognise what the culure presumes as we make ethical judgements toward the film as a medium of culture. As B.Lonergan says that judgements of value occur in different contexts, our ethical analysis and judgements toward culture and its medium, such as the fim, have to deal with personal ehics and broad ethical perspective of culture and of course including Chirstian ehical value. Eventually, ethical answers complexly vary, that is, not always black and white. As Shane suggets, our task is nor just about telling people what film they should not watch, rather it is to teach people to critically engage in the film as medium of culture. As we come to conclusion toward ehical analysis and judgement of the film as medium of culture, criticalimportant thing for us it to encourage people's self awareness, informed by the Spirit, of dimentions of positive and negative aspect of culture.

Autumn H

I loved this lecture about how we respond to film in our current culture, as everyone is born into a certain culture and must learn to navigate that corrently.
I think in today's society when looking at what to watch/not watch, one must use both maturity and conviction in their decision.
The appropriate decision hinges upon the paradox that what we watch does not need to frame our actions or morality, yet so often it does just that, and we find ourselves as a society becoming what we watch and fill our minds with.
I think the Christian response to what one watches should be out of their own personal conviction as to what is healthy for their mind. This will be very different for the individual, and therefore we must be careful not to err on the side of legalism, and categorise entire films or subjects within films as inappropriate. For example, a person who has experienced physical abuse from a parent would react very differently to a movie where abuse is taking place then someone who has never experienced this, and for one, it might jog terrible memories that lead to a whirlpool of negative emotions etc, and for another, might just be a terrible scene in the movie that helps to explain the plot better, and no second thought is given.
I think that when viewing films, we must guard our hearts and minds, knowing what and where our emotional and mental triggers are, and be cautious to not engage in films that will cross the appropriate boundaries for us as individuals.
Obviously as Christians we have the Bible to rely on, and the morality and teachings of the Bible should be factored in - i.e. Paul taught that all things were lawful for him, but not beneficial to his spirit. I think this is exactly true. In other words, I CAN watch whatever I like, but i choose not to watch certain things, certain scenes etc, as i want to guard my mind and not become purposefully entangled and tainted by things I know are not right for me personally.
To conclude - there is no exact standard for Christians in responding to pop culture in film, but to judge wisely and not endanger their own spirit, but live by their conviction always.

Mitchell Bailey

I definitely agree with Shane's colleague that today's generation are not so much illiterate as multi-literate. I believe technologies such as the internet, email and mobile communications to be the main agents of this trend more so than film and television and with super high speed tele-communication becoming readily available to the masses, we are already seeing a convergence of all media types: film, television, radio, news, text (books, journals etc.), advertising into media rich portals e.g. YouTube, Wikipedia, Google etc...

In one sense, this media saturated environment provides me with unprecedented access to pop-culture of generations past, but on the other hand obscures it by the rapid replacement of yesterday's myth and fable with the new (and at a blistering pace).

Having experienced childhood before the internet and mobile phones (b. 1980), I can say that film and pop culture had a massive role in informing my worldview, to the extent where it was The Muppet Christmas Carol that introduced me to Charles Dickens!! My adolescence was not spent reading the classics but rather "reading" stories through the visual media of my generation, the likes of: Predator, Robocop, Lethal Weapon, The Karate Kid, Aliens, Top Gun, Rocky IV, Tango and Cash, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Back to the Future, The Goonies, Commando, Ghost Busters, Beverly Hills Cop, Police Academy, WarGames, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Coming to America, Die Hard, Batman, Total Recall and The Terminator.

After watching The Karate Kid as a 10 year old with my schoolmates, I can distinctly remember recreating a "dojo" in my parent's living room by rolling out sleeping bags on the floor and proceeding to battle it out for glory as we mimicked roundhouse kicks and the "wax on, wax off" of Mr Myagi. It was great fun "as long as no-one gets hurt", but as to whether this was all just a dose of the "slugs, snails and puppy dogs tails" that young boys are supposed to get, I'm not sure that this was that innocent. It certainly glorified violence (and violence in heroes) and the objectification of women featured prominently.

Would I allow my girls to watch these types of films when they are 9/10/11 yrs old? Most likely not is my answer, in fact it is my relationship with Christ that has opened my eyes to books and reading (not just Christian literature, but literature in general) and to a world much less superficial than the Top 10 on iTunes... My own experience has inspired me to encourage my kids to read widely from a young age and to incorporate more traditional forms of media into their lives (books, museums etc).

As to how I choose films for myself to watch, I purposely avoid horror films as they replace any hint of a storyline with really unpleasant and unnecessary gore and hold it up as entertainment. Where possible I try to determine upfront what the content of the film is likely to be and will pass on anything that contains needless or indefensible sexual content i.e. is completely unrelated to the story and/or represents a more than a necessary portion of the film and/or is for the sole purpose of titillation. I am a bit softer on physical violence and enjoy action films, but will stop short of violence progressing into horror.

Mitchell Bailey

Can I add that it is not always possible to know what is in a film before you see it and my standards are only my opinion and the conditions are constantly subject to change. For example, I left the cinema half way through Fight Club, however, I am now considering revisiting the film, this time from a more objective position hoping to analyse what it has to say about our culture and engage with the issues that it raises.

This is certainly not a black and white topic!!


I certainly enjoyed the podcast, particularly the reflections upon the celebrity fixation that inflitrates western pop culture. Such entertainment and celebrity focus has certainly been fueled by the capitalist drive and impetus created by the marketing phenomenon of recent history. I think that both the content and nature of media itself feed each other in a cycle, in that they are not mutually exclusive but affect the extent to which each other are expressed. That is to say, that celebrities achieve their status when they seem to embody the perceived rules and values of contemporary pop culture, through both the work they do and their real lives.

As to how I personally choose what films I watch, it comes down to plotline and whether the storyline interests me at all. Following this comes the rating of the film (M, MA, etc) and usually other reviews of the film. If the advertisements of the film on tv seem gratuitous then it's generally not for me.

Angie Bulic

Deciding what films i should or shouldn't watch is definately not a black and white process.

Knowing your common responses to certain images and your ability (or inability) to distance yourself from the film, is an important factor to consider when choosing a film.

Eg.for some Christian single people watching romantic comedies invokes a desire in them which is not helpful in their commitment to purity - yet other Christian singles may watch it and be completely able to distance themselves.

I agree with Shane that Christians shouldn't be extreme in anyway when dealing with popular culture in film. Knowing yourself and watching films critically, is great advice on how to choose films that will not be detrimental to your health.

ashley jones

do you remember when you first went to the cinema to watch a movie rated like two years older than you...did your parents allow you to sneek in with them?? mine did- but on reflecting as to why, i understand- many movies are rated extreme when they are normal in our society, yet i find in australia humour and culture to be more open than back home, i am aware that language and understanding has to be appropriated with the culture, but not abused...
if i were to decide whether a film is suitable: that comes down to so many measures...first the rating in the cinema,what is the review telling me about the story?? second, what i find displeasing in my levels of entertainment,is it going to be in the movie? third, the style of the movie- its advertising and its content shown...fourth, personal conviction- do i feel it is right to watch? will i go to it knowing that i will most likely walk out?? one thing that sticks in my mind is the film mrs. doubtfire- we all love and remember this heartwarming tale of a father deperate for his kids back...but upon watching it recently with a young kid, i had to leave- she is ten years old and there in the subtitles were the words: genitals!!! im thinking, what did i think they were saying when i was that age watching it- even younger??? I try not to be extreme, but even in the art world of university- i found that nude drawing of men was inappropriate for me, and not something with which i could see myself unmarried to justify, but then my sister being a doctor, christian and unmarried has to view nearly everyday- somehow it seems more acceptable...i have found even my thinking to change on this matter the more i grow up...
being led by personal conviction...but what happens when that conviction changes???


How do I choose what films to watch?
In all honesty I am so arbitrary that you could almost say its hypocritical. I have standards, things that I KNOW for me are not beneficial to watch. However, I leave the TV on at times when I feel I should have changed it. I have watched movies that have harmed my relationship with Christ, and not unknowingly.
I think the sad thing when it comes to most christians and our dogmatic standards is that we only ever look at sex and violence. Just because a movie doesnt have sex or violence overtly presented doesnt mean that the film is beneficial from a Christian perspective, and just because it does doenst make it a bad film.
The sad thing is that often we reduce the issue to this alone. I think that Paul's description 'Whatever is true, honourable...if there is anything of value think on these things.'This should guide our behaviour, but lets not try and impose this on other people, instead lets ensure that we dont capitulate to anything that society imposes upon us. Not just mindless sex and violence, but also superficial standards of fulfillment, beauty and character. There are good films out there, it is our responsibility to filter them out of the market available.
BTW. I find it fascinating that nudity is such an issue for us. Watching Ten Canoes, an australian film about the australian aboriginies, in their normal dress, I was quite confronted by the fact I didnt know where I could safely look. But to them it was perfectly normal. I think that purpose has a lot to do with the acceptability of nudity. A sensual scene with no explicit nudity might be less appropriate than this whole film which left little to the imagination in terms of anatomy...


Oh, just after reading Josh Ballard's post 'When you see a woman naked in a are ACTUALLY seeing that woman naked. It isn't being faked.'
I think one of the problems with nudity in most films is that it is faked. Just like the voilence in films is digitally enhanced, so lighting, cosmetics, and even digital remastery is used to manipulate the nude to the point of perfection. I think it is false and a major problem with the industry...

shane clifton

Yes - ann-elise and josh, i was intrigued by the "faking" comments of paper. The more i think about it, however, this is irrelevant, since all film is fantasy - so to reject sex and nudity because it is real, and accept violence because it is faked (even if it seems real) makes absolutely no sense to me.

Joshua Ballard

The main point of my statement was that it was primarily particularly relevant within a context that views nudity as a significant relationship forming event.

Within John Piper's ministry setting, for him to state that it is the actress' own body that is being exposed and therefore problematic was (and is) intended to evoke a type of connection with the idea of not "coveting another man's wife". In indigenous settings, to see a woman's breasts is not necessarily a trigger for covetousness...but in John Piper's setting it is.

Whether or not the depiction of the woman's form is stylized with camera tricks or whatnot is irrelevant to him. Yes, all film is fantasy...but there is no actual violence taking place in the production of the film, whereas the production of scenes involving nudity, is involving actual actors being actually nude. This is probably closer to the core of his argument. The finished product is out for him as a result of the means required to get there.

I hope this clarifies the viewpoint.

shane clifton

Thanks Josh - it does clarify, although i still don't agree with the logic.

Joshua Ballard

Could you explain the difficulty for me?

After all, I only find it to be a valid response within an invalid cultural setting, and overall it is an unsatisfactory conclusion. But I do then wonder if there is another approach to finding difficulty with the logic? I would love to hear more.

shane clifton

My problem is to do with his definition of reality. For the viewer, the violence is as real as the nudity - or at least it seems as real (that is certainly what the filmmaker is trying to achieve). So it effects the viewer in the same way - i.e. it draws an emotional response. Under Pipers way of thinking, if the movie was a cartoon, since there is no person "really" nude - then it would be OK to see explicit nudity (just because it is not "real"). Similarly, under pipers way of thinking, extreme sex in R rates films would be fine (provided there is no nudity) because this sex is simulated (i understand that this is the difference between R and X/porn rating). At the end of the day, however, that is irrelevant to the viewer. The viewer sees what the filmmaker intends them to think is real (whether that is violence or nudity) - whatever technique the filmaker uses to accomplish that.

cynthia asante

Having listened to Shane… He has definitely challenged my thinking on the topic of popular culture. In all honesty I haven’t really taken a moment and thought it through in the way Shane was exploring on the pod-cast. Most of his critiques and idea’s on the issues that he raised were thoughtful and I could relate on them myself. Having said that, yes I also think that popular cultural can be bad for our health. As Shane raises the issues on the way sex and violence is portrayed in movies. In addition to that I also believe it is up to the individual to choose whether they should or shouldn’t watch certain movies.

Joshua Ballard

Shane, I want to thank you for the counterpoint.

Your critique deals much more with my appropriation of Piper's thought, rather than his own.

To be fair to Piper, he would declare any "sex act" within a film to be "out"...he would attribute that to holding a preserved place within marital union. The nudity was an extreme example. I would understand this sex act (or even representation of sex acts...extreme or otherwise - especially the emotional responses triggered in production and audiences) as being out as another example of a special (and non-public) "relationship forming event" between Husband and Wife. I'm sure that Piper doesn't affirm watching violent films either, but he didn't justify that in the same way, hence my separation of the arguments with his justification of the "realness" of the nudity (which for Piper is a sub-category of 'sex act' or taken sociologically, a special relationship forming event).

Brendon O'Reilly

I find it interesting that producers when making films, aim to make the customer (viewer) happy, as Christians we have to be aware what is happiness for a non-believer is different than that of a Christian. However with this in mind I don’t think we need to isolate ourselves from film, but rather be sensitive to what we watch, and if necessary have shoe staring scene. As Christians we also have to be aware of the fact that in today’s society film has the potential to shape someone’s worldview or even belief.

A question raised in my mind is why do we still watch things we shouldn’t watch, how do we avoid this yet still enjoy film? It seems like every film in today’s society has either sex, violence, course language etc… what do we do with this do we go to the extreme and watch g rated movies?

Personally a boundary I have set in my own life is I will not watch sex scenes or nudity… I don’t know when I set this boundary its just something I grew up with however for some reason I don’t have a problem watching violence, or listening to course language.

This podcast has challenged me to asses what I let in… so often we just watch something because its on, I don’t hold the view that we should isolate ourselves however as Christians we should monitor what we watch.

This class has taught me to critically analyse films I watch and opened my eyes to be aware of what im watching

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