-Pastor Melissa Fain-
This summer we are going to the movies!
Today's movie is The Devil's Advocate. You can watch it free on TubiTv. Spoilers if you just want to read, and don't want to see it first.
About the Movie
Kevin Lomax is a hotshot defender in Gainesville, Florida. He has never lost a case. As the audience meets him, that is all about to change. Thinking he was defending an innocent man, he realizes he is actually a pedophile. Disgusted, he recollects himself, swallows back the abhorrence, and goes on the win the case.
His wife, Mary Anne, is thrilled for him as they go out and celebrate another win.
While they are out, Kevin gets a card to go up to New York and help a firm pick a jury. The couple are ecstatic. This was the big break they were hoping for.
That's when things do not go as planned. See, the head of the law firm is the literal devil. The couple is moved into a high rise that is filled with literal demons. Mary Anne catches on as the ladies sometimes reveal their demonic smiles. Whether this is on accident or on purpose, it causes her to second guess herself, and want to go home. They also convince her to let go of the best parts of herself. Her vibrant curly blonde hair. Her go-to attitude to own her first choice. Her very joy.
All this is happening, as the world is being given to Kevin. Only, with every choice he has to sacrifice a piece of this marriage.
This comes to a head when Mary Anne kills herself and he confronts the devil. Come to find out, Kevin is a child of the devil and the devil wants him to procreate to create the literal Anti-Christ. Mourning his lost wife, Kevin chooses to end his own life, taking away the devil's future.
That's when time rewinds to the moment he decided to win for the pedophile. Realizing his luck, he kisses his now alive wife, and recuses himself from the trial because he can no longer be his client's attorney.
The last scene is a reporter asking for an interview. This choice will make Kevin big. Kevin relents. He'll do the interview the next day. As Kevin and Mary Anne leave, the reporter morphs into the devil. His favorite sin is vanity.
In Job the devil is part of the divine council.
One of the many great failures of Christendom is the phrase, "the Devil made me do it," being taken and used so seriously. The phrase takes away accountability. No longer is "sin" something we must understand and change in ourselves. Sin becomes something a devil made us do, and therefore, our failure was a moment of supernatural puppeteering, and that's all.
Meanwhile, the view of an Ancient Near East devil is not one who puppeteers unsuspecting good guys and gals at all. In fact, in Job, Satan is part of the divine council. It's Satan's job to test people and see how they react. In Job, the whole worldview was good things happen to good people, and bad things happen to bad people. Only good things had happened to Job, so it appears his friends believe he's a good person. When God takes everything away (and yes, it was God that took it away, not Satan), his friends believe Job must have done something wrong. Satan only states something that might happen if everything is taken away from Job, then God takes everything away from Job.
What I love about Devil's Advocate is the devil doesn't technically do anything to Kevin. Conversely, he gives him good advice. He tells him to let the case go and take care of his wife. At the end of the movie, Kevin tries to pin it on the devil, telling him the devil made him do those things. That's when he's corrected. No, the devil didn't make Kevin do anything. In actuality, the devil suggested he do the right thing. Kevin was the one who kept making the wrong choices.
Here's a crazy idea: What if, Kevin being a child of the devil, the devil actually was testing Kevin to keep him on the right path? This isn't the devil that sits in Hell trying to ruin humanity to stick it to the big guy. This is a devil who made some poor choices, and doesn't want anyone else to make the same choices. The devil didn't need to restart time at the end of the movie. Maybe it was all a dream, a chance for a parent to help a child see what could happen if he followed the path he was taking.
You might ask, why am I suggesting the devil is the good one in this movie? It's because we, as a nation, have either turned our neighbor into an object, or villainized beyond their humanity. We need to be following someone who has hope in the unity and restoration of a new world. No, not the world we left. That is an old hope, and old hopes will never take us anywhere. Maybe that starts with seeing the humanity in the most villainized creature in Biblical canon: The devil.
And yes, I'm a Christian, and proud to be a Christian. Just realize- those you villainize today, was yesterday's neighbor.
This coming week's movies:
7/3 Worship: Family Man
7/5 Meditation: The Illusionist
Remember, this can be found to watch for free on TubiTv.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
Not all things that feel good are good.
Not all things that look beautiful are right.
When we watch Coraline it makes sense. As the movie progresses, we see the world decay around her. The Other Mother wants to eat her, not love her.
Neil Gaiman, the author of the book Coraline, is one of the authors I love. Don’t think that means I’ve read most of his books. I’ve read three: Coraline, Stardust, and Good Omens. I have a special super power that allows me to see the “trick” in other writers when I’ve read enough of their works. In that, every writer has his or her fingerprint. If I read enough of their material, I can begin to see where the story will go. I try my hardest to not get too invested in the writer, so I can keep the magic in the books I’ve already read.
Let’s just say, I’ve been writing fiction, and I want to have my books published. A good review from Neil Gaiman would make my decade. His world building is on point, and the conversational style of his characters is genius. He also is not afraid to write about powerful women who are not perfect. It is in the imperfections that the tension builds, and you get invested in the story.
Coraline is a girl who has normal girl thoughts. She was moved out to the middle of nowhere, and doesn’t see anything redeemable about her new situation. What she doesn’t realize is her new home is the consequence of her parents trying to create a better life for them all. Sometimes before things get better, they have to get worse first. You can’t explain that to a child.
That’s how the “Other Mother” picks her bait. She gives Coraline what she wants. She feeds her delicious food, puts her in a beautiful home, and gives her fantastical neighbors. This causes her to resent her real life, where she must make sacrifices she doesn’t understand.
People are not destroyed by outcomes. People are destroyed by the beautiful lies that lead to those outcomes. We buy into the lies all the time! We choose to believe things that sound too good to be true. Only, unlike Coraline, we can’t just walk away from those choices once we learn we’ve been tricked into making them. In real life, we often don’t find out we’ve been tricked into a bad decision until many years after the fact. The easy choice becomes the terrible outcome.
Anything worth having, is worth earning first. That’s actually what Coraline was missing. It didn’t matter if her situation was good or bad if she didn’t earn it, it didn’t mean anything to her. By the end of the book/movie, she saves her parents and her life. She appreciates where she is because it was hard earned, and hers.
Even though the reality wasn’t as pretty as the beautiful lie, it was the better choice all along.
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
Before I begin, this movie is free to watch on multiple streaming services from YouTube to Redbox. Find the one you like, and go see it before you read what my opinion.
Also- if you read this and haven't watched the movie... that's on you. Spoilers from here on out.
Loved this movie when it released in the long long ago of 1998.
This is a movie based on a book, written by Alexander Dumas.
When the movie came out, I loved it. In my high school days, I'd read the books of the movies I really liked. If you are trying to get into reading, this is a great way to go. It's like the training wheels of reading. You already have the mental image of how something looks, because you saw the movie. Now I typically do the opposite. I'll read the book first, and then watch the movie. The book is often better than the movie anyway.
When Man in the Iron Mask came out, I read Dumas' book. I can't tell you what was different from the movie. It was so long ago, it all just blends together. I can say, I remember enjoying the book. I can also say, since I know I read the book, that must mean I liked the movie.
I was drawn to how Leonardo DiCaprio was able to be both hated and loved in the same movie. It felt like two different characters.
I also REALLY loved The Three Musketeers (1993). In my mind, Man in the Iron Mask felt like a sequel to that specific version of The Three Musketeers.
All that in mind, I'm not as sold today.
Blink and you'll miss it.
All the women in the movie serve to move the men's narrative forward. With the exception of the queen, all the women are tools, not people. None of the women have agency to move the plot of the story forward. The choices of the men are the choices of the women.
Christine, for example: Her entire journey was pre-determined by the men around her. Raoul loves her, so he is going to propose. The king wants her, so he gets Raoul killed to take her as a mistress. Her only agency was choosing to kill herself.
Notice who was mourned in this movie. The men. Raul and D'Artagnan.
Notice who is completely forgotten about once she jumps from the window: Christine. Not even Athos, Raul's father, seek to free her from her gilded cage in the name of Raul. As far as the story is concerned, Raul had an object the king wanted, the killed off Raul to get that object. Then, when Christine kills herself, it shows the king doesn't know how to take care of his things.
The book was written in the 1660s, and the movie was made in the late 1990s.
I'm not going to put modern feminism on Alexander Dumas.
I am going to compare this to David and Bathsheba to make a point.
Stop putting David's story on Bathsheba!
There are some clear parallels between David and Bathsheba and King Louis and Christine.
King sees pretty girl.
Pretty girl is already promised to a man.
King calls man to war, and man's duty to king leads to him getting killed on the front line.
King takes pretty girl as his own.
Do you know what's true of this story, whether it's King Louis or King David?
It's not the pretty girl's story.
No matter how you see the Bible, the inerrant Word of God, the inspired Word of God, or a bunch of stories of fiction, it's clear who's story this is: David's.
That means it is not our place to see what Bathsheba did right or wrong. Bathsheba is a tool, a thing, in this story. She is a prize. David is the person in this story.
I actually saw a post yesterday (which I'd share here, but I don't have permission from the original poster) where he was recounting a sermon where Bathsheba knew what she was doing, and she was trying to lure the King to her bed. Nothing even alludes to that conclusion.
Don't make Bathsheba the main character in your Biblical narrative to write off what David did. The prophet doesn't chastise her in the story, he chastises David. That means, God saw David as being in the wrong.
If you want to write about Bathsheba write to mourn the loss of her personhood. Then look at Christine in Alexander Dumont's book and realize in the 1600's women still didn't have strong agency. Then look at Christine in Man in the Iron Mask, and realize we still couldn't write women as anything but tools in the late 1990's.
Then look at now. Like seriously look at now. We are just now attempting to write stories where the focus on a woman isn't to raise up or help validate a man. Right now, we're not doing it great. Most of our female leads are glorified man-face. In other words, they read like they were written for a guy, and they put a gal in it's place.
Looking at Christine, I see Bathsheba a little different. Christine didn't fight the King because she already knew she was powerless. She does what she does because it will help her take care of her family. Wouldn't that be a reason Bathsheba would do whatever King David asked? Wouldn't that make David even worse? He's willing to leverage Bathsheba's relationships in order to get what he wants? See? I can play that game too. Read into the subtext to understand motivations. The difference is, I'm looking at the one without power, and sympathizing with her plight. Maybe we should do more of that when we read the Bible. After all, it was Bathsheba's line God chose. God often chooses the least of these to be part of the greater narrative.
This Sunday's movie will be Overboard, the 1987 version. It's free on multiple platforms.
See you then!
Summer Movie Series
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
It is my plan to use this Summer to theology discuss some secular movies.
When I made this plan, Galaxy Quest was free to watch. They have, within a week, taken it off the free site.
I am continuing. I'll be better in the future.
Here's how this will go. I'll start with posting where the movie can be watched for free. (In this case it is on Paramount Plus, if you have it.)
Then I'll do a quick synopsis of the part of the movie I'm discussing, while also connecting the synopsis to the Bible or a theological view.
Finally, I will write what Sunday's movie will be. (On Sunday I'll share the meditation movie.)
Galaxy Quest and Alexander Dane
From the moment it hit the theaters I have loved the movie Galaxy Quest. Not only does it capture the essence of Star Trek, but it is just good storytelling at its core.
At the beginning the story we see our supporting character, Alexander Dane, completely and totally lost. They are at a convention, where the throngs of fans are there for them. Only, in his mind, they are not there for all of them. They are really there for John Nesbit, who played the lead character of Captain Jason Quincy Taggart.
In Alexander's mind, his entire career was a complete and total waste. This is a fact the entire cast is aware of, because it is part of the drill that Alexander will have a melt down at some point during an event. He hates his character and his stupid chatch phrase: "By Grabthar's Hammer, by the suns of Warvan, you shall be avenged."
Poor Alex is in the throws of a true lament. He is mourning what can never be, while seeing no hope for his future situation. As the story progresses, and the Thermians take them to their ship, his lament continues. We see him save the day, while his co-star Jason, gets the praise. He is completely and totally lost, finding no value in anything he has done, is doing, or will do.
Meanwhile, one of the Thermians, Quellek, attempts to bond with Alex. Quellek's favorite character from "the historical documents" was Dr. Lazarus. He modeled his life after him.
Alexander spends most of the movie treating him like he would one of this fans. Not well. He doesn't think highly of anyone who would love the character of Dr. Lazarus. In his mind, he's better than Dr. Lazarus, and he doesn't like the character. Anyone who would like that character clearly didn't understand good drama.
Here's where everything changes. When the big baddie comes back, and tries to suffocate all the Thermians in their quarters, it is Quellek (using a technique he got from Dr. Lazarus in "the historical documents") that escapes being held in the room with his shipmates.
This is the first time Alexander can see he might have been part of something important. But, it's not until they freed the Thermians that everything changes. Quellek get's shot, and is dying. Alexander is holding him as Quellek exclaims in death that it has been the greatest honor to work next to the great Dr. Lazarus.
This Thermian, in his death, was first showing that even in the darkest places on can find praise. He was also giving Alexander meaning to everything. Quellek taught Alexander praise, and as a result Alexander says the line and means it to a dying Quellek, "By Grabthar's Hammer, but the suns of Warvan, you shall be avenged."
When our praise is authentic
Our culture shuns the darkness and negativity.
Bad things happening is not a sign that God doesn't love you.
Bad people getting good things are not a sign that they have God's blessing.
Praise not tied to some form of lament leading up to it, is hollow.
Genuine praise, as seen from the outsider, doesn't look like anything has changed.
Notice that Alexander was still the supporting cast member on a show that would never find it's way on the Shakespearian Stage. It wasn't the situation that changed (that was clearly more dangerous after Quellek's death). It was his view of the situation that changed. He suddenly saw purpose and meaning in what he had been doing all along.
One of my favorite IRL events that help me understand why it's so easy to get a group to do the wrong thing, and why it's so difficult to change a system:
Free to stream on Red Box- I will be preaching on "The Experimenter"