-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!