Celebrating Death in Film

I’m calling it out, and I’m calling it out hard. Right here, right now. We love to see death on our big screen TVs. It’s all the rage, from movies old to new. More extras, more CGI, and more battle scenes. It’s pretty rare in times today to see a movie without some sort of violence in it.

Now, please don’t misunderstand.

Violence has its place in cinema, and the story telling business in general. Death is a powerful tool to show drive, tension, struggle, and the unfortunate horrors of this world. War is something we can sympathize with, one way or another. The fight between good and evil, and the ethics involved with that, is a genuinely important tool for movies to take hold of. However, violence for violence sake (or calling it “cool”) is a misuse of that tool. A grave misuse.

To be thorough, here are three examples that have been on my mind for a while now:

  • Shock Value

It has it’s place, but again, shock value for shock value’s sake is a gross and ugly sight to behold. It should have a purpose in the story, not make up the meat of it.

Again, I’m calling it out hard here.

*takes a deep breath*

Jurassic World  is a perfect example of this.

Please, really think about it. It’s shock value through dinosaur-driven violence can be both cheap and infuriating to watch. The main characters remain unscathed, yet any and every extra in the film is butchered for the sake of either shocking the audience through horrific means, or to show just how ‘cool’ these dinosaurs can be. And in the end, the dinosaurs are shown to be sympathetic, heroic, and even noble in some scenes. For every shocking slaughter scene, there is another that celebrates the fictional, focus group gold, death machines.

I understand that this is a popular film, but here’s the truth: Shock value will numb you to the appropriate response to something as unnatural as death.

Blog Death

Death is alien towards creation; that’s why violence is so shocking to our system. We aren’t meant to experience these kinds of things. However, thanks to the Fall, it’s something we now can’t imagine life without.

Celebrating it is accepting it. Accepting it is allowing your fallen nature to be appeased. And that feels good, doesn’t it? It feels great to experience the shock of seeing someone being ripped apart, swallowed hole, or murdered.

Again, these things have their place in film, but they had better have a darned good reason aside from ‘it will bring the crowds in’ or thinking that somehow it will look really impressive.

Exodus 20:13 (ESV)

You shall not murder.

God places a commandment against the celebration of death. Murder is a reality we live in. Murder needs to be talked about, and shown through film. But the last thing murder needs to be is celebrated through cheap shock value. It deserves more respect than that, and so does the audience of these films.

  • Self Empowerment

Vengeance. Revenge. It’s very satisfying to see the main antagonist go through a power struggle and then come out on top.

Enter in “The Lone Ranger” (2013). I have to be honest, I really didn’t enjoy this film for a number of reasons, but one particular scene made me especially uncomfortable. After some gritty action on a train, the character Latham Cole drowns. He is buried beneath silver ore after the train plunges off the bridge and into the river below, all while the happy Lone Ranger theme is playing.

Blog death2

Now, Latham Cole was a dastardly fellow and a bad guy. We should be grinning from ear to ear when we’re shown his horrific death, right? That’s justice, after all.

Perhaps, but this is done wrong in so many different ways.

Romans 12:19 (ESV)

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

We should get no pleasure in watching our antagonist slaughter those who have wronged them. People make mistakes, and anger is blinding, but I’m talking about a reaction from you, the audience. Vengeance is the Lord’s, and having been wronged is no excuse for us to celebrate in the slaughter of the sinful.

Revenge belongs in movies. It’s a powerful tool for plot and tension, just like murder. But just like murder, it should not be celebrated. That only feeds our dead nature.

  • A Subconscious need for the Desecration of God’s Creation

The zombie fad. I’m just going to go out and say it.

Now again, please don’t misunderstand! Zombies can be a great tool for story!

However, the zombie fad that has taken over my generation is simply disconcerting. When arriving for my freshmen year of college, our initiation speech was zombie themed.

“You guys love zombies, right? So we’ve made a list of zombie related college facts!”

Or something like that. To be honest, they had already lost my attention at that point. But it caused me to ask the question: Why does my generation love zombies so much? And what drives us to want more of the genre?

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (ESV)

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

I’m sorry to say that our sinful nature just might get a kick out of it. Our bodies are sacred, and are to be treated with respect. What does that say then, when we decide to show an audience a mass of walking corpses? I think zombies give a unique kind of shock value that can be great for story telling, but there comes a point to where our generation just loves the death.

blog death3.jpg

We feel the deadness on the inside, so seeing it on the big screen just helps us give in to it. More blood, more guts, more terror, more anguish. Let’s just all embrace what we are without salvation. It’s not satisfying though, which is why the zombie fad will die out some day. It will be replaced with something that has an equal amount of constantly wasted potential.

This is something that I believe Christians should put a considerable amount of effort in to understand.

The next time you watch a movie, study your emotions. Think about what the desired emotion was from the director, and think about what you actually felt. Try and discover why you felt that way, because the answer isn’t always God honoring.

Ask yourself the hard questions, and see sin where it lies in wait. The devil is always wanting a door in. Always wanting another numbing agent to use. The sad part is that we supply those in abundance.

They are not more powerful than truth, however. No matter what kind of weapon sin manifests itself as, it will never win over God’s Word.

Watch movies, but do so with a Christ-like attitude. Seek for understanding, because there is always more going on than you would ever believe.

Romans 6:23 (ESV)

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Always Quest: Chapter 1

The Always Quest: Chapter 1

The Always Quest Avery Foolhardy

Chapter 1:
Outfoxed

The sun was getting low, dipping just underneath the treeline, behind the meadows that surrounded the west road. The traveler was already feeling hungry. She knew her usual appetite, but she tightened her belt and kept her pace. She barely afforded what she deemed as a week’s supply, and it needed to last. She flicked her fox-like tail and turned her attention back to the traveler in front of her.

Caravans, horsemen, and knights had passed her already. She didn’t have a horse to make the traveling faster, but her pace on foot had already surpassed the other travelers who were also on foot. All, except for one.

She was going to have to pass him eventually. He kept an inconsistent pace of being incredibly far too quick, or painfully slow. Watching him made her tail flick in an irritated manner all the more. She had to pass him. He was at another slow pace, so it had to be now.

“Here is another philosophical question,” he said. The black cat on his shoulder laid still, probably asleep. The man did not seem to notice, or at least not seem to care. “If a man who is poor wants nothing to do with a man who owns everything, does that mean that the poor man wants nothing to do with everything?”

She frowned, trying not to think about the man’s strange question. She quickened her pace and was quickly coming up behind him.

“And if you reverse the situation, if a man who owns everything wants nothing to do with the man who has nothing, does that mean he wants nothing to do with nothing?”

The cat yawned, and readjusted itself slightly to continue its nap.

“I agree, I agree,” Guy said. The man nodded furiously, and then put a hand to his chin. “But are they both foolish for doing so? Or is one of them more foolish than the other?”

She couldn’t take it any longer. She finally found the courage to walk up next to him on his left. Her legs were moving as fast as they could without breaking into a run, which didn’t seem like a horrible option at the moment.

He stopped talking almost immediately as she walked up to his side, and then as she passed him. She slowly raised a timid hand to push her red hair behind her ear as she silently prayed that he would stay quiet.

“Don’t talk,” she said, barely whispering. “Don’t talk. Just please don’t talk.”

“Hello there!”

“Oh, Creator preserve me.”

“I say, you look an awful lot like my friend, Cat, here!” he said.

“A… cat?” She stopped walking. The man skidded to a halt to avoid running into her. “Hear me, traveler. I’ve put up with a lot of your nonsense, but I am NOT a cat! Have you even seen a fox before?” She flicked her tail up and around her waist. “Do you not see my tail?”

The man raised his hands. “Oh… I apologize.” The black cat opened its eyes and stared intently at her.

“I mean no offense, small cat,” she said. “But you are not a fox, and I am certainly not a cat. Good day to the both of you!”

She turned around and stormed away, hoping that she left the man and his cat in her tracks.

“You know, you may have more in common then you think.”

She sighed. “I spent a lot of time and energy passing you, so it would be great if you wouldn’t.”

“I’m just saying,” the man said. “You both have tails, and those tails you both have are covered in fur. It’s more than I have in common with Cat, at least.”

“Alright,” she said. “I’ll give you that. I suppose most people do not have furry tails… did you honestly name that poor thing ‘Cat?'”

The man stuttered. “Perhaps… I thought it appropriate at the time.”

“You can’t name an animal after itself,” she said. “That’s just beyond the stupidity I would expect out of humans.”

“I suppose that would like naming you ‘Fox,’ wouldn’t it?” he said. She finally turned her head around, seeing that the man was giving it quite a lot of thought with his hand back onto his chin.

“I am not a fox,” she said. “I just share similarities with them. But yes, that would also be beyond normal human stupidity.”

“Interesting,” the man said. “What should I name you then, I wonder?”

She gasped in shock. “I already have a name, thank you very much! My name is Avery Foolhardy, so please spare me the indignity!”

“Avery Foolhardy?” the man chuckled.

Avery turned away and lifted more her red hair over her other ear. “Um… yes. That’s my name. What of it?”

“It’s just that,” the man said. “Avery is a boy’s name.”

“No it is not! Seriously, that’s what your going to make fun of?”

“I don’t mean to make fun,” the man said. The cat jumped off of the man’s shoulder and walked along side him. “I just thought it interesting.”

“Avery can be both a…” Avery started, but stopped herself. “You know what? Never mind.”

“You know, I’ve never met an Avery that is a girl,” the man said. “Do you think I could join you on this quest?”

Avery scoffed. “I stay on my own. Besides, the king only grants one wish. Only one of us can complete the quest and return to collect the reward.”

The man did not answer, so Avery assumed that she had deterred him. She sighed, and then looked out at the road ahead. Out of the corner of her eye, however, appeared a puzzled look from the man.

“What is your wish?”

Avery startled, and then adjusted her belt where her sword lay carefully in the scabbard.

“That’s none of your business!” she said. “I don’t even know you, alright?”

The cat meowed. The man gestured to the cat, as if it had said something to prove her wrong.

“Fine.” Avery rolled her eyes and turned to the man. “You first, then. What’s your wish?”

The man tugged at his white gloves. “Nothing in particular.”

Avery threw her hands up. “Oh, come on. Really?”

“I barely know you!” he said. The cat growled. “Hey, you stay out of this, Cat.”

The cat jumped up onto his shoulder and stared up at him with its large, green eyes.

“Oh… alright,” he said. His tone became cold. “My wish will reunite me with my family. That is all I wish to say about it.”

Avery’s eyes softened. “Oh, I’m sorry. I… well, most have pretty selfish reasons to go on this quest. I just figured you were the typical ‘treasure and wealth’ type.”

“If you fight for your wish, then isn’t it always going to be selfish?” the man said. He returned his gaze to the road.

Avery put her hands on her hips as she walked. “You’re a pretty interesting human, you know.” The cat jumped from his shoulder to her’s. It’s claws gripped onto her leather shirt to compensate for her smaller figure. Avery looked into the cat’s green eyes and scratched its head. It purred and settled comfortably on her shoulders.

“Avery Foolhardy,” the man said. His tone was no longer cold, nor carefree. It was soft, and respectful. “My name is Guy, and I would be honored to know you wish.”

Avery sighed. “I’ve come to the west road to restore my honor. And that is all I wish to say.”

Guy nodded. “Fair enough. And this is Cat, by the way.”

“You mentioned,” Avery said. “But honestly, you simply can’t name it that.”

“Very well, I shall endure to think of a new one.” Guy put his hand back to his chin.

The two continued to walk down the road.

“You know, I guess we could travel together. For now, at least.”

“Very well, Avery who is very much a girl and not a boy,” Guy laughed. “The pathway gets a lot less straight further ahead. I’m sure you’ll find an opportunity to get around me there.”

“Right,” Avery said. “We’ll see.”

Avery put a hand to her stomach as she watched the sun go down.

“Hey, you don’t happen to have any extra food, do you?” she asked.

Guy patted the iron pot that he had secured onto the side of his belt. “Only a pot.”

Avery took a deep, calming breath before saying anything. “Alright then. This is going to be one interesting quest.”

 

The Always Quest: Prolouge

The Always Quest Banner

The man squinted as the midday sun reflected off of the metal pots. He stood on a dusty road, alone except for the trader who stood just behind the market table. The man’s eyes scoured the pots, examining each one in thorough detail. He was silent, and his hand stayed on his short, unkempt beard. The man finally reached over with his other hand to select one of the pots in the back row. He smiled to the trader, and held out a small pouch of coin.

The trader looked at the pot, and then at the coin. “Are you serious?” The trader was a stout man with a balding head. His naturally gruff face was now scrunched even more towards the man. “You spent hours looking at my wares, and you pick out a single pot? You could afford a lot more with that much coin, ya’ know.”

The man’s smile faded, but only for a second. “Just the pot, my good man.”

The trader laughed and shook his head. “It’s not even that great of a pot! It’s solid and a great material, mind you, but definitely not the best I could offer.”

“I have looked over your pots, sir,” the man said. He gestured out to the trader’s wares, and then put his hand back to his chin. “And this pot is the only one I will buy.”

The trader looked over the puzzling man from head to toe. He was dressed in worn leather boots, which seemed like they would have gone for good price if not for the wear and tear. He had a dusty purple jacket, despite the warmth of the day. His belt was bare, and he had no pack or satchel. Aside from his messy facial hair, he had long brown locks that fell down almost to his shoulders. The man’s hands were covered by white leather gloves.

“Listen, you’re one of those adventurers, aren’t you?” the trader said. “You don’t look like the trading type, and no one comes this far west except for those adventurer folk.”

The man frowned. “You mean to tell me that there are other’s going on this quest?”

“Son, this is the Always Quest we’re talking about!” the trader said. “The King is promising to use his power to grant any wish you could think of! His Majesty’s magic is the most powerful in the entire kingdom! Who wouldn’t want to go on the Always Quest?”

The man nodded slowly. “Tell me more.”

“Are you kidding me? All sorts of people are going on this quest! Mercenaries, royalty, knights, thieves, you name it. The king basically invited the whole kingdom to go into the undiscovered west.”

“So you’re going as well?”

It took the trader a few moments to process what the man had said. “Me? Go on the Always Quest? A humble trader such as myself? You realize that no ones goes down the west road for a reason. Who knows what kind of monsters or magic is along the way. I wouldn’t last a week!” The trader looked the man over again. “And neither will you, if all you’ve got is a pot and some fancy gloves.”

“The pot is all I need,” the man said. He gave another smile, and then pushed the small bag of coin closer towards the trader.

“What’s your name?” the trader said.

The man chuckled. “The name’s Guy.”

“Guy… what? What was your father’s title?”

The man turned around and began to walk away, hoisting the small pot over his shoulder. “Just Guy.”

“You know, if you need this gold for later,” the trader said. “Those fancy gloves could do as well. You can’t get too much trading on the west road. You may need that coin later, and those gloves don’t look that bad.”

The man stopped, but did not turn around.

“The gloves stay on,” Guy said. “For now, at least. The gloves must stay on.”

“Suit yourself, then.”

Guy heard the trader mumble to himself as he walked away. “Won’t last a week. Not a bloomin’ week.” He disregarded what the trader said, though. He figured it was a plot to lower his confidence, all so that the trader could stealthily ambush him later and get to the furthest parts of the west before he could.

The man in the purple vest walked up to the town’s west exit. It was an old, rusted gate, having almost never been used. Guy pushed the gate open, and it let out a loud screech like some unholy creature had just been slain. Guy liked to think that this was the first monster the he had vanquished upon his quest. This thought made Guy all the more determined, and he walked out onto the overgrown, stone road.

“Well, west,” he said. “Here I come.”

Guy pulled back on his white gloves to make sure they were comfortably over his hands, and he took his first step onto the west road. His worn, leather boots patted quietly down with each step, echoing softly in the valley surrounding him. Guy heard something, though. Something was following him.

“Already?” Guy kept his voice quiet, but continued to talk to himself. “That trader moves fast. I’ll have to take him on before he makes his move. Sneaky old man.”

Guy started to whistle, and innocently put his hands behind his back. His steps on the stone road became slower, hoping to force the old man into making a quick decision. The small footsteps behind him, sure enough, got closer. Closer than Guy was comfortable with. He swung around, whipping the pot out in front of him. “Stop there, trader the traitor! I won’t be stopped this early on in my quest!”

There, at his feet, was a small black cat. It was staring up at him with large, green eyes.

It meowed.

Guy lowered the pot.

“Hello there, friend,” Guy said. “You are not, in fact, the trader.”

The cat meowed again. It licked its whiskers and then leaped up onto Guy’s shoulder.

“Friendly fellow, aren’t you?” Guy said. “Well, I suppose you can tag along. I’d rather quest by myself, but the traveling company might be nice. You’ll need a name, though.”

Guy thought to himself, rubbing his chin. “You’re name will be cat, and we shall go to the west together.”

The cat meowed again. “Thank you!” Guy said. “I think, anyway. We’ll have to work on that language barrier if you want to come with me though.”

The black cat hung onto Guy’s shoulder as the man took long, exaggerated steps down the road. The cat, and the man, looked out towards the west and wondered just what the undiscovered land would hold for them. Guy knew his wish. He held it in his mind as he walked, and it drove him forward. He couldn’t fail. Not this time. He had to be the one to discover the ancient city, or… well, he didn’t know what would happen if he would fail. The kingdom had to fall. There was no other way, and he had to be the one to do it.