Seeing Worldviews behind the Art

I’m reading a wonderful book by screenwriter Brian Godawa entitled Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films with Wisdom & Discernment (IVP Books). The thing I appreciate most, at least in the first half of the book, is the balanced position Godawa takes.

He identifies those he calls cultural anorexics—individuals who “withdraw from culture because of its imperfection.” He postulates that these folks no longer understand the way others think or speak; in essence they have raised a barrier that makes it impossible for them to “interact redemptively” with the guy living across the street or the mom sitting beside them at the youth soccer game.

In his posts or comments, Mike Duran over at Decompose raises the issue of the “Christian ghetto” from time to time in regard to the world of fiction, and I think he may be speaking of “cultural anorexics” who want to withdraw into the safety of sanitized stories.

But there’s another extreme that Godawa identifies—the cultural glutton. These are the people who say things like this:

“I just want to be entertained.”
“You shouldn’t take it so seriously.”
“It’s only a movie.”
“The sex and violence don’t bother me.”

Hollywood Worldviews, p. 20

Individuals with this view, Godawa says, agree with Samuel Goldwin’s famous saying: “If you want to send a message, use Western Union.” (I realize that soon this statement will need some explanation to those coming after the demise of the telegraph. 🙄 ) Goldwin’s point is that movies are about story, nothing else, especially not an idea!

Well, even expressing that view in the way I did in that last sentence exposes the fallacy. Interestingly, when I wrote about the movie Avatar back in January, some of the articles I quoted (written by Christians professionally reviewing the movie) and some of the comments to my various posts espoused this same opinion.

Godawa takes a radically different—and balanced—view of movies. They are stories, but not devoid of meaning. That is, they actually are about something—chiefly, redemption.

One of the simplest ways of understanding worldview is as a belief system or web of beliefs, that contains a creation-fall-redemption motif … Every worldview has some understanding of the original state of reality (creation), what went wrong with that original state (fall) and how to recover or return to that original state (redemption).

Hollywood Worldviews, p. 22

In addition, Godawa believes that thinking about a movie’s worldview doesn’t have to consume a viewer so that he can no longer enjoy the cinematography, acting, plot line, humor, or special effects. The fact that movies communicate worldviews and values

need not spoil the joy in entertainment or justify total withdrawal from culture. Rather, it can deepen one’s appreciation and sharpen one’s discernment, helping the reader strike a balance between two extremes: cultural anorexia and cultural gluttony.

Hollywood Worldviews, p. 27

I’m in favor of balance striking! 😀

Published in: on February 22, 2010 at 1:42 pm  Comments (7)  
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  1. As my pastor said Sunday, if we follow Christ, then we will respond to people the way He did! As a friend of sinners! You can not tell someone about Christ if you don’t get to know their heart first!


  2. Much of the fiction I enjoy contains a worldview that I find appalling, but I am able to enjoy it because the author also have uplifting things in it in spite of their worldview. If I was too strict about the worldview of things there wouldn’t be much I could read that I would enjoy as a science fiction fan.


  3. wonderful post. I am always trying to get my kids to see that discussing a film after we see it should add to the enjoyment, not take away from the enjoyment.

    For some reason they don’t believe me, the little cultural gluttons!


  4. Films can definitely be an excellent source of education about world views. But we must also ask our selves at what cost. Are we willing to danger our integrity purity and testimony for a worldview lesson. Or for others worse only for entertainment. I applaud you for taking the time to learn from the movies you watch but I also had a few questions about a couple of these points.

    “these folks no longer understand the way others think or speak”
    Question. Does God call us to understand sin? or how dead people think? Or does He call us to be ye separate?

    ” withdraw into the safety of sanitized stories.”
    Question. Does your Bible say whatever is pure…. Meditate upon these things?


  5. Thanks for the comments, all. You’ve spurred my thinking as so often happens. I appreciate all your feedback.



  6. Brian Godawa changed the way I thought about films and books! The last book I read in English sickened me because it taught adultery because of the “soul mate” and feminism! >.< What is wrong with my generation????


  7. I don’t think it’s your generation exclusively. Think about Rome around the first century. Lots of debauchery at the top, then the collapse of the empire. God’s judgment on their wickedness? Perhaps.

    We certainly do see wickedness in western culture and it seems to be growing. May God have mercy and send revival.



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