Recently I was trying to find a film on Netflix while doing work. As I scrolled through my Instant Que or ‘My List’ (as it’s simply put now) I began skimming through the 90+ titles that were staring back at me via Apple TV. I found myself saying no to every one I clicked passed because I was looking for something I really didn’t want to watch.
Something I really didn’t want to watch…?
Then why was I going to watch it…?
This is when it occurred to me that I have categories for films that I save. The two most basic categories are films that I’d like to enjoy and films that I want to just ‘get through’. My Netflix List had become another ‘thing to do’ where I could literally click it off the list.
This turns movie watching or art consumption into another thing to do and it loses its purpose to enrich life for the consumer. But here are a couple ways to get more out of your film consumption.
Christians have the tendency to emphasize content/message over aesthetics which is a shame. We should place a high premium on beauty because God does. Experiencing beauty can be a profound experience of worship. We should be keenly interested to identify something as beautiful and be moved by it.
Skimming articles over Twitter feeds, listening to Spotify, squeezing television shows on our train ride to work, sometimes all at the same time. We consume media at a break-neck pace. The downside of this practice is that is leaves no time for processing. Alan Jacobs says, “Slow down… chew the textual cud for a while before sending it to the further stomaches of your mind: you may spare yourself heartburn later.”
Sometimes having this extra category for saved movies would desensitize me to put something on that normally I wouldn’t watch because it didn’t matter that much to me. Even though it didn’t matter that much to me I was still being exposed to it even if it was while doing other things.
I think the fact that most of us can identify with this is proof we are beyond the era of thinking that movies are bad things. However, they can become bad if we consume them recklessly. Whether we go to a theater or stream Netflix with the most careful, thoughtful manner sometimes movies just go too far.
As Christians it’s important that we realize the line of ‘too far’ does exist.
…and that it’s different for everyone.
Here are five considerations when trying to find the line for you.
1. What is your weakness?
Rebecca Cusey says, “We must each do the hard work of recognizing our own weaknesses. For some it may be that sexual content does indeed feed a weakness within. Others may revel in the dark side of violence or evilly enjoy gruesome scenes. For many women the danger is a false depiction of romance, which feeds the selfish dissatisfaction in our hearts with our spouses and families.”
2. What are the weaknesses in your community?
Be mindful of those around you and their struggles. Bear with one another in love. We shouldn’t dismiss anyone who isn’t up to our level who may not appreciate a film the way we do. We should respect those who stay away from certain media and perhaps check ourselves. Likewise the abstainers shouldn’t judge the “stronger brother’ for what he can consume in good conscious.
3. Is it beneficial?
You have the right to do anything, but not everything is beneficial. Will the artistic benefit outweigh the rough content? Sometimes it’s hard to know beforehand which is why research from reviews can be helpful.
4. Has the filmmaker earned the right?
Have previous films by the filmmaker been valuable? When evaluating the presence of gritty elements in film consider the aesthetic purposes that content might serve.
5. Have you prayed about it?
This should really be the first question. Prayer is essential for any question of discernment or evaluation. “Everything that is debatable or questionable must be taken to prayer. What is right or wrong has much more to do with a growing intimacy with God than rules that we follow out of guilt or choices made that are culturally comfortable.”
Movies used to be something that I looked forward to, an exhilarating experience to enter the world of a character and observe how they handle conflict and overcome it. Somewhere along the way movies became a way to escape the real world, or a way to calm me down. Like an addiction the way an addict does a line of coke in order to not have to deal with reality. Or the way a smoker starts to shake because they need a cigarette.
After becoming aware of my thoughtlessness in movie consumption. I thought about the importance of being fully present wherever you are. Then, I went back to my Netflix list and as a sign of intentionality I started deleting movies off my list that were reminiscent of the American way of buying more groceries than you could eat just because they were on sale.
And it was surprisingly liberating…
May you slow down enough to appreciate the beauty in film.
May you watch less and enjoy more.
May you be liberated.