It’s a movie about a society that turns it’s backs on people. A society that goes along with unjust laws. A society that doesn’t recognize names. Only numbers and their papers.
It’s a society that makes it’s own movies because they’ve turned their back on people. A society that demeans and ridicules an entire industry. A society that doesn’t recognize stories, humanity. Only names and ratings.
There’s probably no end to the depths that Les Miserables can take us to, in analyzing the human condition. I found it interesting that just as we can probe the movie for similarities to our own society, it also offers a reflection on the relationship of Christian society to Hollywood itself.
This is a movie that grips us. It’s gorgeous, the music enchants, and the writing haunts with it’s truth. And because it wallows in the themes of law and grace, Christians rush to support it. Proof that the Bible is relevant, that it has things to say.
But what if. Just what if this movie proves something else. Not that the Bible is relevant (which it is), but that Hollywood has something important to say (which it does). What if, instead of rushing out to create a separate movie industry, we engaged with the industry we have?
It’s easy to not give a man a job because he has a paper that says he’s a felon. They’re just following the law. They are trying to be obedient. Keep themselves out of trouble. Javert might take the fall for enforcing the rules, and it’s easy to point the finger at one person. But he can only enforce what society deems acceptable.
It’s so easy to look up a movie on Plugged In to see the curse count or the sex scenes. People are just trying to obey the Bible and only see what is pure and right, good and true. Sherwood Pictures might be an easy target for Christian movies. But they’re only responding to what Christian society wants.
The people love the rebels when it is daylight and mostly safe. But when it gets dangerous, when the blood starts flowing and the bodies start dropping, the windows are shuttered and backs turned. It’s a conditional acceptance and it’s meaningless.
We insulate ourselves from humanity when we base our engagement with them on how many swear words they say. We reveal our conditional love when we greet them with open arms only if they discuss evangelical-approved topics in an evangelical-approved way.
Retreating to the safety of legalism isolates us from each other, in movies and out.
This movie is just one more example of people wrestling with what it means to be human. The themes and questions run deeper than law vs. grace.
Look down, look down, we’re standing in our grave – says half the globe.
Where do we make people show papers, literal or not?
How do we make them prove their worth to us?
Where are we complicit with unjust laws?
Where are we unknowingly throwing people to live outside?
Where are we living out redemption?
How are we working to protect other people? To place ourselves in danger for them?
I saw this movie, unaware of the storyline or the themes, and as I watched it, I was laid bare, reduced to tears. I saw myself reflected in the farmer refusing to give Val Jean a job. And then this line: “You have only done your duty. It’s a minor sin at most.”
If I believe in redemption, if I really believe it, and say I want my life to be rooted in it, then I have to let it transform me, society be damned.
If we are doing our duty, but it isn’t leading to love, are we sinning, even though we may be ‘right’? What if what we think is loving isn’t seen as love to those we give it to? Is it on us to listen and discover how we can love people on their terms?
And this is where the blood starts flowing and life gets dangerous and messy.
And so we shut our doors and turn off our tv screens. We count and review and boycott.
But when this ‘godless’, ‘liberal’, ‘greedy’ industry offers up the most beautiful description of life after this world that I have ever seen, the cries of ‘society today’ are only hollow echoes of fear, wooden shutters pulled tight.
I can’t embrace a society that adheres to separation and condemnation. A society that ignores the humanity, that only sees 24601, ‘inappropriate’, ‘what’s it rated?’, instead of a name, a story. Because Hollywood is engaging! They are tackling the issues of what it means to live, and live well. And I’m interested in watching and interacting with those issues, ‘christian’ or not.
Because when you see a legion of people celebrating the ultimate redemption of life (French politics aside), and the tears are pouring down your face, you know you’re in the presence of something holy.
It’s a movie about redemption.
Its about life, incarnated.
And the results are stunning.