Movies and the Heart Behind Them

So, my kids and I love comic book movies. We love superheroes. We love the genre and imaginative fascination of it all. It’s simply great fun.

But, there’s more to it than this.

I’ve written before on how desperately our children need meaning in EVERYTHING THAT THEY DO. And I stand by that. Mere entertainment, on a daily basis, is like having pizza for every meal. It’s fun and just fine now and then, but as a steady diet, they won’t ever want the deeper, higher nutrient things.

No matter the budget of a movie, indie film or blockbuster, movies have immense cultural implications. The form is self perpetuating. We buy the neat new movie, they make new ones because we bought the last one, and in the midst of it, some of those writers grab hold of the pulse of our culture and they sell far more tickets because it touched our hearts, and, for that two hours, we had some amazing and tangible metaphor to grab hold of and take solace within or vent frustrations throughout.

Superhero stories are wrought with backbone and metaphor. The reality is, they’re filled with metaphor whether their creators like it or not.

Just as vampire movies, as they become increasingly shallow and sexual are a caricature of themselves: the immortal, insatiable quest  for satisfaction in the flesh… leaching blood (life) from the veins of victims. It’s a metaphor for life without God. You can’t dress it up and make it different… it just is. The art reflects the truth.

But on the positive side, right now we’re in a golden age of superhero stories that are both being cranked out and driven by creativity and greed. It’s funny… on one hand, you’ve got the movie companies wanting to make a buck. There’s nothing wrong with business, providing jobs and living wages for countless individuals. (did you know that the upcoming batman/superman movies are offering thousands and thousands of steady jobs to out of work folk in Michigan? Yeah, it’s worth noting) Some actors get paid wayyyy too much. I have no comment… they’ll have to account for themselves.

But the other side of this, that truly makes it a golden age of superhero cinema is that the bar is now set very, very high. Marvel Studios alone has truly set a standard for the craft that grabs the heart, is entertaining, and remains clean enough for the family to enjoy it together. (whether it will stay that way remains to be seen) But Marvel, as well as others are beginning to bring in more and more “little-guy” indie film-makers to make massive budget flicks.

Yes, they’re grabbing the small time artist and giving him a lot of cash and saying, “Make something seriously fun with a lot of heart!” I love it. We’re seeing more and more attention being given to the heart and soul of stories like this than ever before.

So, is this a big deal? Is it imperative to teach our kids?

I think it’s a big deal to teach our kids to dig in and connect their emotions, heart and conscience. Entertainment is great, but constant entertainment teaches our children to compartmentalize their lives. “We have thinking time and we have dumb time where we check out our brains”

This is a bad habit. Don’t teach your kids this habit. Have you taught them this? Then lets un-school them and get them thinking differently. (maybe you’ll unlearn it too!)

So, we’re going to grab a select amount of  superhero stories and dissect the art and heart behind them. Many of these are the creations of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Very seldom have these two just made up a character without emotional or social intent. They create with purpose.

So… here’s the rules for our venture: Before we watch a flick we look up and learn why and how that character was created, what incarnations has it taken over the years, and how did it end up on our screen now. We watch, stop, discuss, think about what we’re seeing.

Then we ask the questions. Was this a faithful telling? Did the authors/directors expound and expand the heart of the story, or did they rob it of its meaning and just try and make a buck? What did we walk away with from this story.

Honestly, we’ve never, ever had these conversations in our house without it transitioning into time with God and the scriptures. It always goes there.

It’d be fun if others were joining along with us. And this won’t stop with just the superhero stories, we’ll be interjecting in other works of animation and beauty as well.

We’ll hope to be sharing it with you along the way!

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