Sunday, March 1, 2015

Worldviews in Entertainment: Starting the Conversation

This past week, I had the opportunity to engage with middle and high school students on the topic of entertainment. In the course of four 2 ½ hour sessions, we talked about some popular YA fiction and watched four movies: Maleficent; Captain America: Winter Soldier; The Amazing Spiderman, and Ender’s Game. (Most of them had read or seen Hunger Games, Maze Runner, Guardians of the Galaxy and Divergent,  I was looking for something that was new to them and wasn't about sparkly vampires).

In order to explore the worldviews, we used the following template of questions for a discussion at the end of each movie:

  • What’s wrong with the world according to the story? What’s the proposed solution?
  • Who are the heroes/villains, and why?
  • What does the story suggest are important virtues and unfortunate vices?
  • What things does the story just assume (rather than argue) are true or real?
  • What does it mean to be human?
  • Does the story make a difference between someone who does heroic things vs. someone who is a hero (or someone who does villainous things vs. someone who is a villain)? Is there a difference to be made? 
  • What does this movie want you to believe is the secret to a good or meaningful life? Does that work in the real world?
  • Does the story make sin/goodness look compelling? Boring? Revolting? Irrelevant?
  • Many popular stories confirm either what we hope is true about the world or what we fear it true about the world. Do you see that in this story?
  • Is God (or are Christians) present in the story? If so, is the portrayal honest? What about representations of the people and beliefs in other worldviews?

Last but not least, we used a template (HT to Jon Stonestreet’s Summit Ministry lectures) to rate the movies with a 5-star system in the areas of truth (does it accurately portrays life?), nobility (does it make you want to be a better person?), and goodness (is it done with quality?).

This is, of course, simply one approach to get people thinking about the messages in the entertainment we so casually absorb. There are many more questions that could be asked – and these could probably be worded better. Maybe you have hosted discussion groups similar to this or have a particular way in which you process the messages in the stories all around you. If so, I would love to hear your suggestions for making this list better!

Recommended Books 
Cinemagogue, by James Harleman
The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long For and Echo the Truth, by Mike Cosper
Meaning at the Movies: Becoming a Discerning Viewer, by Grant Horner
Myth Became Fact: Storytelling, Imagination, and Apologetics in the Bible, Brian Godawa

Recommended Websites  
J.W. Wartick's Always Have a Reason (books, movies, TV shows)
James Harleman's Cinemagogue (mostly movies)
Austin Gravely's Another Ascending Lark (music)
Focus on the Family's Plugged In (movies, music, video games, etc.)
Greg West's The Poached Egg (search "entertainment")
Christian Apologetics Alliance (go to "Imaginative Apologetics: Fiction book, movie and TV reviews)
Breakpoint (search "entertainment")

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