February 11, 2011 / Mediation, Uncategorized
In 1991, the Academy Award for Best Picture went to the disturbing psycho thriller, The …
September 21, 2011
The recent proliferation of movies starring a strong, take-no prisoners, independent female as the lead in an action role should give us pause. And though such films are not necessarily new to Hollywood, they are increasingly prominent, today. Some movies that come to mind are Hanna, Colombiana, Haywire, and (to some extent) The Debt. Each of these films stars a women playing a very pronounced action figure.
We are used to seeing brooding, dark, sexy, mysterious men play the bad-ass in movies such as these. However, the ferocity of a women gives these new action flicks a whole new perspective. For we (naturally) carry many preconceived notions about the nature of a woman and her role in society. We think of them as loving, gentle, subservient, sexy (but in an objectifying way), soft, comprising, etc. To see these qualities absorbed into a complex and powerful character like Cataleya (Zoe Saldana from Colombiana), for instance, gives a greater depth and intrigue to the Jason Bourne-like action figure persona.
The film industry is sharply turning the established norm upside down. Of course, we may be thinking that something like that is typical of the arts industry. Filmmakers, artists, musicians, writers, etc. are (seemingly) always trying to go beyond the established norm. Why then should we be surprised, here? Well, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised, but we should be reflective.
The fact of the matter is our prejudices run deeper than we like to admit, and films like Hanna can still, in 2011, make a statement about power and gender roles. We have not yet graduated to a level of fair-minded, level-headed, reasonable, non-prejudicial egalitarianism. The truth of the matter is that the fights for women – to be given a strong place in the institutions of our society – are still very real. And, unfortunately, the Christian church finds itself no better positioned than the rest of society…worst in many cases.
The Church continues to exclude and suppress women, which is a sad state of affairs, since Christians should know, more than most, how to fight for the marginalized and strengthen the voice of those at the bottom. For the Christian gospel turns power structures upside down, proclaiming the kingdom for those who are not strong, but meek; those who are not rich, but poor; those who are not like Caesar, but Jesus (a peasant).
The Church could take a cue from the themes running through many of these recent action films, which strongly resist the standard roles of power and marginalization. Our discourse must move beyond the simplicity of egalitarian-complimentarian debates, in which each side picks scripture passages, does some exegesis, and waves their interpretation in their opponents face. When that happens, the debate becomes more important than the people (i.e. women) for whom we are supposedly arguing our case. Thus, we marginalize women in the name of women!
The better way forward here is to look at the themes of the gospel more deeply, in which the (popularly understood) world is turned upside down; strength and salvation are given to the lowly, the disenfranchised, and the marginalized. If we go in this direction, we will fight harder for women, putting them in the lead role, as it were – no matter what “doctrinal” stance we take. For one thing is clear to all: women are extraordinarily valuable.