No, it’s a Gen X thing. Millennials and Gen Z are the ones pushing Wokery, and Wokery is anything but ironic.
Pedant alert: Tow is flax fibers ready for spinning. They are very flammable and were often used to start fires. They are blonde colored, hence blonde headed kids being called towheads. Naphtha can refer to pretty much any flammable hydrocarbon and probably meant some type of petroleum.
BTW - this is a great discussion. I am not ready to give up on film, but I have pretty much stopped watching anything that is “mainstream” from the past 30 years. Much of that is due to content, but I also just don’t find the films engaging. However, I remain a great lover of documentaries.
I agree that a helpful prerequisite for having this discussion is a LONG hiatus from entertainment first. Like Joseph, I grew up without a TV, and I guarantee that contributes a lot to our distaste. I literally cannot stand TV. Never could. Not that there aren’t any individual shows that I have appreciated (thank you, BBC, for James Herriot) but news programs, commercials, the inanity of it all, I detest it. As so many have already said here, movies have become less and less tempting in any way, so we have been watching less and less. But what to do with kids when they become teens and suddenly want to watch more real movies?
I haven’t quite put my finger on it yet, but something I have noticed is that my interaction with movies in my adult life has had a lot to do with seeking a feeling of nostalgia.
With rare exceptions, we don’t watch any new movies. But there are movies that are old favorites from my childhood or teenage years that get watched quite a bit. When I ask why that is, I can only conclude that it has to do with how that movie makes me feel.
The Hunt for Red October is my favorite movie. I like the plot. I like the acting. I like the cinematography of how they did what they did with the settings of the various submarines, blah blah blah, fine.
But really, I think I like it because I have a distinct memory of being a little boy, sitting in the living room under a cozy fort I had made under my mother’s ironing board, while my dad – who rarely watched movies – laid on the couch watching it. Simply put, there is a feeling that the movie creates in me that makes me want to lay in bed and watch it when I’m sick, or want to remember simpler times gone by.
My wife grew up watching John Wayne movies on lazy Sunday afternoon, my father-in-law being a big John Wayne fan. We recently rewatched some of her old favorites. I’ve rarely seen her so nostalgic.
I could go on like this about a number of movies I cherish. Movies that remind me of my teenage years, when the world seemed big, when I was still naive, and had no real responsibilities. Movies that remind me of my dad. Movies that remind me of the sense of unmitigated joy of being a boy at Christmas time, etc.
An aficionado like @nathanalberson may be the sort of guy who sits and considers at length the form and artistic merit of movies. But I think more people are like me. We love movies because of how they make us feel.
I don’t think all nostalgia is bad. But I do think that many hours of my adult life have been wasted because I chose to go to bed and seek solace in the comforts of an old movie, when I ought to have sought Christ. I have seen how nostalgia can rob us of faithfulness and fruitfulness in the here and now. And for me, movies are not a small part of it.
And I am not really sure I know how to right the ship for the next generation. I think I can say with some integrity that I am being careful not to lead my children in the same level of entertainment addiction as what I have known all my life. For instance, the television was always on in my house growing up. It was the ambient noise behind our lives. It isn’t the case in our house. We haven’t had cable television for over a decade. There is no channel surfing. Moreover, my brother and I were allowed to have a computer and a TV in our bedroom. Such is not the case with our children. Moreover, we open the word of God as a family, regularly, and read it, and discuss it – a thing which was not done in my family growing up.
And yet boy, we still manage to watch a lot of movies, and play lots of video games. Even if we avoid some of the same excesses of my own past, I still see the maxim ringing true that children walk in the ways of their fathers.
Or maybe I know the way to right the ship but lack the courage do tear down the high places. I am undecided.
P.S. We bought a ping pong table recently (inspired by a recent blog by our dear Pastor Tim Bayly, in fact), as well as a portable basketball hoop to station at the end of our driveway on the cul de sac this summer. It may sound strange, but these purchases were something of acts of repentance for me, as I see the need to produce different activities for my children beyond what their entertainment-addicted father would otherwise be inclined to default to.
I’m ready to opt-out of most forms of visual entertainment. It’s been a long process of progressive revelation. First I realized I could not treat women as mothers and sisters in all purity while viewing them naked as entertainment. Then I realized I could not in good conscience see God blasphemed. Those two convictions eliminated most entertainment options right off the bat. I can’t understand why films that present nudity and blasphemy are referenced or recommended by Christians, sometimes even by teachers. My rule of thumb is to check a movie’s content on IMDB before watching. But that no longer suffices. In recent years a more insidious corrupting influence has arisen in the form of symbolism. When I saw Frozen, I knew something was off but it was hard to pinpoint. Moana was more obvious in its subversion of morality. Jonathan Pageau does a thorough job showing just how extreme the subversion is in its symbolic representation. Since this new movement is deconstructivist in nature, even franchises built on somewhat traditional morality will be torn down. Gina Carano being fired from her role in the Mandalorian is an example of this trajectory. Future plots are sure to follow suit.
Besides overt and hidden corruptive influence, we should consider whether moving pictures are really improvements upon the written word. I can’t think of a single instance of a film based on a novel that was an improvement. The opposite is true. If I see a film based on a novel I haven’t yet read and later read the novel I’m disappointed by the ways in which the film distorted, truncated, or otherwise mutilated the novel. My indebtedness to the film is chiefly due to its introducing me to the subject matter. There is something soothing and attractive about viewing images. It can be addictive. Images stimulate the brain with less effort than words. Movies have become a substitute for authentic experience and even religion. It would be good to severely limit the consumption of visual media.
Visual media in general and moving visual media in particular. The Puritans did not have to deal with the latter.
Joseph, thanks. Great post. I got to do some rethinking. I wrestle with this quite a bit, remembering your dad’s post on Augustine and entertainment. You help put words in my thinking about modern entertainment.
I think you’re right in one sense: even basic commitments not to feast our eyes on nakedness or violence, or to be intolerant of using our lords name in vain, would cut out a huge number of modern movies. And I think we should move in that direction.
That said, I do not agree about books being superior to movies. They are apples and oranges. The medium is so different, and so it’s not surprise that turning a book into a movie often doesn’t work too well.