The Quest for Meaning Through Film & Literature

randomlychad  —  October 24, 2013 — 4 Comments

Yesterday, I wrote Quiet Tragedy: Through a Child’s Eyes, telling my tale of being a child of divorce. As these things often do, it couldn’t have come at a worse time in my life. The fact is, what he was in my childhood–neglectful, distant, closed off–my dad only became more of in my adolescence.

Now he was not only emotionally unavailable, but physically as well. He was not, and has not been, a presence in my life. In the absence of his influence (my mom had to sometimes work two, and three, jobs to keep our home), was a vacuum.

What did my life mean? Who was going to tell me, give me the tools to carve meaning out of the swirling chaos? With dad gone, and my mom overwhelmed, there was porn. (Which I have written of before, and have no desire to rehash now. Search the archives). It was a (poor) substitute for real relationship, and though I looked, it gave me no significance.

Another avenue was reading–perhaps there I could find some meaning? I did–in spades. I was particularly drawn to the horror, and fantasy, genres. Both very different from one another, and yet somehow the same. Though I could not have articulated it at the time, both allowed stark explorations of good and evil in stunning bas relief. Everything was heightened, intensified. Where they diverged was in my unarticulated longing, and approach:

From fantasy, I desired an escape from a life which did not make sense. Horror, however, forced me to find meaning in the chaos. It is, in the words of director Scott Derrickson, the “genre of non-denial.” It does not let one off the hook; as such, it makes us very uncomfortable.

Because we must confront not only the evil we see in the world around, but that which lurks hidden in out own hearts.

Both genres, however disparate birthed in me a love of tales of epic conflicts between the forces of good and evil. From both I learned that evil is a force which must be reckoned with.

And it was up to me–conflicted,  tortured as I may be–to choose carefully my path. Would I be, through choices large, or small, through incidents of seeming insignificance, the hero, or the villain?

It is a choice which is laid everyday before us all.

Which is why I still enjoy a tale well-told–whether it be horror, or fantasy. The best of both both reflect, and illuminate, our condition without being preachy. Which is why I so thoroughly enjoyed this year’s The Conjuring. It was a scary tale well-told. It had something to say about the pervasiveness of evil, and how it must be resisted. It did so without glorifying that evil.

It just presented it as it is.

I have no problems with, or qualms about seeing, movies such as this. No matter the setting or subject matter. Some may disagree with me on this–and that’s okay. I understand. We all have differing convictions and comfort levels. (Which we seem to be quite inconsistent in applying. I know of Christians who will happily read George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, but won’t go anywhere near Harry Potter).

Problems often arise when we try to foist our convictions upon one another, because how could you not see it that way? What’s wrong with you? Are you in sin, or something? (I once had some dear people I love and respect stage a quasi-intervention because they knew I read, and enjoyed, the Harry Potter series).

You get the point.

If these stories help me to confront the darkness both within, and without, then who are you to say? Let me enjoy what I enjoy without getting in my way. I promise to extend to you the same courtesy and grace.

We need to be Bereans about these things and think critically. Watching (or reading) depctions of evil (as long as it is portrayed as evil) is not the same as participating in evil. Watching (or again reading) depictions of magic is not the same as participating in magic. Magic is a long-used literary device. And while a well-meaning faction of us may decry Harry, where is the outcry against:

C.S. Lewis
J.R.R. Tolkien
Charles Williams
George MacDonald

All were Christians; all depicted magic and/or the supernatural in their works. Yet the get a pass.

Why is that?

Which brings me to another point about fantasy and horror books and films:

The veil is torn, the curtain thin between the seen and the unseen. The supernatural is taken for granted. Isn’t it interesting that, in only the most fantastical of works, is reality presented as it is? That there is a whole unseen world out there that must be reckoned with? And why do so often shun such works?

I’ll leave that for you to ponder.

Do you enjoy fantasy, or horror, films (or books)? What are some of your favorites?

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randomlychad

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Christ-follower, husband, dad, blogger, reader, writer, movie buff, introvert, desert-dweller, omnivore, gym rat. May, or may not, have a burgeoning collection of Darth Vader t-shirts. Can usually be found drinking protein shakes, playing with daughter, working out with his son, or hanging out with his wife. Makes a living playing with computers. Subscribe to RandomlyChad by Email

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  • Ricky Anderson

    I enjoy fantasy, but not horror. Terry Pratchett is my favorite.

    • Cool! Waiting to read some Pratchett myself…

  • I read Martin, but not Potter, but I don’t decry it. It came along at a time that I didn’t think my kids were ready for it, so we skipped it. I told my kids the other day that it wouldn’t bother me if they wanted to see Harry Potter now. They were indifferent and had no desire. I’m putting off watching the Game of Thrones show until I get to about the 4th book. My son should be old enoug to handle it by then if he wants to watch it with me.

    • Cool, Larry. That’s something I’ve had to learn as a believer, namely beyond theme and content there is (or is not) a level of artistry to be appreciated along with those other things.