Book Review 

Hollywood Worldviews:
Watching Films With Wisdom & Discernment

Intervarsity Press; (July 2002)

by Brian Godawa
Reviewed by Jon Snodgrass

Hollywood Worldviews:
Watching Films With Wisdom & Discernment
Intervarsity Press; (July 2002)

by Brian Godawa
Reviewed by Jon Snodgrass

[1] The author has written a book for conservative Christian audiences to explain the various philosophies that inform Hollywood screenplays and movie productions. The work is intended as a primer for viewers to discern the good from bad values that "drive" stories on the big screen. As a writer and a teacher, Godawa encourages Watching Films with Wisdom and Discernment (subtitle). 

[2] The philosophical basis of an eclectic number of recent, mainstream, American films is outlined in this work. The problem is type of worldview as it is expressed in the content of specific films. Existentialism and postmodernism, among other philosophies, are analyzed in light of traditional Christian theology. The author believes naïve readers need to be aware of the non-Christian values that emanate from the Hollywood film industry.  

 [3] A related theme is that each philosophy and by implication every movie, has a message of redemption, that is, offers the viewer a means of salvation. For example, in existentialism the hero commits to a personal self in a meaningless world where God is perceived to be absent. Examples of existentialist films are Forrest Gump (1994) and Groundhog Day (1993). While the idea of a universal "monomyth" originated with Joseph Campbell, Godawa is quite critical of his work. 

[4] According to the author, it is "extremely rare" for characters in movies to portray Christian themes of redemption. Exceptions are Chariots of Fire (1981) Tender Mercies (1983) and The Mission (1986). The uniqueness of these films involves selfless commitment to God versus slavish devotion to an individual ego. An example of postmodernism in filmmaking is Pulp Fiction (1994). The essence of postmodernism in film is the rejection of reality and loss of the distinction between right and wrong.  

[5] The author is knowledgeable about a great number of films and devout as a Christian scholar. A difficulty with the book, however, is that the films are unevenly analyzed from a narrow point of view itself not clearly articulated. What defines a Christian worldview? The good and the right seem to involve: acknowledging guilt for being sinful, possessing the need for redemption, not meriting forgiveness and trusting absolutely in a God who is merciful. Hollywood, like humanity is sinful and Godawa like his God, is quite critical.

[6] How the films deemed worthy deal with these issues is not substantially pursued. For example, one wonders, what puts Chariots of Fire, along with the others, at the top of his list? A case analysis of these films in terms of how the characters and stories deal with the issues of sin, redemption, forgiveness and faith is relevant. Without an analysis what makes them superb is overlooked as self-evident. The opposite issue also can be raised. 

[7] Are all films informed by godless philosophies lacking merit in terms of Christian values. For example, Forest Gump was an incredibly creative character that evidenced malice toward no one, apparently because his mother had loved him so dearly. His counterpart, "Jenny," was unable to recognize Forrest' love, or God's love, because she had never been loved by her parents as a child. Forest was a simple being but film analysis without tolerance, just seems simplistic. 

[8] Reviewers and readers who share a conservative Christian worldview will find the guide informative. Basically, the author is critical of any film influenced by any philosophy not fundamentally Christian. It sketches several worldviews behind movies and in this respect is a guide to movie selection. The book is enhanced with insights about numerous films within this perspective.

FILM CREDITS

Tender Mercies



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