So, here’s something else that I’ve been wondering about fiction. I sometimes see people saying that it’s disrespectful for authors to incorporate elements in their work that many people in the real world still believe to be true. I’ve seen people criticize YA paranormal romance novels for featuring angels as their main supernatural creature, I’ve seen a critic say that skinwalkers shouldn’t be used in a fantasy book because apparently certain Native Americans still believe in them, etc. The main criticism is: many people still believe these things to be true, so stop treating them as if they’re mythical creatures like vampires and stop stripping them of the religious context and significance that they have for the believers of that particular faith.
Except…that’s already happened.
Christianity and Judaism are still widely practiced by millions of people all over the world. And yet there are hundreds of films which have incorporated their motifs and elements into their stories. I’m not talking about films that are recreations of Bible stories, like “The Ten Commandments” or “The Passion of the Christ.” No, I’m talking about films that are explicitly not categorized as religious films and use Jewish or Christian imagery and folklore for the purposes of a secular story.
Just off the top of my head: “The Omen,” “The Exorcist,” “The Dybbuk,” “Rosemary’s Baby,” “Legion,” “The Devil’s Advocate,” “Dogma,” “The Unborn,” “Bruce Almighty,” etc. and etc. Heck, I could probably add a boatload of vampire films to that list, considering how the Christian symbols of holy water and the cross are used as vampires’ weaknesses. And don’t even get me started on how many anime shows incorporate Christian imagery and are not faith-based in the slightest.
Yet despite the fact that, again, millions of people genuinely believe in the deities and belief systems of these religions, hardly anybody blinks an eye when another movie comes out that’s about the devil. Oh, sure, you’ll get the occasional crackpot who rants and raves about how the ‘satanic imagery’ of these films is blasphemous. And yes, there were plenty of people who were upset that Jesus had a romantic relationship with Mary Magdalene in “The Last Temptation of Christ” and in “The Da Vinci Code.” But they were upset about that specific plot point. They weren’t saying that Jesus shouldn’t be portrayed on film at all. And when another movie comes out that’s about the devil or angels or any other being in Christianity, not many Christians seem to care, even though many Christians believe that the devil is real.
The crux of the argument is that it’s disrespectful to use skinwalkers and angels because people still believe in them. Except…there are indeed people out there who still believe in the Greek gods. There are Scandinavian neo-pagans who do still believe in Thor and Loki and all of the other Norse gods.
So…does that mean that “Thor” and “Hercules” are offensive? Is every single film version of Greek mythology in Hollywood disrespectful towards the minority of Greeks who still believe in them because the films treat Greek myths as, well, myths? Is the concept of Wonder Woman an offensive to Greek neo-pagans?
True, neo-pagans are an extreme minority, certainly when compared to Christians and Hindus and other larger religions. But in that case, does it all depend on numbers? It’s okay to make a film about Hercules that makes no attempt to make him anything other than a superhero in Ancient Greece because only a small minority worship him, but it’s not okay to make a film about angels that basically makes them superheroes because a lot more people believe that they exist?
Basically, where does one draw the line?
- Current Mood: thoughtful