One of the most haunting scenes I’ve ever seen in a movie is from THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. Satan, cloaked in a dark robe with a demon child, on the prowl in the crowd of onlookers while Roman soldiers publicly flog Jesus.
Sometimes evil is like this scene: Satan is obviously right in front of us.
Yet, at other times, evil is sneakier, and more discernment is required.
I’d argue that blockbuster movies in theaters right now require us to watch with caution.
Have you ever heard of the term anti-hero?
An anti-hero is a character who would classically be considered a villain, but the plot is reframed to make the character the protagonist, even the hero.
This is especially evident in MALEFICIENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL and JOKER.
In the Bible, the Lord condemns evil. This is why the rise of the anti-hero as the title character is so problematic.
Let’s look at how this plays out in a few movies currently in theaters.
MALEFICIENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL is the follow-up to the 2014 MALEFICIENT movie that showed the evil queen’s humble beginnings, betrayal and her resulting callous attitude.
As the Movieguide® review states, “Arthur Fleck aka the Joker works as a clown while moonlighting as a mediocre standup comedian. He gets beaten by teenage thugs, but fights back one night against three rich white men on the subway and shoots them in cold blood.”
Although their stories make for compelling stories at times, media-wise viewers need to recognize that in these movies, evil is masquerading as the hero, which is nefarious (Luke 18:19, Mark 10:18). Explaining a character’s evil origin doesn’t justify who they have become. Even Satan had a backstory:
“How you have fallen from heaven,
O [a]star of the morning, son of the dawn!
You have been cut down to the earth,
You who have weakened the nations!
“But you said in your heart,
‘I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God,
And I will sit on the mount of assembly
In the recesses of the north.
‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.’
-Isaiah 14:12-14 (NASB)
Jesus reiterates this in Luke’s gospel, “And, He said to them, I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning’” (10:18 NASB).
In building up the anti-hero, Hollywood is not only choosing to glorify the villain but would have you to rule out or at the very least, sympathize with evil because you now understand why these villains are the way they are. This isn’t biblical. We will be held responsible for our actions (Acts 17:31, Ecc. 12:14, Matt 12:36, etc.).
This is what truly makes the Gospel freeing. We’re all fallen to begin, but we can choose to walk in Christ’s grace and be set free from this present and evil age.
The late Nat King Cole’s popular song, “Smile” decorated the trailer of JOKER. Part of the lyrics read, “Smile when your heart is aching…”
The point of the song selection is to get audiences to understand why in fact the Joker is the way he is. He smiles, even though there’s hurt behind his mask.
Although this makes for what some would call “entertaining,” Christians will notice where these villains had a silver lining and then decided to go down a dark path.
We too have this choice. Consider the verses in Matthew.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But, small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” – Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV)
When watching (if watching) these latest major Hollywood movies, it’s essential to have a shrewd eye. As Christians, we can’t call evil good. We can’t justify evil given someone’s backstory, no matter how much we are encouraged too.
If anything, stories like these should give us pause, as we reflect back to where sin entered the world in Genesis 3.
Yes, there’s evil that we might not understand, but there’s hope in Jesus Christ. Let’s choose to dwell on that and not justify evil because of our past.
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