From a Christian film review of Stranger Than Fiction:

It is a shame that a film based around such a clever idea couldn’t have been slightly altered to make an otherwise interesting story more palatable for families. Hollywood continues to add in offensive elements that serve no real purpose to the plot in spite of proof that films that are family friendly will appeal to wider audiences. And that is truly stranger than fiction.

Three thoughts in response to this conclusion:

1.
“It is a shame that a film based around such a clever idea couldn’t have been slightly altered to make an otherwise interesting story more palatable for families.”

Why?

Why is it a shame that a film about grownups behaving the way grownups do couldn’t be altered to make it more palatable for families?

The filmmakers could have told a story for children, but no, they were telling a story that they hoped would appeal to grownups. They wanted to move and inspire adults who might have lost touch with what is important in their lives. So, they let their adult characters behave like many adults do. I consider it a strength of the film that it told a whimsical story to grownups, who should be able to deal with the way the film portrays some adult misbehavior.

Is it a shame that Shakespeare didn’t dumb down Hamlet or King Lear so second-graders could enjoy it? Stranger than Fiction isn’t Shakespeare, but it is a comedy for discerning adults. And that’s not a bad thing.

There is an attitude amongst many Christians that good movies are all family-friendly. Would they prefer bookstores and libraries that contain only children’s books?

Is it a shame that The Bible wasn’t revised to be more palatable for families? Should we shake our heads in disappointment that they decided to leave Ezekiel’s 23rd chapter in there, or Song of Solomon, or the rather graphic descriptions of Ehud’s endeavors with a knife?

2.

“Hollywood continues to add in offensive elements that serve no real purpose to the plot…”

On what does this critic base her claim that someone “added in” some “offensive elements”?

What I saw in the film was a bunch of grownups with some of the rough edges that grownups often demonstrate. They cuss occasionally. They make some rash decisions. A guy sleeps with his girlfriend. People do this all the time. And the autenticity of the adults’ behavior only added to the film’s sense of relevance for grownup viewers. It looked like a story that relates to the messed up world grownups live in.

(It turns out the critic was offended by glimpses of a few male backsides in a scene that “included” them because, well, it was pretty funny.)

Movies are stories told by people who live in this messed-up world. They reflect some messed-up ideas and messed-up behavior. “The world speaks of the holy in the only language it knows, and that is a worldly language,” says Frederick Buechner.

These “elements” are parts of life that people see when they look around them. They may or may not agree with Christians as to whether or not these things are grave errors or sinful. But who are we to require that storytellers cut out anything that might offend us? The Bible itself reflects all kinds of misbehavior, even in its God-fearing heroes.

Should we wish that The Bible’s storytellers hadn’t “added in” all of that talke about murder, foul talk, sexual misbehavior, thievery, blasphemy, etc. etc. etc.?

Why did the writer of Ezekiel 23 have to “add in” all of that talk about whores, testicles, and semen?

3.

“Hollywood continues to add in offensive elements … in spite of proof that films that are family friendly will appeal to wider audiences.”

Should all filmmakers strive to make family-friendly films just because family-friendly films will appeal to wider audiences? Should an artist’s chief goal be to reach the largest audience that he can? Should box office success be the primary aim of anybody?

Since when do Christians preach that entertainers should make choices based on what will earn the most money?

There’s proof that pornography is a lucrative business as well. Should entertainers let that influence their decisions?

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