I usually do not do movie reviews or really watch movies but I received a copy of the movie Courageous for my birthday a few weeks ago. Skeptigirl now is an old lady of 30 and calling herself a girl is sounding more and more absurd. Well anyway my pastor loved it so much that he bought many copies of it and then I opportunely had a birthday and so he gave one to me. At first I thought, how nice of him, I have not gotten a birthday present for some years. Then I thought “’From the makes of Fireproof.’ Doesn’t that have bananaman’s lover acting in it?” Then I calmed my prejudice and reminded myself that I have never seen these actors in anything else so there is no reason to look at it with anything but an open mind. So I entered into the movie watching experience as open mindedly as possible…
…and I was pleasantly surprised. 3/5 stars. I liked it despite the omens and might watch it again, one day. I thought the acting was the best I had seen in a Christian movie. The dialogue was good, natural and funny. I have heard people have conversations like that before. It has a few obligatory preachy spots and witnessing moments but they were not any more awkward than in real life. In fact I have seen many more awkward ones in reality. So I liked it, but I did not love it.
Why did I not love it? Why not 4/5 stars or 5/5? Three reasons: It had no female characters. You, a person who have seen it, may say: “But what about the wives?” Yes, what about them? The men had wives and two of them had daughters. Were the wives real characters in my opinion? No they weren’t. They were props without personality. There is a test (http://bechdeltest.com/) you can do that will tell you if a movie is female friendly. This movie fails on all but the first criteria, having female characters. The women are never seen in a scene without their husbands. If there is a scene the wife is in without her husband you can bet he is a few seconds away from entering it or she is talking to him on the phone. The women develop in no way whatsoever. Well the last one is fine. The movie is about the men after all. The women are just wives that make them going out and working and having progeny possible. They are the helpmeets and not interesting or important in the movie. In fact they are children.
This move treats women like children. I actually would have liked this movie better if the women had been removed from it and the men would have been single dads or something. The movie is about men taking responsibility for their families and children. I suppose that is fine but they are taking responsibility for their wives too. Instead of giving them the respect as fellow adult human beings equally responsible for raising their shared children they are reduced to these adult children. In their pledge they say they will take responsibility for their wives. Are the wives taking equal responsibility for them? that is not addressed. I think it would be enough for them to just be responsible for their own actions and behavior and their children instead of trying to parent adult women who need to be responsible for their own actions. I am not saying married couples should not help and support each other but there is no way you can be responsible and take care of another adult in that way and not reduce them the a child. It is nasty to be married to one’s own child.
Then lastly, this may be anticlimactic because it is just one scene and not really that big of a deal to me next to the infantilization of adult women. There is this gross saccharine scene where one of the fathers takes his daughter to a fancy restaurant all dressed up for dinner and at the end gives her a worth the wait ring. This scene mirrors, and I think is meant to, a marriage proposal. This seems harmless but it disgusts the crap out of me and it seems incestuous. Why is this? He is just treating her like an adult. I am all for giving your kids the respect of treating them like adults and how will they act like adults if you don’t treat them like it? The problem to me is that he chooses to treat her like an adult in a sexualized context. Sure it is innocent and chaste but he treats her the way he would treat a woman he was dating, in the process of courting that would lead to sex.
Why does he have to treat her like a woman he is dating? Is that the only way he knows to relate to adult women? Is that all they are good for? All women are to men inside Christian culture is marriage material or sexual objects. Is that so much different than in the main stream culture? After all mating as successfully as possible is what we have been evolved to do and be. Does this mean we need to blindly follow this drive and perpetuate this evolutionary imperative? No. I think Christians have a greater responsibility to rebel against what we have evolved to and not get stuck on the rising ape but try to focus on the fallen angel. We are more than our drive for reproduction. We are souls and we are infinitely valuable and not just in the context of pairing up, marrying and having babies. We are so much more than just men and women; we are immortal souls that thirst after righteousness and God. I really wish we could have Christian media that focused on us as something more than breeding machines, as complex human beings capable of so much more beyond the sum of our parts.