Saturday, June 25, 2011

All Our Alien Longings: "Super 8" as Theological Work

I saw Super 8 the other night--what a great movie!  For my thoughts on the movie as a depiction of young artists and what that might mean to those of us who aren't young artists, hop over to this post on my creativity blog.

I tend to see the world, particularly pop culture, through multiple lenses.  I ask, "What is the work/world saying about gender?  What does it tell us about our place in the universe?  What is the theological viewpoint here?  What can I learn about being creative?  What is the work saying about race?  About class?"  On and on I could go.

On the face of it, Super 8 is not a theological film.  Or perhaps I should say, it's not an overtly theological film, or even a very spiritual one.  Yet my brain wouldn't leave that angle alone.

I thought about the fact that the movie revolved around a small band of kids, and I started thinking about the ways that those kids resembled the disciples.  You had one wise kid (John perhaps?), several who were slow to catch on (Peter), one kid who wanted to blow things up (Judas).  I couldn't make any of them be the Christ figure, although Alice, the one lone female of the gang . . . hmm, I'm only just now thinking of her.

Yes, she could be a Christ figure.  She's alone and unknowable in some ways.  All the kids are drawn to her.  She seems wise in an otherwordly way.  She weeps over the plight of her friends.  And she suffers a kind of living death and descent into the underworld.  Does she save them?  Hmm.

The movie wrestles with themes that are common to Christianity:  that feeling of alienation, the wanting to connect, the way we treat the stranger, the resident alien.  The movie wrestles with that question central to most religions:  why are we here?  What is our purpose?  How can we evolve into our best selves?

The movie reminds me of the kind of movie that my middle school and high school youth groups might have seen, the ones that were popular, but not overtly spiritual.  What does the Star Wars series teach us about God?

Super 8 is the perfect kind of film for a contemporary youth group.  It's not preachy, but it covers some theological themes.  It's not overtly spiritual, so it stands a chance with people who would be turned off by that kind of movie.  It's sentimental in a way, but it never descends into sentimentality for too long.  It's not an overly sexual movie, which is a relief in our day and age.  It has a lot to say about parental relationships, particularly the ones we have with our fathers.  Lots of missing mothers in this film.  What do we do with this fact, if we're trying to look at the movie through a spiritual lens?

It's one of those wonderful films that doesn't provide obvious answers to these questions, but could yield lots of fascinating conversation.  I'd love to see it again, since I suspect it's a movie that rewards a second watching.

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