I don’t watch television very often. I don’t own a television right now, and I am spending my summer working as a camp counselor which equates to… not much television. At home we have a converter box, so I’m currently watching a black and white film called “Panic in the Year Zero.”
I’m struck by how movies reflect the social values of the culture. There’s a mother and father (obviously married), and two teenage children, a girl and a boy. From what I can gather, the plot is that there was a bomb dropped in L.A. and on major European cities, and this family is attempting to survive the resulting melee.
OK. Minor break, I’m watching commercials and this has got to be the worst I’ve seen. Worse than the moral issues raised by the commercials that talk about saving pets when people are still starving, even in the United States. Want to hear the tagline? “Sexting is a crime.” Apparently, it is now a public service message to inform teens that not only is texting nude photos of oneself to peers a stupid idea, it is also illegal. I worry about the generation I will hopefully be teaching.
Back to the movie, apparently there’s danger of an atomic fall out. The family has just moved their gear from their trailer into a cave at a camping ground. Points of interest socially: the husband and wife dynamic, the sense of honor/moral responsibility, the suggestion of acceptable means of survival (particularly compared with modern movies), and the reaction to dead bodies and violence.
As someone who would love to get married someday, the matrimonial relationship is intriguing. I feel as though it has changed drastically, even from when I was young to now. Divorce is rampant, and as one of my friends told me, it doesn’t seem like marriage means anything anymore. People are disillusioned with the concept of-
Another A.D.D. pause- I would like to point out that the station name is “this.” How original and useful for advertising.
People are disillusioned with the idea of staying with one mate for life. There’s also a huge difference in gender role. Consistently, the women in this movie are portrayed as delicate and weak. They crumple at the first sign of trouble, yet maintain civilization, like fine china or lace doilies. I can see how helpless the husband feels, having to think and reason and make difficult decisions to preserve his family. I think that dynamic influenced the high sense of personal morality/ responsibility. For instance, the father doesn’t have enough cash to cover the purchase of the guns, so he holds a gun to the clerk, but instead of running off with the stuff, demands a receipt to owe him the balance. Later, the gas is listed as a certain price, and when the father goes to pay, the owner tells him that he didn’t get a chance to change the price on the sign. The owner gets knocked out and left with the money the father originally thought would cover the bill. Of course obviously this movie was pushing the social boundaries of its time by suggesting that desperate times call for desperate measures (and women were allowed to wear pants in this film occasionally), but it wasn’t like movies today. You could see how every action was justified by the mantra of “A man must provide for and protect his family above all.”
I think we justify our views in the same way. The problem is, we change our mind a lot, and therefore social standards change. I think it’s important every so often to reassess what we believe and why we think the way we do. Challenge the cultural norms. An easy way to explore this is through learning about other cultures. You might be surprised to find there are things you accept without consideration.
Anyway, back to the movie. They move into the cave, the shop owner who was held at gunpoint ends up at the campground, the father doesn’t initially trust him, but when his wife is nearly at a breakdown insisting that “there must be other good people left,” he goes to make amends and finds the man and his wife shot dead. They were shot by these wild men who later rape his daughter, and have another girl held prisoner at the farmhouse where she lived (and the men murdered her parents). The father and his son avenge the daughter’s honor and kill two of the men, taking the orphaned teenage girl with them. Eventually, the son accidentally gets shot in the leg, which drives them toward civilization to find help. All this time they’ve been keeping up with the radio news bulletins, and there’s peace treaties happening, but the father is still suspicious about returning. The son’s injury drives them back, and the movie ends with some soldiers finding them, directing them to the nearest outpost, and after they leave, commenting that there’s 5 good ones not affected by radiation poisoning. Then there’s these words:
“There must be no end- only a new beginning.”
I wasn’t really sure what they were getting at. I know it was intended to be artistic and deep, but it didn’t strike me that way because there was no social relevance to me. I don’t know much about the whole atomic scare other than the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the American propaganda that really wouldn’t help people much if an emergency actually occurred. I agree with those words on a basic level, but applied to the movie… not so much. However, I know that at the time this definitely held resonance with the culture.
Looking at movies today, I am terrified of modern culture. Movies are made to entertain, but I firmly believe that they influence us far more than we’d like to believe. Looking at films like the Saw series, or even television programs geared toward kids, I wonder how we draw the line between being in the world but not of the world. I don’t want to put a Jesus blanket over my head and pretend these things don’t exist, but I also don’t want to take an approach that says I’m not any different than the people who don’t know God. Moderation is the key… I know that. I also know the generic Christian answer of “well it’s up to your own conscious” or “it’s between you and God” but I don’t really buy that. I don’t think God would give us the Word or the Spirit and want us to play shades of gray. “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.” I think this is ultimately what it comes down to.
Minor life update- I’m camp counseling now and loving it, although I’m a lot more exhausted than I used to be. I am excited to see what God has for me this summer, and incredibly encouraged by what I have learned thus far. Lately I’ve been trying to realize the truth of just how much I need Him every day. There was never a time I needed Him more or less- it was always the same. Also, it’s been sweet to see that God hasn’t given up on me yet. I’m struggling with still feeling inferior, but it’s also teaching me that I used to base a lot of my identity on my works, not what God was doing in me. Therefore, when I made poor decisions, I thought poorly of myself. When I did something good, I thought well of myself. I think what I need to be doing is not thinking of me, but rather, Christ in me. I need to look at my best things, my best works, and count them as nothing in view of God’s love through Christ and the cross. Basically, I need to cherish God above all.