Emmy Griffin / January 3, 2023

Tell Us Meaningful Stories

On the fall of Hollywood, the rise of the antihero, and the search for meaning without a faith-based center.

Movies are, arguably, the American art form. Though originally invented in France, America has been the real developer of storytelling with film. It was Hollywood that took silent films to talkies, black-and-white film to color, and elaborate props to CGI (computer generated imagery). It was all in the cause of telling a good story and allowing the magic of the silver screen to transport audiences to worlds and lives that were not their own.

America was also the most masterful at using movies to sell its culture to the world. The golden era of artistry and idealism in American filmmaking seems to be shuddering to a halt.

It’s actually a minor miracle that Hollywood — a cutthroat industry where the price of telling a good story is often whittled down to just a mediocre story through corporate red tape — has been able to continue as it has for this long. Hollywood’s latest promised box office hit, “Babylon,” flopped because audiences called the storyline “boring.”

According to The Daily Wire’s Amanda Harding: “Viewers were shocked and grossed out by the much-lamented elephant defecation scene, among others. But they were also bored by watching Hollywood types behaving badly because their rampant drug use and absolute disregard for human decency is boring. It’s pervasive and it’s tired. There may have been a time when moviegoers would want to see a movie like this for the shock value alone. But now that lives of excess are so commonplace, that’s not even the case anymore.”

If art reflects culture, and culture reflects life, then the life that movies are displaying is confused, desolate, dystopian, secularly moralistic (an oxymoron), sexually debauched, or some combination of the above. American movies no longer feature heroes — someone we can cheer for without hesitation because their cause is just and they are worthy of our support. American movies no longer celebrate America. Instead, our filmmakers and storytellers are pushing the antihero trope and a shame-faced portrayal of an America they despise.

The antihero first rose to popularity in the 1960s and ‘70s during the height of the Civil Rights movement and the sexual revolution. This character type comes in a variety of forms, but typically it is a character that defies the qualities of a hero. Antiheroes don’t play by society’s rules; they are often deeply flawed, motivated by their own selfishness, and somehow do “good” in spite of this. Whereas a hero is one who is universally loved and is a uniting figure, the antihero is divisive.

Characters that are classic antiheroes are Gollum, Batman, Severus Snape, Disney’s 2022 remake of Pinocchio, Tár, and almost every main character that has been presented to us over the past 5-10 years.

When characters are motivated by their own selfishness, and somehow good is still achieved, it is not unlike the human condition. But it’s missing a crucial ingredient: God, or a faith-centered belief system pointing people to something higher than themselves. From whence does morality, honor, and goodness come? Faith is not ineffable, but this lack of defining characteristic leaves storylines ultimately meaningless and confused.

Because our culture is pulling away from faith, our artists are also pulling away from faith. But if everything is antihero and anti-God, the ramifications are actually excising the culture. It is not merely a shift; it is a defining fork in the road. Do we choose meaning and good storytelling? Or do we continue to portray selfish antiheroes who give us nothing to strive for and only despair to look forward to?

Clearly, debauchery and selfish altruism are boring and petering out. The stories that are timeless and fill us with hope and joy are ones where audiences are inspired by heroes and their faithfulness to a God that drives them to do good for goodness’ sake.

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