From an interview with screenwriter and movie critic Brian Godawa about his book Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films with Wisdom & Discernment:

IVP: Describe the various types of moviegoers. What are the dangers of each?

Brian Godawa: Moviegoers seem to fall into three different categories of cultural diets: gluttons, anorexics and balanced dieters.

Cultural gluttons are those who watch too many movies without discretion; cultural anorexics are those who watch no movies because of exaggerated scruples; and culturally balanced dieters are those who discriminate with a healthy balance between what they watch and don’t watch. Although balance is the preferred ideal, many of us tend to drift into either one of the extremes.

The purpose of Hollywood Worldviews is to give individuals the critical tools to discern the good and bad values and worldviews in movies in order to interact redemptively with their culture.

IVP: Offer one example of a “redemptive” movie. Where do we find the redemption in that particular movie?

Godawa: All movies are about redemption in one way or another. In simple terms, redemption is simply the recovery of what is lost. All worldviews believe in redemption . . . But not all redemption is good. There are some similarities in values between the different worldviews that make most movies a mixture of good and bad redemption.

For example, the 2001 Oscar winning “A Beautiful Mind,” is a good example of romantic redemption. The hero, John Nash, is so absorbed in finding his significance in scientific achievement and trying to understand the world in terms of mathematical formulas, that he loses touch with humanity. Nash is redeemed by realizing that “only in the mysterious equation of love are there logical reasons that can be found.” He discerns the difference between the real and the unreal in his life by turning to his heart, not his mind. This is textbook romanticism; the elevation of human intuition and emotions.

From a Christian worldview, there is both good and bad to this proposition. The Bible affirms that heartless intellectualism is spiritually barren and that the human heart is deceitful and desperately wicked; therefore, equally incapable of discovering ultimate truth without the aid of Revelation. True human balance, wisdom and knowledge is found in being a person of heart and mind, with both in subjection to the Creator.

IVP: How can we begin to be more discerning in the movies we watch?

Godawa: By recognizing that the story of a character is a dramatic argument for a worldview. As the hero transforms his thinking about the world through his experience, so we see what the filmmakers are trying to persuade us about how we view the world.

When watching a movie, ask yourself,

  • “What is the character flaw of the hero at the beginning?”
  • “What makes him change his mind in the story about the way he sees the world?”
  • “What does he learn about the way life ought or ought not be lived?”
  • “What is different about the way he sees the world at the end from the way he sees it at the beginning?”

These and other questions help us to discern the viewpoint being communicated through story, and enables us to be more appreciative of the good in a movie, while remaining objectively interactive with the bad.