Beauty and the Beast and the Bible
Well, the latest version of the story of Beauty and the Beast starts today and I already know several people who are planning to see it ASAP. For me, and my wife Peggy, we will probably wait until it comes out on Netflix before we see it. I am guessing that retirees are not their primary audience and I am still not quite over the trauma of seeing Frozen a few years ago in a theater filled with little girls singing along on all the songs and even saying the dialogue along with Elsa and Anna.
But I’ve been reading all the reviews today – which are mildly favorable – and also two different reactions to the movie that started even before it came out and find that the movie, or at least the commentary on it, tells me something important about the Bible. Let me explain.
One group of people reacting were Christians, Franklin Graham for example, who were outraged that an “openly gay character” was to be in the movie and called for a boycott. I suppose “reacting” is not 100% accurate as this all happened before anyone actually saw the movie. Is “preacting” a word? (Secular reviewers I’ve seen say that there are “hints” of a same sex attraction but nothing overt.) In any event, this group is mobilizing to encourage us all to be outraged. One commentator called it a “gay movie.”
The second group that was “preacting” with outrage was those who are concerned about the abuse of women by male partners. I kind of see their point. I mean “boy meets girl, boy imprisons girl, boy verbally abuses girl, girl’s sweetness eventually changes angry boy” is not your usual romance. Some advocates for abused women are also encouraging a boycott because it, as one advocate said, “glorifies domestic abuse.”
My guess is that neither of these boycotts will be particularly effective. I also doubt that there will be many little girls who come out from seeing the movie and suddenly decide they are gay or come out yearning to be in an abusive relationship.
I’m not criticizing either group. They have the right, perhaps even the duty, to speak up with their concerns. But there is one thing that stands out. Each group “saw” in the movie something that their personal and cultural background taught them to look for. One, the culture warriors, interprets the movie as gay and the other, advocates for the abused, as abusive. I can’t blame them, particularly abuse survivors.
But here is the question I have to ask myself, and other Bible readers – are we so very sure that we do not bring our own biases, our own cultural assumptions, and our own personal experiences into our reading of Scripture? This is why I advocate (again and again) reading the Bible with humility and openness to be shown we might be wrong. We all say we are open, but when was the last time any of us actually has admitted we’ve been reading scripture wrong?