Thursday, July 24, 2008

movies characters as caricatures

Last week I watched the film Chocolat for the first time. I'd never watched it before mainly because I'm prejudiced against chick flicks. Jo watched this movie a few years back and tried to get me to see it with her, but I declined. But last week I did. The movie itself was good. I love Johnny Depp and think he's one of the greatest actors ever. The thing that struck me the most about this movie is the way the characters were actually caricatures.

The priest in
Chocolat is a great example. He is a bumbling young guy who doesn't seem to know what he is doing. Plus he is controlled by someone else. He doesn't seem to add any real value to the community except just be a placeholder for the office of priest and guide the congregation through rituals.

This caricaturization is not unique to
Chocolat. Usually, any Christian portrayed on film or on TV is one of several extremes - they're either an over the top holy roller, an idiot, or a hypocrite - or possibly all three. Roman Catholic Christians seem to get the most frequent and worst portrayals. They are widely used to represent Christians and the Christian faith, partly stemming from the externals of Roman Catholicism - the robes worn by priest, the blacks suits and white collars, the habits of monks and nuns - you immediately identify them as a Roman Catholics. These visuals translate well into a medium which uses images to tell the story.

On one hand it bothers me that Christians are portrayed so stereotypically, but on the other hand, I realize that this kind of caricaturization happens across the board in movies. Characters are stereotyped and have qualities which lead to them being not a representation of real people, but to being caricatures of certain types of people. Muslims are terrorists, or at the very least untrustworthy. French people are arrogant and rude. Americans all carry guns and are violent. Etc, etc. Its easier to stereotype than to try to portray people in real ways.

In life this is true too. Its just much easier to say, 'all of group X is like this or that'. It takes more work to meet people in whatever group X is and befriend them. And how many times do we have our dearly held stereotypes broken down once we interact with someone from group X? I'd say almost always.

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