Tonight was “Fundamentals in Film” Night with the teen-age boys and a couple of the dads. We watched a movie, as usual, but first I had to interject some real life — much to the lads’ chagrin.
I haven’t blogged about our movie nights for awhile but we’ve been getting together regularly for two years now, cutting back to just once a month since last fall. I’ve wanted to use the movies we’ve watched and the discussions afterwards to illustrate proper manly behavior and character. Originally the movies we watched were pretty black and white about good guys and bad guys but since the first of the year I’ve begun mixing in movies where the “hero” of the story might not really be such a good guy; my purpose being to show the young men how their emotions can be manipulated and their perceptions bent by the prism of the craft. The first such movie was John Wayne’s “The Shootist”, and since then we’ve watched “Patton”, the remake of “3:10 to Yuma” and some others.
The other day, however, I heard that several of these young men had been together discussing another movie that some of them had seen; a movie with graphic sexuality and they were regaling each other with explicit details. Bad enough that they should be so coarse, but they also happened to be doing so in the presence of my daughter — and without a second thought.
Tonight, before the movie and before I had the food brought in (so I could be sure of having their attention) I stood in front of the room and asked them what they thought the objective was of these sessions. “To teach us morals,” one said. “To build our character,” said another. “To be gentlemen,” said a third. “To show us how to break out of prison,” said another, remembering a previous movie.
“No,” I said to the last speaker, “but if you pay attention here it just might keep you out of prison in the first place.”
“Snap!” said another boy.
Since we all seemed to be on the same page I asked them where on the scale of good and bad, appropriate and inappropriate, would talking about sex fall — and especially in front of women. “Uhhh…real bad?” one offered.
I then told them I had heard of a recent instance where some of them had done exactly that. I also said that since they had felt free to do that in public then I, too, would talk about the incident in public. I added that I hadn’t pressed for specific names, so I wouldn’t mention specific names, but that I would address them all for the correction of those involved and the edification of those who weren’t. The squirm factor in the room was now about 7.5.
Among the things I told them was that people have always misbehaved regarding sex but that there have been times when the culture at least held out an ideal that humans could control themselves, or should at least try to. Today everything — TV, movies, commercials, billboards, radio, you name it — treats us like animals that can be lead about by our appetites and that women get no support from the culture to sustain an ideal of purity. In fact, they get a double whammy: men are encouraged to act like animals without restraint while the message to women is that they are the crazy ones if they don’t go along. Then I told the guys that if they didn’t get the proper understanding of the value and worth of a woman then their best days were already behind them because nothing they were being “sold” was anything like reality and they would never be satisfied chasing after some pornographic ideal of sex, beauty and what constitutes a relationship.
Sure, they could go along with the system that seems set up all to their advantage, buy into the stereotype that they’re just hounds, call each other “Dog” and spend their life running around with their tongues hanging out and sniffing butts. And dog they will be, if they are content to let themselves be led about as if there were a large fish-hook in their gonads. The squirm factor was suddenly up past 9, and I was about to kick it to 11.
The movie we watched last month was “The Shawshank Redemption.” It wasn’t one that I particularly wanted to teach because of some of its grittier aspects, but it was a favorite of one of the fathers and of his son and they wanted to show the movie and expound upon the lessons they saw in it so I agreed, albeit with some reservation. Afterward we had had a pretty good discussion about justice and injustice, hypocrisy, perseverance and the importance and indomitability of hope, and how systems are designed to steal hope from you. We didn’t get into the prison rape scenes then, but as this week went on I saw that those gave me an opportunity to make a point.
Tonight I asked the boys what their reactions had been during those scenes last month. “Gross” and “sick to my stomach” were the responses. “What you need to realize,” I said, “is that that is the same reaction God has to any sex outside of marriage.” We talked about 1 Corinthians 6 a bit, and I told them that, yes indeed, sex is a fabulous thing, but there’s nothing that compares to being with a woman who gives herself to you in total trust and security, knowing that she is loved, respected and honored — and that is what happens in the best marriages. “Just getting married won’t make it so,” I said, “If you still have the wrong attitude it’s not going to be a very happy marriage.
“If you want that, then – even now – you have to be thinking not about how you can get what you want from a woman, but on what it is you have to do to make yourself marriageable.” I also suggested that they begin to treat each woman as if she were someone else’s wife, even if the woman is single. “Your wife, should you be so lucky, is out there somewhere now. How do you want other guys to be treating her?”
There are other things we talked about along that line, but I won’t go into them here. Some of these may show up in another post I’ve been working on. I only spoke for about 20 minutes, and it was probably the most rapt audience I’ve ever had but I wasn’t going to push it.
It was time to order pizza and start this month’s movie, “The Wind and the Lion.”This is a great flick, by the way, with the great Sean Connery and a superb performance by Brian Keith as President Teddy Roosevelt. The movie is based fairly closely on a true story from the Middle East in 1904, and features a lot of great action and some very important (and manly) monologues from Connery and Keith that also seemed to fit our discussion topic.
I can’t wait to see who shows up for next month’s movie!