The Flash/Elemental films could have been the biggest movie duo this summer but it tripped over a speed bump and fell into the fire of box office disappointments. On the other hand the combo of the quirky surreal Barbie/Opp cinema buddies has launched in theaters like the Disney World Aerosmith roller coaster at full speed picking up $$$ for stories about the Barbie Girl going out of the Barbie World and the developer of the Atom Bomb.
In Catholic social media you would think that the goodness, beauty and truth of what these movies represent would be pouring out of the well of Catholic thinkers. Instead you get a good amount of stuff like this.
The Barbie movie is unsurprisingly woke, anti-man trash. The unrelentingly message of the movie is that men are always dumb and/or evil, and women are always smart, independent, and right But Oppenheimer is unacceptable for different reasons; in fact, I’d argue it’s actually sinful to watch. I’m a huge fan of Christopher Nolan, the director of this historical piece on the development of the atomic bomb. When the movie was first announced, I planned to see it. However, I found out this weekend that the movie contains sexual scenes that contain nudity. Another no-brainer: no Catholic should watch Oppenheimer. A Movie Isn’t Worth Sinning Over – Crisis Magazine
I kept seeing similar types of thoughts on Twitter (now X) with similar sediments, especially about the subject of sexuality and nudity in Oppenheimer.
☦@johnamonaco (Jul 23, 2023) My #Oppenheimer hot take is this: no priest (let alone Christian) should watch a movie that has sex scenes/nudity in it. This would also apply to Game of Thrones, etc.
Let’s bring back the concept of “custody of the eyes”, as what we consume with our vision affects our soul.
This issue is not a new one to Christian/Catholic cinephiles. Crisis Magazine made some good points. Should Catholics really avoid a movie about such an important historical person who changed our world and made it a more dangerous place? I reached out to Catholic movie critic Deacon Steven D. Greydanus who I trusted would give me a faithful and balanced Catholic response.
Mark “The Catholic Bard”@fom4life (Jul 24, 2023)
Deacon Steve I know you have addressed this somewhere, but many Catholics are saying skip Oppenheimer because of nudity and sex scenes. What’s a good reasonable catholic movie history lover to think?
Steven D. Greydanus@DecentFilms (Jul 24, 2023)
Sex scenes are always morally fraught. Not every movie sex scene fits the CCC description of pornography, but it doesn’t have to be pornography to be problematic or immoral. There is also the question of the dignity of the performers.
So far Deacon Steve’s views seem to echo that of someone like Thy Geekdom Come
Thy Geekdom Come��@ThyGeekdomCome (Jul 24, 2023) Violence in movies is play acting. No one is really getting killed, nor intentionally injured in any serious way. Sex in movies really involves at least nudity and morally grave actions of the actors.
To say nothing of the respective effects on the souls of viewers.
Addendum: “What about nudity in art?” This thread is not about nudity per se, especially in art. I’m a Catholic and I’m absolutely in love with Italy. It follows *almost* of necessity that I don’t have a problem with nudity in art. But there’s a HUGE difference between tastefully expressing the beauty of the human body and using the human body and nudity to simulate the sexual act toward prurient interest.
The Balanced Application
So does that mean we avoid Chris Nolan’s latest film and others like it? Deacon Steve goes on to say…
Steven D. Greydanus@DecentFilms (Jul 24, 2023)
That said, unless a movie is clearly pornography, I wouldn’t say there is an absolute moral duty not to watch it. The presence of problematic or even immoral elements doesn’t automatically make it impermissible to watch an otherwise substantially valuable film.
Other Catholics I found online agree with this thought as well.
Greg Hillis@gregorykhillis (July 26, 2023) I saw Oppenheimer last night. That there are Catholics wringing their metaphorical hands on here because of the brief nudity in the film and *not* because this nation created and used a weapon capable of mass suicide is unbelievably telling.
If someone’s conscious bothers them about seeing a film with nudity in it and they find it morally unacceptable I wouldn’t give them grief about it. There trying to please the Lord by not being in a occasion of sin. But if someone else doesn’t come to that same conclusion, you shouldn’t give them grief about it either. Folks over on Twitter have been giving Fr. Casey Cole a hard time about seeing both movies. He generally had good things to say about them both.
Fr. Casey, OFM@caseyofm (Jul 21, 2023)
I may never watch Oppenheimer again, but man… watching that in IMAX was incredible.
Just hand over every Oscar dealing with sound design and visual effects now.
Fr. Casey, OFM@caseyofm (Jul 23, 2023)
How loud is Oppenheimer?
While watching Barbie last night, in an adjacent theater, there were moments we could hear rumbling and feel our seats moving.
There are a lot of things in it not fit for every audience, but if you plan to see it, you have to see it in theaters.
Fr. Casey, OFM@caseyofm (July 25, 2023)
It amazes me, 2000 years later, how like the Pharisees some Christians can still be.
Association with something—even pointing out something good in it—is not a full endorsement of all that thing.
Everyone remembers that Jesus dined with prostitutes, right?
Maybe this will give you more of an idea of what the film is about.
On the opposite end of Crisis who concentrated on the boobs showed, Word on Fire took to talking about the bigger themes shown in the movie.
The central theme of the film—namely, the tension between what can be done and what ought to be done. With the help of his hyper-competent colleagues, Oppenheimer demonstrated that a bomb of epically destructive power could be created, and in the initial aftermath of the Hiroshima attack, he was elated. But what began to bother him more was whether this awful weapon should have been used. Catholic teaching would never countenance doing something intrinsically evil in order that good might come of it. Oppenheimer’s Frown – Word on Fire
WOF also gives lament over the sex portrayed on the film while still concentrating on the larger questions raised.
The film raises more moral and political questions than can be addressed here. Can “great” men be “good”? Why do great men so often fail as husbands and fathers? (Unfortunately—and uncharacteristically for a Christopher Nolan film—Oppenheimer’s extramarital affairs are portrayed with gratuitous sexuality.) Reason, Faith, and Oppenheimer (Part I) – Word on Fire
And over at America Magazine.
A heady, visually arresting and ultimately terrifying tour de force, “Oppenheimer” is both a startling re-examination of American history through the piercing eyes of a man who shaped it and a bleak warning about the nuclear age. Shifting between blazing color and stark black-and-white cinematography, the film is bifurcated by Oppenheimer’s leadership of the Manhattan Project, the clandestine government program to build the world’s first atomic weapon, and an infamous 1954 security hearing that saw Oppenheimer railroaded by McCarthyites for his prior left-wing sympathies. The film covers enough historical ground to warrant a semester-long college course, and it is worth a second viewing to digest all its contents. ‘Oppenheimer’ is a pitch-dark American nightmare. We cannot look away. | America Magazine
In case you want to know more about the video without actually seeing it.
As important as it is to keep custody of the eyes, it is also important not to miss an opportunity to engage the community of the larger discussion about the Catholic worldview which the movie provides an opportunity for. I haven’t watched Oppenheimer yet. I didn’t want to watch another 3 hour film at night when I had just sat through the Barbie movie.
I saw Barbie in a packed theater that laughed at certain times. The film starts out with a parody of the opening scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey. From there it takes its fantasy world of Barbieland on a metaphysical and literal journey into the real world after Stereotypical Barbie starts thinking about death. The film is self aware of the fictional universe it is apart of , even making reference to the choice of Margot Robbie playing Barbie in the movie by the narrator. It’s like the Toys in Toy Story got a chance to interact with people in the real world and just stayed there. Barbie did appear in Toy Story 2 in a key comedic role.
There is so much in the film to unpack and dissect. It pokes fun at the male/female stereotypes and the war between the sexes. It has philosophical ponderings, relationship issues, Barbie history, great music and musical dance numbers, spoof, parody and of course references to pop culture. In one of the best gags in the film is a scene in which one of the Kens jumps at the chance to explains to a Barbie the complexities of the Godfather movie is comedy gold. Read Every Reference in Barbie, From The Matrix to The Godfather | Time for more interesting tidbits. There is so much complexity in this film and it is better explained in this video regarding the Deeper Meaning of the film.
And speaking about the deeper deeper meaning of the film.
Gerwig says that she has a tendency to rely on these “older story forms” due to her Catholic upbringing.
“I think I always go back to those older story forms because I went to Catholic school and I resonate with them,” she added.
The 39-year-old attended St. Francis Catholic High School, an all-female school in Sacramento, California. She’s listed as an alumnus on the school’s webpage.
This is not the first time that Gerwig — or the “Barbie” cast — spoke about the film’s references to religious art and tales.
Some More Barbie Thoughts
I mentioned Fr. Casey above. Here is what he had to say about it.
Fr. Casey, OFM@caseyofm (Jul 22, 2023)
Not even joking
Barbie was an amazing film that I thoroughly enjoyed
And there were parts of it that were heavier and more discomforting than Oppenheimer.
And when he got flack for it.
Fr. Casey, OFM@caseyofm (Seriously. Everyone needs to relax. The movie isn’t perfect, but it’s way more good than bad. Patriarchy is satirized tons of times by characters not knowing what that word means and matriarchy is shown to be just as harmful. Anything that oppresses is bad.
Meanwhile over at Catholic World Report
She did make another journey. And it’s a pretty powerful one. Hence the article you’re reading about a doll.
Along the way, in her sojourn in the real world and her encounter with her creator, Barbie sees the authentic, profound beauty of actual flesh-and-blood life. And these moments are deeply moving: when Barbie encounters an older woman at a bus stop , a woman whose face is kind, wrinkled, bearing the gift of time, and Barbie says in soft surprise, “You’re beautiful.” The woman responds, “I know it.” And Barbie (for the first time?) sheds a tear.
In another spot near the end, Ruth Handler, Barbie’s creator, presents her with images of real women and girls—and it’s beautiful, simple and real. Not very pink at all, either.
And finally over at America.
But for a project that is arguably an action-packed, 114-minute commercial for a doll, the main thematic takeaway from “Barbie” is that life as a real woman is significantly more difficult but resolutely more worthwhile than “life in plastic” could ever be.
If you don’t want to see Barbie or Oppenheimer for moral or other reasons do so in complete freedom. If you disagree with this opinion don’t hassel others who feel different.
If you do want to see Barbie or Oppenheimer do so in complete freedom as long as neither are an occasion of sin for you. If you disagree with this opinion don’t hassel others who feel different.
And seriously you have to see Barbie in order to critique it.
If you don’t see Oppenheimer at least talk about the real world history that it brings to the limelight and enter a broader discussion that it presents.