I’m a musician, a songwriter (not professional) and at the end of my time in college, it was realistic to think I’d spend the rest of my life in theater. All of that to say, I love the arts. I honestly am not super “artsy” in the stereotypical sense. I don’t spend my spare time staring at trees and pontificating on the beauty of nature – imagining how it could be translated into some other medium. If the prior example is a 10 on the artsy scale, I probably belong towards the middle.
I’ve always had a tendency toward the arts but it surfaced again when I was in literature class in my junior or senior year of high school. We’d read some period piece and the teacher would inevitably ask us for the moral of the story or for the overarching theme. I’d watch most of my classmates struggle and shrug and I suddenly realized I was different. It was obvious to me. I didn’t really even have to work at it.
And it translates to other areas. I could pick up on people’s motives from conversation and body language. It was very helpful in auditions and interviews. I knew when I had buy-in and everything was “working” and when it wasn’t. The downside is that it’s very hard to turn off. It’s always been hard to just enjoy something in the “ignorance is bliss” sort-of-way. My antennas are always up for intention and motivation. It drives my wife crazy. I can actually suppress my reactions and commentary when it comes to friends and acquaintances but you tend to be yourself the most with your spouse. It’s actually what makes us a great team. She’s a very task-oriented, concentrate on what’s in front of her kind of person and I’m the big picture, what’s the long-term implications guy.
If at any point-in-time it presented itself front and center, it’s when we started raising our children. Anyone who has children knows you immediately become more aware of your surroundings. Even a person who uses coarse language is more sensitive to it coming from other sources when their children are involved. And regardless of upbringing, there’s something inherent in human nature that makes parents want to guard their children from negative influence. And because I have a tendency to pick up on things anyway, it sends my sensory perception into overdrive.
Art reflects culture. And our American culture is representative of so many different types of values. I happen to be a Christian so I subscribe to one of those many types of values. And parts of my belief system actually warn me to exclude things from my behavior that may more readily accepted in some of the other types. For those who aren’t familiar with Christianity, it actually is based in the notion of freedom. Not the kind of freedom defined as the absence of any restriction. It’s more like restricting things that are harmful provides the bounds for ultimate freedom. And a lot of those things are left up to us to pursue or not. The Bible actually says all things are permissible but not necessarily beneficial (1 Corinthians 10:23). So, with some guidance, we’re free to determine a lot of those boundaries on our own.
Even though I’m a Christian, I indulge in a broad range of art. I write both Country and Christian music as well as listen to and appreciate most types. When it comes to movies, I watch most genres. And because a lot of movies and music are created by people with different worldviews, I’m exposed to different belief systems. Over time, I’ve had to wrestle with ideas that conflict with my ideologies and determine where they fit. So, as we’ve raised our children, we’re gradually allowing them to venture into new territory as they’re able. They pick up on the more noticable things like coarse language or obvious innuendo. I think the things more concerning to me are the ones that are not so easily discernible.
An example I’ve noticed as a trend in film the last several years has been the re-characterization of villains into heroes. I love the movie, Maleficent. I’ve watched it with the kids many times and it’s amazing. But the underlying moral to the story is something that’s being weaved more and more into movie/television themes. It would go something like:
What appears to be evil may not be; it may be that it’s just misunderstood.
On the surface, most people would shake their head in agreement. And in the scenario presented in the movie, it is understandable. But the moral becomes dangerous when it’s applied in a broader scope. If someone has a different (perspective) belief system that leads them to pursue genocide, is it just that we don’t understand their cause? Or is there a real evil that exists outside of our perspective?
Like I said, it’s not stopped us from allowing our kids to watch movies and television in general. It’s just made us more aware and caused us to engage them in questions that help them begin think through tough areas. It’s surprising to me what they actually pick up at times. Some may say, “They’re just kids. Relax.” I get it. But as my wife often says, “We’re not raising kids. We’re raising adults.” I don’t know if it’s original but it’s true. If we don’t gradually introduce tough things to them, they’ll be overwhelmed with them at some point. And I’d certainly rather have them equipped with sound reasoning and solid belief system than have them revert to alternative methods of relief. I have a sneaky suspicion many others would prefer the same.