The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long for and Echo the Truth (2014) Mike Cosper
Trade paperback, 236 pages
Bibliography, notes, general index, scripture index
Storytelling is part of our being, part of who we are not just as a culture, but as human beings. Of course film and television are just two aspects of a larger universe of storytelling, but they are two enormous aspects, venues that we continue to explore when seeking entertainment.
It might seem too simplistic to place all movies/TV shows into one of four categories relating to the Christian worldview – creation, fall, redemption, consummation – but Cosper makes a reasonable case for just that. Sure, we could look at movies like The Truman Show or The Descendants and say, “That reflects the fall” or proclaim that Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy belongs in the “redemption” category. It’s easy to get caught up in labels and when we begin assigning them, we immediately close the door on any examination of their depth and complexity. Rather than labeling, Cosper’s aim is to get people who love movies and TV to dig deeper, examining the truths behind the stories, regardless of the worldviews of the people who make them.
We find the characters in film and TV fascinating because they’re human, they’re like us. There’s something of ourselves that we can see and relate to, more often than not. Yet a Christian worldview would make the further claim that humans were created by God and reflect his image. As such, the innate need to create works of beauty and honesty is also a reflection of that image. When we delve into those films and shows, we’re learning more about ourselves, but we’re also reaching for something bigger than ourselves.
Cosper isn’t necessarily concerned with “Christian” films such Fireproof or Facing the Giants. I don’t necessarily go to a Christian mechanic to fix my car or a Christian barber to cut my hair. I just want a good mechanic and a good barber. When I watch a movie, I want to see a good movie made by a director, cast and crew who want more than anything else to tell a good story. I want a story, not a sermon. I want creators who are exploring what it means to be human, and when creators do that with honesty, the results often include some not-so-pleasant stuff. Yet in the midst of that stuff, most creators are asking questions and telling stories that often mirror creation/fall/redemption/consummation stories.
I don’t know if Quentin Tarantino consciously thought about grace and redemption when he made Pulp Fiction, but those themes run all through that film. They also run through Magnolia, The Mission, Pretty Woman and Punch-Drunk Love, to name just a few. Again, Cosper isn’t trying to label films as much as he’s trying to get us to think about and discuss how we deal with these issues as Christians and share them with other people.
Regardless of your beliefs, I hope you’ll give The Stories We Tell a look.