Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Should Catholics give a nod to movies about man/boy sex?

UPDATE: I know, this is weird, a post starting out with an update?

I hadn't posted this yet, having had it floating around in my draft box for a while.  Deacon Greydanus has now come out here to address this review, saying that his review was a failure.

Nonetheless, there is something about the whole episode that is off putting.  He says he failed to convey his views, and yet didn't seem to address why this was a problem when set in juxtaposition to other films he has had no trouble trashing outright.  He insists he was only being a good film critic by addressing the film the way he did.  Nonetheless, if nothing else, he is good at making his point and often makes his criticism of films and what they do wrong more than crystal clear, in both video and written form.  Whether The Ten Commandments or Snow White, he is typically very clear about what he considers their weak points, be it making the Biblical narrative too Americanized, or wallowing in old sexist biases.

In this defense, however, he leans on needing to be nuanced so as not to give the wrong message to people about how Catholics approach such things, but he has had no problem blasting movies in other cases.  So again, the fact that his views of Call Me by Your Name were in no way able to be discerned by his viewers suggests a problem somewhere.  Why he so dropped the ball on this particular movie is anyone's guess.

So because his explanation left me still a bit puzzled, I'll post what I was going to post.  I didn't see this review because anyone pointed me to it, FWIW.  I caught it while looking up some info on the movie.  I didn't have anyone saying 'this is what he said.'  I watched the review and was taken by the vagueness myself.  Here is my post as I was prepared to publish.  Though he has given an explanation, I'm still curious enough to post my own thoughts as I experienced them:


"Just wondering [in answer to my headline's question]. Deacon Steven Greydanus seemed to give a somewhat favorable review to the new movie called Call Me by Your Name that celebrates a burgeoning love affair between an adult male and a seventeen year old boy.  He was just seventeen, and you know what I mean.

I guess all that stuff we heard about during  the Roy Moore campaign regarding sex perverts going after seventeen year olds is now old hat, and it's back to sex any way you can get it, as long as two or more individuals of varying ages consent.

Now, Deacon Greydanus does point out that the movie is basic post-modern hedonism 101, where sex, sex, and more sex is the only Logos worth speaking.  But he then turns around and gives it what can only be called a glowing review, at least as a film.  He speaks of its beauty, its quality as a movie, the overall positive impact it conveys as a work of art.   Or at least he appears to neutrally appraise its message.

It's worth noting that in film class (yes I took film classes to fill out some of my extra classes in college), Triumph of the Will was said to have been a fine film, too. That was the point.  It was a well produced, excellent piece of movie making.  Of course it was a major propaganda piece for  Nazi Germany and the cult of Hitler.  Otherwise, a good movie all around.

The point made was that just because a movie is good doesn't mean it isn't evil.  From there, of course, we began examining other films, mostly in America, to see the underlying evil and propaganda behind their productions.

Yet I didn't see a clear line in Deacon Greydanus's review.  There was no 'But in terms of Catholic teaching, there is no way in hell we can give it a thumbs up since, well, we aren't into man/boy sex no matter how beautifully filmed.'  You're left with an acknowledgment of the obvious, that the film is a sales pitch for modern sexual hedonism plain and simple, but a fine and quality film at that.

I kept waiting for him to say 'And this is why the movie is a clear and flagrant propaganda piece for the modern hedonism and sexual licence, making it clear that where two men are sexual, there is simply no morality, which is why it's thumbs down all the way.'  I came from it not at all sure that Greydanus didn't love the movie.  Maybe he didn't, and he was simply being vague, or non-committal.  I don't know.  What think you?  Was he making it clear that this movie is an affront to almost anything that the Catholic Faith affords as decent?

It's worth noting, and I should say as a disclaimer, that I don't read Deacon's film page that often.  Sometimes he makes good points, but he is, from what I can tell, simply part of the post-modern way, whereby he reviews what he reviews, and ignores what he ignores.  There is no concept of 'movies that are important whether I like them or not since we're all part of one big, happy civilization'.  There is no review of Gone With the Wind, The Godfather, Cool Hank Luke, or scores of others known as essential films.  I don't know why or how any film critic could not mention those.  It would be like a page devoted to European composers not having references to Beethoven, Mozart or Bach.  His propensity for lifting up CGI superhero and fantasy/sci fi movies (giving The Phantom Menace a B+ rating, while giving the celebrated epic Lawrence of Arabia an A-), suggests he's more post-modern in his film reviews than he might think, or I care for.

Nonetheless, it's certainly the case that if he can look at a movie about an adult man seducing a seventeen year old in the age of Roy Moore and give it a positive spin, if not to the same level that Vox did, it screams something is wrong.  Bad wrong."

UPDATE II: If fairness to Deacon Greydanus, here is his written review, which is far more blunt.  Why his video review was so accepting and positive without a clear line drawn against what it promoted, I don't know.  Again, be it video or written, he has never had a problem drawing that sort of a 'here was the good, here was the bad' with films before.  I can't help but wonder if the power and the terror of the LGBTQ movement has pushed Christians into such a retreat that we actually thing ongoing surrendering and acquiescing is our only hope.  I dunno.  Nonetheless, the post remains because I can't help but think his video review says something.


  1. I came from it not at all sure that Greydanus didn't love the movie.

    Insert tacky priest joke here...

    1. Well, I'm just shocked that given Deacon Greydanus was one of those with torches and pitchforks in hand after Roy Moore, for him to turn on a dime and give this sort of a review. True, the written one is a bit clearer, but on the whole he's not nearly as upset with the movie as he was with Moore. And that alone says something.

    2. That is a fair point. And it's stuff like that where it's hard to avoid the conclusion that it wasn't the age difference they had a problem with but the apostasy from liberalism.

    3. I think that is what struck me. When this movie first hit the praise-circuit, it was impossible not to see the glaring hypocrisy. And from a Catholic POV, it wouldn't take anything to say 'while a beautifully filmed movie, it clearly runs afoul of everything we've been talking about for the last several months', or something similar.

  2. While I understand your issue, I don't understand why not just take him, at his word that it was a screw up or as he says a failure?

    1. For me, it's that he leans on 'this is how I review movies', when that wasn't really the point. I may not agree with many of his reviews, but I always understood his points: what he liked, didn't like and thought of a movie. This time there was no way to figure it, and apparently I wasn't the only one confused. And given that he was one who very visibly had no problem condemning Roy Moore, to turn around and suddenly seem so - confusing - about a movie that spoke to the same issue, even though he is often very well spoken and communicates well, just seemed more than strange.

    2. But, why imply motive? Especially, when he has admitted the video review was a failure and you have a written review that is a lot clearer.

    3. Because his explanation - it's how a film critic should always approach movies - isn't how he typically approaches movies. That he so stumbled in a movie promoting this issue suggests a growing problem with that element of the Church trying to find common ground with the emerging modernity. Just like the Religious Right of old. I remember once, during the Clinton Lewinsky scandal, I was at chapel service at seminary. A fellow got up and ripped into Clinton by quoting Ephesians 5, but leaving out the 'greed' part. Freudian slip. That came to my mind here.

      Since his explanation didn't really jive with his typical approach, it just leaves you to wonder why, in this case, with this subject matter, in light of his typically concise and clear communication skills and his clear, unwavering condemnation of such a subject during the Roy Moore campaign, was it so vague.

      I'm not saying it was purposeful (and it might not have been for the fellow at the chapel service). It could have been subconscious. But it certainly is something worth thinking on.

  3. It comes down to serving two masters. You can only serve one.

    1. It might seem to work for a time, but eventually a choice will have to be made.


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