Seeking a Social Network: The Oscars 2011
- Thursday, February 24, 2011
Some people have been disappointed that the Church (represented in the film by Derek Jacobi's Archbishop of Canterbury) is not the agent of the king's transformation, but I tend to think of "church" a little more liberally these days. Where love is present, where people are being called to their highest and best, where challenge and encouragement are offered alongside each other, we're seeing something beautiful and sacred, even if no one is wearing a funny hat. That's what human interaction—what community—helps us do. Without Queen Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter in a dowdy but inspiring role), without Logue, King George could not have stepped up to a microphone, could not have called his people to stand firm against the Nazi menace, and the whole world would have suffered as a result. I too wish for our faith communities to be the agents of positive change in the world and in the lives of individuals, and this movie helps me desire that even more. And it reminds me: We need each other.
No film this year proves that more than Toy Story III, which has no chance to win as Best Picture, although many reviewers have named it one of the best pictures of 2010. My screenwriter friends and I agree that the Pixar films are generally among the best-written films in Hollywood, and that holds true for this second Toy Story sequel as well. Woody (Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) are still the heroic central characters, but what's important is that they are the central figures in a larger community, and that they find their ultimate meaning in relationship.
What does it mean to be a toy if your owner doesn't play with you any more? (Or, to put it in human terms, what does it mean when you've done something your whole life, and now nobody wants you anymore?) You can become bitter, angry, alienated, as Lotso Hugging Bear (Ned Beatty), the movie's villain does. You can use people instead of loving them. Or you can decide that whatever happens, you're going to experience it in community, which is what the toys decide. Good times or bad times, live or die, if you are with the people you love, if you are with the people who believe in you, then anything can be faced. Even the end.
I was one of many grown-ups who teared up at the end of Toy Story III—an animated sequel about toys—and I'm not ashamed to say it. This year, as every year, I need to be reminded about the importance of community. I need to hear it from the pulpit, I need to hear it from my car speakers, and I need to hear it in story after story. What I find in these films this year reminds me that I am on a journey with other people, that I am diminished when I think that my desires should be paramount, and that only in community can I attain lasting joy and peace.
I don't know if Hollywood needs a hug, but I do.
And this year, I feel like these films provided it.
Greg Garrett is the author of works of fiction, criticism, and theology, including The Other Jesus from Westminster John Knox Press. He is Professor of English at Baylor University, and a licensed lay preacher in the Episcopal Church. He is a regular columnist on religion and politics for Patheos.com. This article is part of the Patheos Expert Series at Patheos.com. Reprinted with permission.
Publication date: February 21, 2011
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