Friday, April 04, 2014

Can "Creative Liberties" Be Done on Bible Stories?

I am all for Hollywood making movies out of Bible stories.  However, with Noah and Son of God, I am extremely disappointed on how much of the movies’ respective plots and narratives appallingly distorted the Bible stories they were based from.  I wish they were never made in the first place. 

The Bible is not just an ordinary book.  It is the Word of God – worthy to be revered as much as humanly possible.  

Therefore, Bible stories are not just stories.  They are not mere historical narratives.  For while the Bible tells the biographies of many great men like Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Daniel, there is a bigger story behind them all – the story of God.  God is the main protagonist.  Through the epic stories of Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David, we get to know God more and develop a deeper understanding of and relationship with Him.   

Therefore, you can’t just simply fantasize the story of Noah like what you can with a historical figure like Abraham Lincoln.  You can re-invent Honest Abe into a vampire hunter, but it is not right to re-invent Noah into a tortured presider of human extinction.  Moreover, as much as it’s the fashion now to make movies of gritty re-inventions of fairy tales (Jack the Giant Slayer, Snow White and the Huntsman, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, etc.), the story of Noah is not at all a fairy tale, despite of what atheist’s think of it.  You can’t do the “gritty reinvention” treatment on Noah’s story, because, again, the story is not about Noah alone, but God’s also.  If you fictionalize Noah’s story, you also fictionalize the God of his story, and that will be blasphemy.    
But, again, I support Bible stories being depicted in media of entertainment – comics, novels, movies, cartoons, and in TV (they might be used to lead unbelievers to God).  Now, I understand that there is a need for “creative liberties” to “fill in the blanks” of the Bible stories and to “spice them up” – expanding them and making them more appealing.  However, I also understand that there is a danger to that, considering that the Bible is not intended for entertainment in the first place (Again, it is the Word of God; its purpose is light-years away from being just for superficial entertainment). 

There are passages in the Bible that warn us about adding or subtracting details from Scripture.  But I think this does not apply on putting additional details or artistic speculations that are trivial and wholesome in the narrative of a Bible story being depicted through an entertainment medium.   As long as the whole essence of the Bible story remains intact – that the “creative liberties” won’t twist it – I think that would be okay.  (I could be wrong, of course.  I could change my whole stand on this as I grow “spiritually wiser”, but as of right now, this is my perception of the matter.)       

These were done on the animated TV series Super Book and Flying House; the Manga Messiah comicbook; the reinterpretation of the story of Hosea and Gomer in Marion Wyse’s romantic novel, Hosea & Gomer; and even the movie, Passion of the Christ.  Example, in Flying House, the show provides backstories on those nameless people that Jesus had encountered and interacted with in his ministry, like the individuals that he had healed.  Those fictional additions didn’t twist the Biblical facts and message of the story at all, these were kept intact; instead, the impact of Jesus’ encounters with these nameless Bible characters was enhanced because they were made more engaging by their fictional backstories, which provided them personalities and depth. 

“Creative liberties” or “artistic license” are acceptable if and only if they don’t undermine, change, or abandon the Biblical message of the story; and when there are no omissions or revisions done – for the sake of storytelling convenience – of names, dialogues, chronology, and other details that are explicitly provided by the Scriptures. 

Son of God (no matter how feel-good it was) and Noah, however, violated the standards for acceptability that I’ve mentioned above.  Therefore, these films are heretical and blasphemous.  To those who are planning to watch something “religious” this upcoming holy week, don’t fool yourself that you are doing something spiritual by watching these “religious” movies. 

The best place for getting Bible stories is always, well, its source material, the Bible itself. It probably might not be as entertaining as a movie, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, you’ll find that the Bible can be more thrilling than any movie ever. Why? As I’ve mentioned about a couple of times before, the Bible is ultimately all about God – the most exciting thing there is!

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