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movie review

This tag is associated with 12 posts

Disney’s “Aladdin,” A Christian view – silence, tradition, and justice

Disney’s “Aladdin” is a remake of a beloved animated classic. The film is a feast for the eyes and ears, with a few tweaks to the original that will be debated by longtime fans. I’d like to offer a reflection on the film from a worldview perspective. There will be SPOILERS, of course.

Aladdin and Temptation

One of the major themes of Aladdin is that of character. What kind of people are the characters, really? Aladdin at first appears to be nothing but a common criminal, but we quickly find that his thieving is in order to survive. He sings: “Gotta eat to live, gotta steal to eat” and, though the song presents it as a tongue-in-cheek moment (“I steal only what I can’t afford/(That’s everything)”), it already presents viewers with questions about the society in which he lives and the rightness or wrongness of his actions.

Aladdin is then faced with a huge test: what will he do with three wishes that seem to have no limits other than his imagination (or to wish for more wishes, of course)? As his relationship with Jasmine encounters a few lumps, he considers using his last wish to improve his situation even more, going against his promise to the Genie. The Genie, for his part, has acted as a moral compass throughout, asking whether Aladdin really wants to go “that way” and variations on that question multiple times. Aladdin is facing temptation, and he ultimately passes the test. After stopping Jafar, he gives Genie his freedom.

The temptation Aladdin faced was made more acute by his social situation. Coming from utter poverty, he was faced with the choice to descend into decadence and deceit in order to maintain his newfound power or to risk what he’d gained being honest. Of course, it certainly helps that he’d already saved the Kingdom multiple times.

The temptation of Christ in the desert is something I thought of as I reflected on this scene of temptation of Aladdin. In that part of Christ’s life, the deceiver offers Jesus all the power in the world if he will but bend the knee to him. But Jesus rejects this temptation, staying on a path that would ultimately lead to his death for us.

Justice

Agrabah is a Kingdom full of injustice. The streets overflow with people in need, and Princess Jasmine is touched by their plight and determined to do something about it. Her exploration of the city is not portrayed in this film as a flight of fancy, trying to escape for a day of adventure from the palace. Instead, Jasmine is trying to determine the state of her people and use that, she hopes, to rule better than she could have otherwise.

The Christian faith makes it absolutely clear that we are to care for the poor. Time and again, Jesus warns about the dangers of wealth and the fact that we cannot serve money and God. Additionally, throughout the Bible demands are made that we care for the poor and the refugee.

Jasmine’s own concern for the poor is a model of character. Placed into a position of great poverty and wealth, she seeks to understand the plight of those who are in need. The movie doesn’t go beyond a resolution that places her as Sultan, though her character leaves us in little doubt over what her actions will be.

Silence and Tradition

Jasmine is also central to the plot in another way: as a challenge to the silencing of marginalized voices and the wielding of authority to do so. She briefly hints at the concept of being told to go “speechless” early in the movie. Both her father and Jafar have repeatedly told her that women are to be silent, seen and not heard. In a climactic scene in which Jafar takes over as Sultan, she erupts into a powerful song that pushes back against this silencing of women that. She sings, in part:

I won’t be silenced
You can’t keep me quiet
Won’t tremble when you try it
All I know is I won’t go speechless
Speechless

She here makes the decision to speak up, appealing to the guards to push back against blind allegiance to tradition and authority and instead look to standards that go beyond that. Though not made explicit at all, it is clear in this scene that there is a higher standard than that of tradition or the authority vested in a seat like the Sultanate. Her wisdom challenged the tradition to show that it was mistaken.

Too often in our churches, appeals are made to authority or tradition to do the very same thing that Jafar and the Sultan tried to do to Jasmine: silence women. Instead, we are taught that there is “no man and woman” in Christ (Galatians 3:28) and that women were prophets, deacons, and apostles in the church. Like Jasmine, let us raise up women who won’t go speechless so that we can hear their wisdom as they wisely point us towards Christ.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more.

Engaging Culture: A brief guide for movies– I outline my approach to evaluating movies from a worldview perspective.

I have a number of ways in which I have critically engaged with culture in movies, books, and other arts in my posts on current events (scroll down for more posts).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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“The Martian” – Hope, Humanity, and God- a Christian look at the film

the-martian-movieThe Martian is receiving some excellent reviews from critics, and for good reason. It is a stirring story about humanity and our capacities and drive to survive. Here we will look at the worldview htemes found in the film. There will be SPOILERS in what follows. I will not be summarizing the plot, but a summary can be found here.

Hope and Humanity 

A major theme of the movie is that of hope. Mark Watney, the astronaut left behind on Mars, becomes the center of hope of the entire world. All eyes were following as he continued to fight against the unforgiving Red Planet. When the mission to rescue him finally comes to a climax, there is a scene of people around the globe watching in anticipation and hope. They celebrate merely hearing his voice.

I can’t help but think about the hope of the shepherd in a certain story told be a Jew in Galilee, in which the celebration over but one lost sheep was immense. There is an inter-connectedness that humans experience as we seek to help others and exult in the triumphs even of strangers in need.

Perhaps the central theme in the movie is that of the very, well, human-ness of humanity. We need companionship, and the poignancy of that is found throughout the film. Mark fights against the loneliness he feels by fighting one problem after another. But simply hearing someone’s voice is enough to send him celebrating, and when the rest of his mission team come to rescue him–and he can hear his commander’s voice for the first time, the overwhelming sensation of emotion he feels leads him to tears.

Humanity was not made to be alone.

 

God?

By no means does this film offer much related to worldview issues about God, but there are a few moments worth mentioning. The first is when Mark has to whittle a crucifix in order to get some material to burn for making water. He looks at the figure of Christ on it and says that he thinks that Jesus wouldn’t mind him using it to save his life. Though this never develops beyond a joke, it is interesting to see how it ultimately is a kind of salvation through the cross–this time in a very literal sense.

Prayer is hinted at when the head of NASA asks the head of the Mars projects whether he believes in God. The answer that came was unexpected: with a Baptist mother and Hindu father, “I believe in several.” The response? “We need all the help we can get.”  Again, this joking moment does reveal a hint of truth: that God is the one who provides help. Of course, not the many gods of Hinduism, but the true God is the one who saves.

Conclusion

“The Martian” is a great film. It explores the human need more than most films ever even touch on. These needs reflect deeply ingrained desires that mesh well with the Christian worldview. Only in Christ can we ultimately find the consummation of hope.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Andy Weir’s “The Martian” A Christian Look at the Book: Humanity, Community, and Hope– I look at the the worldview themes found throughout the book on which the film was based.

Also see my other looks into movies (scroll down for more).

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“Elysium” – Our Hopes, Greed, Class, and Suffering

elysium“Elysium” is one of a string of recent action flicks which have taken to exploring bigger issues than how to make the biggest explosion. Here, we’ll look at some themes in the movie and reflect on how they might resonate with the Christian worldview. There will be SPOILERS for the film in what follows. I will not summarize the plot, though a summary may be found here.

Greed and Suffering

The story seems to center around the issue of greed. After all, the premise is essentially that human greed leads to great suffering. The question of whether there is a moral obligation to end suffering is front and center in the movie. The citizens of Elysium live a life of luxury, conveniently located far away from the strife that inhabitants of Earth must undergo. There is a clear and obvious dichotomy between the lives of the people planetside and those on the space colony.

It’s a premise which seems obvious, but there is a twist in the film, which impacts the force of this question. Once the final outcome is determined, and the reprogramming of citizenship is brought about to include all people, Elysium’s automated defenses and medical robots immediately begin helping the people of Earth. Medical shuttles are dispatched with instant-healing devices to help the new citizens. This twist throws a wrench into the reasoning of the question of obligation to end suffering: what if one has nothing to lose in order to help others?

Thus, the question goes beyond mere greed. It is a question of how humans will seek to hold on to what they have, even when it costs nothing to help others. It’s a poignant way to portray the issue, and one which forces viewers to think upon their own attitudes regarding what we have and seek to hold on to.

Of course, this portrayal of the issue doesn’t take away from the question of whether there is an obligation to end suffering. I think the answer, from a Christian perspective, is that we of course do. Then, the question must be asked of how to best alleviate suffering. These and other questions are raised by the film, and in ways which provoke much continued thought.

Class

The issues of greed and suffering are also bookended in the film by the question of class. Even on Earth, where poverty seemed to be ubiquitous, class was an issue. There were those with jobs, those who begged, and those who turned to crime. The sharp distinction between citizens of Elysium and those of Earth makes the point even more obvious. Once again, as Christians, we are forced to ask how we might address this issue of inequality. There are to be no such distinctions in the body of Christ (Galatians 3:28), so how might we help to work towards ending racial, class, and other inequalities on Earth?

Hope

There is a constant theme of hope in what seems like a hopeless world. The people of Earth realize that help could come from Elysium, but they must get there first. They turn their hope to the stars, but there is a Nun who educates the young Max that there is beauty on Earth as well–beauty in humanity, despite our fallen nature.

Conclusion

“Elysium,” though featuring some objectionable content, is a film with much to ponder from a Christian perspective. How are we to approach other humans in a way which doesn’t undermine their dignity? We are to work to end suffering, to bring about equality. We are to prevent a scenario like “Elysium” from ever happening.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more.

Engaging Culture: A brief guide for movies– I outline my approach to evaluating movies from a worldview perspective.

I have a number of ways in which I have critically engaged with culture in movies, books, and other arts in my posts on current events (scroll down for more posts).

Elysium: Fighting for Paradise– Anthony Weber addresses a number of other worldview issues brought up in the movie on his fantastic site, Empires and Mangers. Be sure to follow his great blog.

The picture in this post is from a movie poster and I use it under fair use. 

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

An Apologist’s Insights on “God’s Not Dead”

gods-not-deadI recently had the chance to watch “God’s Not Dead,” a film which presents a story in which a college student decides to take a stand for his faith against the pressure of an atheistic philosophy professor. A summary of the plot may be found here. As an apologist with an MA in the field, I thought my comments might help provide some insight into the film. I’ll offer a look at some aspects of the film which I wanted to address. Feel free to chime in in the comments with your own thoughts.

Apologetics

The movie presents a clear picture of the need for apologetics. When challenged by attacks on the faith it is important to always have a reason for the hope within (1 Peter 3:15). Josh Wheaton–the protagonist–put together a decent presentation of various evidences for theism in the snippets that viewers get through the film. Of course, these are very simplified and don’t address several major issues with the arguments, but it gets the point across. It also, I have noted through conversations with others, spurred much interest in the area of apologetics. That’s awesome!

That said, I think there are some issues with even the arguments presented in the film. First, after Wheaton has presented the cosmological, design, and other arguments for theism, he is challenged by Professor Radisson on the notion that one just has to choose between atheism and theism. Wheaton acknowledges that yes, it is a choice. Now, there are a number of issues with this portrayal. First, it treats the balance of evidence as a kind of 50/50 proposition, which is, I would think, hardly the position of anyone. Second, it presents a view of belief in which we can just choose what we believe. This is called “doxastic voluntarism” which is a fancy way of saying that one can believe propositions at will. But that is a highly controversial position (just try to force yourself to believe that “Fairies fill my refrigerator every morning” and you’ll see the folly of it) and also flies in the face of biblical accounts of what faith is. Third, here I’ll tip my bias a bit and say I’m fairly well convinced that the balance of evidence is hardly 50/50 but actually compelling.

Another difficulty with the apologetic in the film is that it seems like the lynchpin argument offered was actually just a point of rhetoric. Wheaton presses Professor Radisson and asks “Why do you hate God?” and follows it up with [paraphrased]: “How can you hate someone who doesn’t exist?” This is the last straw and what prompts the class to vote by standing to say that “God’s not dead.” Although I think rhetoric has a clear place in the Christian apologetic (and has since the earliest times: see the apologetic works of Lactantius and Arnobius in the 200-300s AD), I thought it was an odd choice to make it the climactic argument for God. Perhaps it was because this added to the drama of the moment–and I suspect that’s right–but it did so at the cost of detracting from whatever apologetic the film could put forward.

I did, however, appreciate the interaction with some top scholars like Hawking and Lennox. I think it is very important for Christians interested in apologetics to read the top scholars in their fields in order to best get acquainted to the arguments.

Characters or Caricatures?

The way the Muslim father was portrayed was problematic. In the beginning of the film we see him dropping off his daughter and showing great concern for her. Later, he shares an intimate discussion of his faith and the importance of obedience in his background. But then, when it is revealed his daughter has converted to Christianity, he not only kicks her out of the house, but he also immediately hits her more than once. Now, I make no claims to being an expert on this, but I know from anecdotal evidence only that people are indeed kicked out of their homes for converting to Christianity (and sometimes for deconverting), and this is surely a bad thing. It’s not a bad thing to address this as an issue.

But the problem I saw was that the Muslim father’s immediate reaction was violence, without any explanation or any background for thinking this would be a reaction. The rest of the film up to this point had shown him as a caring father who was concerned for the faith and well-being of his daughter. To have him immediately turn to violence when she converted was jarring and I think it speaks to our cultural presuppositions about the religious “Other” to portray the “Other”–the Muslim–in that way. We need to move beyond such stereotypes and into genuine dialogue with those of other faiths, always looking to share the light and love of Christ with them.

On the positive side, the film did do a great job speaking to the importance of reaching out to others like the young man from China. It also emphasized missions in a number of ways, like centering some major plot points around a very amiable character as a missionary.

Pastoral Care

I appreciated the comments about the work of a pastor, in which Pastor Dave in the film was comparing his own work to that of a missionary friend’s and felt his own day-to-day tasks were mundane and trivial. The answer given by the missionary, however, was essentially that such work is part of the work of God as well and that we each occupy a place which God has put us in to make an impact on the world. I thought this was a great message and one that deserves further exploration.

On the other hand, I thought that the pastoral care at points in the movie presented some difficulties. For example, Pastor Dave’s conversation with Josh Wheaton before Wheaton decides to for sure stand up to his professor boiled down to a couple citations (not even quotations) of Bible verses to look up later and the comment that “It’s not easy, but it’s simple” [I may have the order in this quotation wrong]. I’ll be blunt: I think that this is actually a gross oversimplification. Quoting Matthew 10:33 (click for reference) does not actually make the issue facing Wheaton “simple.”

For example, would it be “denying” Christ to acknowledge that one might not have the resources available as a freshman student in a general studies philosophy class (and not a major) to take on a philosophy professor on the topic of God’s existence? I don’t think so. One could instead acknowledge that both the clearly adversarial tone taken in the environment and one’s own lack of knowledge or expertise in the area make it likely that one may actually harm the body of Christ by, well, looking like a freshman non-philosophy student outmatched by an atheistic philosophy professor. Wheaton, of course, has the benefits of film, so he is able to put together a beautiful powerpoint each week and manages to pound the books so hard that he can articulate the cosmological, design, and other arguments within a few days. But is this a realistic perspective? Moreover, is it a “simple” application of the passage to our lives?

Conclusion

“God’s Not Dead” awakens people to the need for apologetics. That is a great compliment, because it is a much-needed awakening. However, it has several issues (including those mentioned above) with the presentation of apologetics, its portrayal of the “Other,” and the oversimplification of several arguments, positions, and even pastoral care and reading of texts. In short, it’s a mixed bag.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“Edge of Tomorrow” – Sacrifice, Brutality, and Choice

edge-tomLive. Die. Repeat.

I had the chance to watch “Edge of Tomorrow” this past weekend and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the film. It was fantastic. Here, I’ll discuss several themes found in the movie from a worldview perspective. There will be SPOILERS in what follows. I will not summarize the plot, but a summary may be found here.

Choice

Major William Cage (Tom Cruise was brilliantly cast for this role) is presented with a number of choices throughout the film, and it becomes clear that he is not a typical save-the-world type of hero. He is flawed, he has passions, he loses hope. But throughout these aspects of the film, we find the notion of choice. Will Cage has been given an extraordinary opportunity to impact the entire human race. When his blood is mingled with that of an Alpha, his death sets off the “Omega” which resets the day. Over and over again, Cage is faced with a choice: what do I do with this day?

He finds Sergeant Rita Vrataski, who is one of the only people who also realizes what’s happening, though she herself doesn’t remember the days. The question, again, is what do I do with this day? Cage’s character is forced to consider that he has the ability to possibly save all of humanity. In such a situation, what choice does he have? But he does make some choices: he chooses to try to save Rita, to save others. But at other times, he gives in to frustration, allowing members of his squad to die despite being able to prevent it. Cage is not a knight in shining armor, but he confronts us with a human thrown into an impossible situation with the highest possible stakes.

Placing the concept of choice against such a backdrop makes for good drama, but it also begs the question: what are you doing with your day? From a Christian perspective, the choices we make are extremely important–we are called to be witnesses, lights to the world–but do our choices each day reflect that? Do we, like Cage, sometimes allow injustices despite having to put forth just a little extra effort? How do our choices impact our life in Christ? The movie demands that we answer questions like these.

Sacrifice

Cage is also confronted with a kind of self-sacrifice. By admitting he is what he is, he must go through a cycle in which he dies continually, in often brutal ways, in order to try to improve, to save humanity. It is sacrifice, but a sacrifice knowing that he will be back the next day. One must ask, I think, whether that actually diminishes the sacrifice. I don’t think it does. Cage must steel himself each day knowing that death will come again, and again, and again. The only way to prevent it is to save all of humanity by destroying the Omega. Though, in the end, Cage ultimately does give up his life for humanity, only to be brought back by having his blood mingled with that of the Omega. One is left wondering whether he will retain the power or not.

The self-sacrifice of Cage (and Rita) for the sake of humanity is clearly a theme which resonates with the central Christian teaching of Jesus Christ as crucified and resurrected Lord. However, beyond the obvious parallels of giving up life for the sake of all (and subsequent resurrection/awakening), the sacrifice of going in knowing one is to die is something that resonates with the story of Christ. I have sometimes seen a challenge issued theologically to the Christian teaching saying Jesus didn’t really sacrifice himself if he knew he was going to be risen by God. But of course that hardly destroys the notion of self-sacrifice and the real price paid of death. Being risen does not destroy the sacrifice of death.

Brutality

Live. Die. Repeat.

The theme is echoed throughout the film. It may cause one to wonder about the brutality of such a story and its appropriateness, but I think that from a Christian perspective one has to incorporate the rest of the themes found in the movie. The brutality of the cross is itself something from which people shy away, but set against the backdrop of salvation, brutality can become sanctified.

Community/Individual

I have not read the manga that “Edge of Tomorrow” was based on, “All You Need is Kill,” but I have heard that there is some juxtaposition over the primacy of the community vs. individual in either. “Edge of Tomorrow” shows this kind of valuation in many ways throughout the film. First, there is Cage’s continued efforts to save Rita, despite what it might cost–including going on one part of the mission alone in order to prevent her death. Second, there is the concept of both Cage and Rita valuing the community of humanity over the self by willingly spending all the time they have left trying to defend humanity rather than find a way to survive themselves. Finally, both Cage and Rita choose to place the community over the self when rather than trying to save one or the other, they both do what needs to be done and give themselves to save humanity.

For Christians, themes of community and individual are extremely important. It is easy in the Western mindset to become obsessed with the self, but a true community of individuals exists in the body of Christ–each as important as the next. How do we go about living our lives in light of this truth?

Conclusion

There are many other themes to be explored from “Edge of Tomorrow”- what of the Alpha/Omega? What happens to Cage and Rita after the end of the film? Were there any efforts to try to make peace or reach out to the “Mimics”–the aliens that they fight against throughout the movie? These are important themes, and I’d love to get discussion of those started in the comments. For now, it should be clear that the film has many themes to reflect upon and it is well-worth seeing. What did you think of the movie? What other themes have you thought of in relation to it? Let’s get your thoughts in the comments below!

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

All You Need Is Kill/Edge of Tomorrow– “Edge of Tomorrow” is based upon this graphic novel. Check out Anthony Weber’s excellent review and critique of the graphic novel from a Christian perspective. I really recommend you follow his blog as well. It’s in my top five must-read blogs, and it is worth your time to browse at length.

Movies– Read other posts I have written on the movies. Scroll down to see more!

The image is a movie poster for the film and I use it under fair use.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Disney’s “Frozen”- A Christian reflection

disney-frozenDisney’s “Frozen” has generated quite a bit of buzz, and for good reason. The movie is a feast for the eyes and ears. It’s a delight to watch, and it is filled with interesting thematic elements and humor. Moreover, as a Minnesotan, I feel right at home during this winter. Here, I’ll evaluate the movie from a worldview perspective. There will, of course, be SPOILERS hereafter.

Balance

The core of the tension in the movie is found in Elsa’s power. Her parents try to teach her to restrain it, but when put under duress, her power breaks free and she fled the castle. Interestingly, one may note that the total denial of her capability led to her cutting herself off from those who surround her.

Once she leaves the castle, she decides to break free of her self-restraint. The Oscar-nominated song “Let it Go” is indicative of this. Elsa sings:

Let it go, let it go!
Can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go!
Turn away and slam the door
I don’t care what they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on
The cold never bothered me anyway

It is interesting to see that there must be some balance between the two extremes. Elsa’s self-imposed restrictions upon her powers led to the separation from those she loved; her release endangers the entire kingdom. Her life, instead, must be lived along a balance. I can’t help but think of the words of Paul:

“I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but not everything is constructive.

Christian freedom is a freedom with restraint. There must be balance in the process of sanctification.

Women

Many have hailed “Frozen” for its portrayal of women. Neither Anna nor Elsa have a relationship foisted upon them for the main purpose of the plot. Anna’s developing relationship with Kristoff is made even more interesting by the contrast to her obsession with Prince Hans. Both women are independent. Some tongue-in-cheek humor could be found in the striking way in which both Kristoff and Elsa noted that Anna’s willingness to marry a man she just met that day was a bit absurd.

The plot is not driven by a love story; instead, it is driven by the need for reconciliation. Powerful, strong women are the ones who push the plot forward, while the men are sometimes helpful and even featuring shades of prince charming (Kristoff) or villainous and greedy (Hans). It is not that the portrayal of men is negative (as I just noted, there is a spectrum of motivations for the men involved); rather, it is that women are not seen as incapable of action. It is refreshing.

Our Own State

Elsa herself, far from being the quintessential villain, is someone with whom we may be capable of sympathizing. Like her, we are in a serious predicament brought about by our own actions: we live in need of aid. Our actions have sometimes horrific consequences. At other times, our consciences convict us of the wrongness of our deeds. We long to sing along with Elsa, crying out to “Let it Go” and stop caring anymore. But, like her, we realize that such a state is ultimately not be lauded but to be feared. We lash out at those we love due to our own guilt. Can there be salvation?

Christ

Interestingly, some have argued that the movie actually serves as an allegory of Christ. It is Anna who is wronged by Elsa, but it is only Anna who is able to right the wrong. The person who is wronged is the one who must make it right. Similarly, for the Christian, it is God who is wronged, but God is the only one capable of righting that wrong in the perrson of Christ. (I am here paraphrasing the post I linked to.)

The themes noted above come to fruition here. Our state is characterized by a recognition of the wrongness of our actions, but an incapability of bringing about the reconciliation required. Thus, it is up to the party wronged to bring about this reconciliation, through the true forgiveness offered in Christ.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Disney’s Frozen might be the most Christian movie lately– This post reflects upon the movie as an allegory of Christ. As noted, I derived much of the last section from the argument made in this post.

The Image featured in this post is the intellectual property of Disney. I make no claims to ownership and have used it under fair use for the purpose of critical evaluation of the film. To my knowledge the image is freely available as promotional material.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“Ender’s Game”: Fear and Hope in the Face of Annihilation- A Christian look at the film

EndersGameMoviePosterEnder’s Game is one of my all-time favorite books, so it was with some great anticipation that I looked forward to the release of the film. Here, we shall investigate some of the major themes that the film adaptation brings up in its portrayal of this epic science fiction novel. There will be MAJOR SPOILERS for the film in what follows.

Children and Violence

The first and most pervasive feature throughout the film is that of the boundaries crossed when placing children in situations which they should be protected from. It is much like the Hunger Games [I want to clarify: Ender’s Game was written long before Hunger Games and so any connections flow from Card to Collins!] in this regard, though Orson Scott Card’s book and the film take it much deeper.

The first and perhaps most poignant example of this is found early in the film, when Ender thinks he has been washed out from the possibility of command and so he no longer has the protection of adults monitoring him to make sure he is safe. He is approached by a group of bullies, but he uses his strong tactical sense to shame them into fighting him one-on-one. Then, he ruthlessly beats down one of the larger boys and continues kicking him while he is down. He does this, he explains later, because he wanted to make it so that his enemy could never come back and hurt him again. The key, for Ender, is to ensure not just that the enemy is unable to fight back now, but that they will be unable to do so ever. This survival instinct leads Colonel Graff to believe that Ender is right for battle school. But it leaves the viewer wondering about justice.

Elsewhere, the film deals rather pointedly with bullying. Ender continues to be alienated by his fellow students and they react with two common bullying tactics: they ostracize him and eventually, one tries to physically harm him. One scene shows how one can break the grip of bullying: by simply reaching out to the one who is bullied. The camera shifts to a top-down view and shows as one-by-one, students begin to sit next to Ender and abandon the bully. If we teach our youths to do the same: to reach out to understand instead of to conform to the pattern of the world and ignore the downtrodden, we could make steady strides against bullying.

The scenes of violence involving the children also do something that very few scenes of violence with adults are able to convey: the complete horror that is involved in such activities. One cannot help but be gripped by sorrow when one sees children reacting violently to each other. Very often, movies are unable to capture the wrongness of violence. I do not think it is far afield to suggest that blockbusters are even worse at doing so. One can imagine the amount of collateral damage wrought in a movie like “The Avengers,” yet the heroes are glorified and the violence justified by the end. “Ender’s Game” incredibly portrays the real awfulness of violence of human against human, and even of human against environment or nature. It is raw, powerful, and gut-wrenching.

Ends Justify…?

The viewer wonders throughout the entire film whether the cost is too high. Colonel Graff and Major Anderson engage in a brief dialogue on the question late in the story. Anderson notes that using children used to be a war crime, but Graff counters by arguing that humanity must do what they have to in order to ensure survival. In a way, his reasoning takes Ender as a foil. Both he and Ender agree upon the notion that the ends may justify the means.

However, the film doesn’t end with that message. Instead, Ender is forced to confront the reality that he has been used–lied to–in order to bring about the utter extinction of an entire alien sentient race. When faced with this truth, he reacts with extreme remorse and anger. Graff tries to reason with Ender, suggesting once more that they struck the enemy in such a way so as the enemy might never strike them back. But Ender suddenly realizes–with horror–that this is insufficient reason to justify his wiping out an entire species. He reacts angrily and is eventually sedated. The viewer is left to reflect upon the sheer enormity of what has happened. An entire sentient race has been extinguished by the activity of a child who was deceived into thinking he was merely playing games.

The child realizes it is horrible; the adults are the ones rejoicing.

From Death, Life: From Xenocide, Hope

I’ve already pointed out the way “Ender’s Game” depicts violence in such a way as to prevent it from being gloried. I’ll admit I was unsure of how I would react to the big reveal towards the end, when Ender discovers that he has been fooled into exterminating the “Buggers” [Formics–the alien race]. I wasn’t sure if the movie would depict it in such a way as to make the audience cheer and delight in the destruction of the enemy. However, I was totally blown away by the way it showed the scene. I couldn’t but be horrified when Ender turned to Graff and the other commanders of Earth’s military and said triumphantly, “Game Over.” I knew the twist that was coming, and that perhaps made it even more horrifying to me. Ender thought he was playing games, but those in charge knew he was not and cheer gleefully in the complete annihilation of a species which wasn’t even acting the aggressor any longer.

That alone would be an incredibly powerful message to leave viewers with, but Orson Scott Card did not write a book[and, by extension, the movie it spawned] that merely shows the horrors of such violence. Instead, the seeds of hope are scattered therein. The very end of the film shows the birth of life from death. One of the “Bugger” Queens has survived, and one egg for a new queen has been preserved. The Buggers had been trying to communicate with Ender, and they succeeded in getting him to find their last hope for preservation. Ender realizes almost immediately what he should do: take the egg to a place it will be safe. The film ends with Ender’s voice echoing the future story: that he would seek out a new home for the Buggers so that they could begin life anew.

Conclusion

“Ender’s Game” is a fantastic film. It is one with powerful messages for today. Yes, it has the moral message against bullying, and people who walk away only with that will have done well. But more deeply–and more powerfully because of this–it also shows the absolute horrors of violence. Harming others is not in any way glorified in this film. Ender realizes the wrongness of his own actions too late. Yet viewers are not spoon-fed this message. Indeed, the story begs to be debated. Do the ends justify the means in this case? Or perhaps Ender is right–understnading is more important. The themes provide much for anyone who watches the film to discuss.

Yet the most powerful message is saved for the very end: Life comes from death. It is brought about by an outsider, using means which could not have been predicted. And that is the most powerful and true message of all. It is a message which Christianity teaches: hope comes from the most hopeless situation, and it comes from the least expected direction, provided by God.

Links

“Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card: A Christian Reflection– I analyze a number of themes from the classic science fiction novel. It is extremely important to look into the

The Importance of Being Ender: A Closer Look at Orson Scott Card’s Modern Classic– Check out this look at the book by Anthony Weber at one of my favorite blogs, “Empires and Mangers.” It is well worth the read and also ha some very interesting links for more discussion of the book.

You liked Ender’s Game? Check out John Carter.

The Image is one of the official movie posters. I claim no rights to it.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“Monsters University” -A Brief Look from a Christian

monsters uI recently had the chance to see “Monsters University,” the latest from Pixar. I thought it was, overall, a delightful film. Here, I will share my thoughts on the movie from a Christian perspective. There will be SPOILERS below.

University Life

Pixar did an excellent job capturing the true feeling of adventure at university; the first step on campus, orientation, the first class, friends, and more. I’ll never forget the feeling of anticipating meeting the roommate for the first time; sitting in the first class, and the like. The antics, the fun, and the learning that went on was joyous, and Monsters University does a great job recreating it in film… with monsters.

But there is a darker side to university. Roommates can fall out of favor with each other (I’m thankful my roomie and I remain great friends!), pranks can go wrong, bullies have made it into school as well, and classes can be failed. Monsters University dives into these themes headfirst. Mike Wazowski and James P.”Sulley” Sullivan are immediately at odds. Sulley is able to ride his family name and his size to largely succeed at the school; Mike continues to hit the books. Sulley gets credit for anything good that happens around him; Mike is left in the dust.

However, when Sulley and Mike are both kicked out of their program as “scarers,” they end up being thrust together on a team to try to make it back. In the time that follows, Sulley has to cope with his own inadequacies, Mike has to realize that he needs to work with a team, and the rest of the team learns about their own strengths.

There is a call in this movie: a call to realize there is more to people than meets the eye. Everyone has unique strengths and weaknesses. There is also a call to realize one’s own inadequacies and the need to work together with others.

At today’s university, we are also assaulted by a vast array of choices. One scene in the movie poignantly addressed this: Mike is walking through campus, where stands are set up all around calling for his attention: should he join the debate team, the art club, the scare contest, or others? Similarly, there are any number of things vying for our youth’s attention when they go to university. Have we equipped them to deal with the choices they will inevitably need to make?

Scaring

There is something to be said for the notion that scaring is a good thing among the monsters. This theme is treated with great lightness as a children’s film, but at points it seemed disturbing to me. These monsters need to harvest the screams of children (or others) in order to supply power for their society. Thus, they sneak into a child’s room and scare them in order to make them scream. Although these monsters are generally “nice” “people,” the fact that their job is to scare children as much as possible seems a little untoward.

The question for Christians here, I think, is how much we allow artistic license. Clearly, this film is a fantasy. The monsters are portrayed as “good guys” but this doesn’t necessitate that monsters are bad guys, it is simply a plot device. But, one may press, they are still monsters, and they are still scaring people for a living. How do we discuss such themes?

Garret Johnson has argued that “In all meaningful fiction, there exists an element of fear… The reason all humans respond to this kind of story, the reason the profound reality of fear preceding the most meaningful outcomes resonates with us, is because this is the story of our universe.”

He grounds this discussion in the fact that our own story–the Christian story–points to this reality. There is fear of death, but it is overcome; from tears, joy; from death, life.

Conclusion

“Monsters University” is comedy which will take adults back to days in school, with all the good and bad times that may offer. The themes of reconciliation and teamwork are refreshing, and the undertone of fear is an intriguing thing to speculate upon. How much does fear point us back to our reality; what hope is there in our lives? Will our tears be turned to joy?

Clearly, these questions go well beyond the scope of the film itself. But that does not mean one cannot use the film to dive into the deeper aspects of reality. For those looking to do so, “Monsters University” provides a compelling way forward. For those who aren’t, I would suggest that the themes found therein–particularly of reconciliation and the need to prepare our children for university–are worth the watch.

Links

Like this page on Facebook: J.W. Wartick – “Always Have a Reason.”

Fiction and Fear– Over at Hieropraxis, Garret Johnson writes about the interesting links between fiction and fear. Check out this post for some very interesting discussion.

Be sure to check out my other looks at movies here (scroll down for more).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Pixar’s “Brave”- A Christian Perspective

Disney Pixar’s “Brave,” a tale of a young Scottish girl’s coming of age, released recently. I am a huge Pixar fan so I couldn’t wait for this one. In what follows, I will provide a brief overview and review of the movie, followed by some Christian reflections. If you’re only interested in the reflection, skip down to the “Themes to Discuss” section.That said, it should be obvious that there are major plot spoilers below.

Brief Plot Overview

Brave follows Merida, a princess whose father in some ways endorses her Tom boyish ways, while her mother tries to get her to be the perfect princess. Conflict rages when Queen Elinor, her mother, tells Merida she is to be wed to one of the firstborn sons of the other clan leaders. Merida would rather marry in her own time and for love, while still being able to pursue her love of archery and other warrior’s tasks.

Ultimately, Merida seeks the help of a witch, to whom she was led by will-o’-the-wisps (in this movie, spirits which lead you to your fate), in order to change her mother. Her lack of specificity leads to her mother being turned into a bear. King Fergus, her father, is known for having his leg cut off in an epic battle with Mor’du, the demon bear, and so her mother’s shape turns her into a mortal enemy of her father. Merida thus has to balance keeping her mother safe with trying to turn her back before the change becomes permanent. Not only that, but the tribes are bordering on open war as they desire to have Merida’s betrothal announced.

Merida manages to calm the tribes with a speech somewhat guided by her mother-bear. In the speech she endorses marriage for the sake of love instead of arrangement. The climax comes when her mother-bear is discovered and King Fergus leads the tribes to pursue her, thinking the bear has killed his wife. As they are about to kill Queen Elinor-bear, Mor’du arrives. Elinor-bear fights Mor’du to protect Merida and eventually defeats him, but sustains great injury to herself. Merida manages to undo the spell by finally admitting that it was she herself who did this to her mother, turning her into a bear because of her own pride (before she had been saying it wasn’t her fault). Her mother returns to herself, and the tribes leave, convinced that one should marry for their own love. Happy endings all around.

Brief Review

I liked the movie a lot but I can’t help but think it was missing something. Merida herself is little involved in the climax; instead, it is her mother who pulls all the weight. Because her mother spends much of the movie unable to talk, it is hard to relate to the character as much as it is to Merida. It seems, in some sense, by the end, that although Merida has experienced a coming-of-age, she is still very reliant upon her parents.

Further, it seemed to me that they could have developed Merida’s own character more before the plot began to roll in full swing. The action scenes experienced with Merida were wonderful, but they were few and far between. It would have been significantly more interesting to have Merida developed further in order to make her into a character that is only hinted at in those beautiful scenes where she climbs a mountain, defying fear; or where she races through a forest, landing arrows on every target. The movie, it seemed, wavered between trying to appeal to the adults in the crowd and the children, and ultimately never found a voice. Unlike “Up” or some other huge successes from Pixar, “Brave” was good, not great. Overall, I can’t help but feel I wanted more. When one sees a teaser image like the one featured here, it seems the movie should have so much more of that epic imagery than it did.

Themes To Discuss

Reconciliation

Perhaps the most important theme in Brave is that of reconciliation. Initially, Merida is convinced that the way to change her mother back is to repair the tapestry she destroyed due to her anger. However, she continues to deny that she is at fault for what her mother turned into. She blames the witch, saying she didn’t know that her mother would become a bear. She just wanted to change Elinor’s mind.

Yet it is only when her mother’s change is seemingly permanent that she realizes the truth. She repents to her mother, in perhaps the most heartfelt scene in the movie, saying “I did this to you…” while she weeps. It is here, I think, that the Christian can draw out a theme from the film. It is too easy to blame the ills we bring about on others. Yet we are called to repentance. Without sincere sorrow and repentance for our sins, we are not reconciled. It is when we say, “I have sinned against You” that we are truly repentant. And, like Elinor, Christ has given his life for our sake. Despite the grievances we bring to God, God reaches out and saves us.

Fate(?)

There was little focus on what was meant by “fate” in the film. The only references to it were in the context of Merida struggling to change her fate. It was unclear what was intended, then, by fate. If it is changeable, it seems it is hardly fate. Here, “fate” seemed more a vague plot device than anything to do with the reality of the world portrayed.

Evil

There was a bit of confusion over good and evil. The witch in the film was more bumbling than cruel. She did not (as far as the movie reveals) intentionally turn Mor’du into a demon bear forever, nor did she intentionally nearly cause Elinor to become a permanent bear. In some sense, one could say she brought about the reconciliation refereed to above.

Again, Mor’du initially seems a great evil, but one can’t help but feel sorry for him, particularly when at the scene of his death his spirit (?) nods a thanks to Elinor and then becomes a will-o’-the-wisp.

Overall, “evil” in the film is slightly ill-defined. This doesn’t mean it is bad, but it does make it hard to really jump on board with one side or the other.

Conclusion

Ultimately, it seems the primary theme of the movie is indeed reconciliation. Good vs. Evil  is a theme, but the lines are fairly unclear. Instead, the movie reflects on Merida’s coming of age and her reconciliation with her mother. A good flick, but not a great one.

As always, I’d love to hear your own thoughts on the movie from a Christian perspective. What did you think?

Brief Note for Parents

The film has some violence and action sequences. The witch is scary but not wholly evil. The notion of spirits changing one’s fate is vague and ill-defined. The humor is probably understandable for about an 8-year-old level.

The film, in my opinion, is not one to be terribly worried about as far as content is concerned. It is clearly fictional and ultimately is resolved by a reconciliation between mother and daughter.

Links

See my other reflections on movies.

RE: Brave and Matthew 18:15-35– another excellent Christian reflection on the movie. A slightly different angle than my own work.

Engaging Culture– my guide for drawing out Christian themes and discussions from movies.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Movie Review: Courageous

I have a new post coming up on this movie in which I reflect on the movie again and point out many of the flaws I missed in writing this review. For now, I hope readers will be satisfied with this link (PDF) that shows some of the issues I have with the movie.

I loved this movie. That said, Courageous is a movie that many people will dislike. First of all, it has a strong Christian message. That alone will alienate many viewers. It also tugs at the heartstrings in very intentional ways. It’s a thriller with a heart. Again, some people will groan about this. There are no big name stars, no extensive CG, no 3D effects.

So why do I say I love this movie? Mostly because of those very things. The movie pulls no punches. People struggle with various sins, they struggle with reconciling their faith and lack of success. They struggle with sorrow. These are people in real lives, living real experiences, real trauma.

The film starts off with a bang, a man fills up his pickup’s tank at a gas station. He steps away for a moment and another man jumps in his truck and drives off. The man chases, leaps into the driver side window, and holds onto the wheel. They fly down the road, the owner of the vehicle clinging on for his life. Finally, he’s thrown from the side, they crash, and the thief runs away, leaving the man and his car. Why did he give chase, risking his life to save a car? Turns out his baby is in the back seat. After the police get the story–and it turns out the man is, himself, a police officer–they drive off. One officer, Adam Mitchell, asks the other, Shane Fuller, whether he would have held onto the wheel. Their answers set the stage for the rest of the movie.

What does it take to be a man? What makes a good father? Is being “good enough” good enough? These are the questions Courageous deals with, among others. The film has several different story paths. There are essentially 5 main characters, and each has a story to tell. None of their stories feel rushed or incomplete.

The acting is also phenomenal. The characters feel very believable, and there are several scenes which highlight each actors’ abilities. The movie is very, very serious. The themes explored are uncomfortable in many ways, and challenging. But the film does a great job breaking up the tension with humor. Several scenes are scattered throughout that ease off the gas pedal enough to let viewers relax and just enjoy the film. It’s action packed, but it won’t keep you from getting the message of the movie.

And ultimately, that is what Courageous is about: a message. Whether viewers respond to the message or not will largely impact their enjoyment of the film. But one thing that all viewers will be able to take a way is that it does take real courage to step up and be a man. Rather than hiding from challenges, we–and here I mean men and women–need to face them. And again, the film doesn’t leave us with just that plea. Rather, it frankly says there is no way to do this without God. Viewers are therefore challenged in numerous ways after viewing Courageous. They’re challenged to be better fathers, to be better Christians, to seek out those in need, to admit their faults, confess them, and turn to God.

I encourage anyone to see this movie, whether fathers, mothers, sons or daughters. It’s not only a movie with a message, it’s just plain good film. The action is fast, the characters are enjoyable, and viewers can’t helped but get sucked in. See this movie!

“…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” – Joshua 24:15a, c.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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