Decent Films Mail > Mailbag #14

Re: Star Trek (2009)

My wife and I saw the movie Star Trek. Unmarried people carried on in their underwear. Brief though it was, it contradicts God’s laws concerning sex and modesty. What was equally troubling was the fact that there was a group of about three dozen teenagers from a local church that were present. It is not that they haven’t seen these things before, but that it was unnecessary for this sci-fi film to include a scene which treats unmarried sex and immodesty as expected or normal behaviour having no moral relevance.

But even worse was the taking of God’s name in vain. Again, the remarks above apply here with even greater weight, since it is our Lord whose name is being abused. In your review, you simply said “a few coarse references.” Taking God’s name in vain is much more serious than a few coarse references. It would be a great service to those who look to your reviews for some guidance to let your readers know when there are profanities of this type. Had I known of the profanity above, I would not have taken my wife to see this movie.

I guess we are all getting numb to the continuous assault on our moral bearings. These assaults are so integrated into our culture, I guess you as a reviewer, and we as viewers, hardly take these offenses to God too seriously. Except, of course for those who strive to live in and build the Kingdom of God, whose moral sensitivities are outraged at the behaviours that offend God.

I appreciate your work and hope that you can find ways to warn people of the nature of the offenses to Catholic moral living that a movie contains.

Thanks for writing, and for calling to my attention my failure to note the misuse of God’s name in my content advisory for Star Trek, an oversight I have now corrected.

I do take profanity more seriously than merely obscene or crass language, and try to note it when it occurs. However, my note-taking is sporadic and I sometimes forget things later on, so I always appreciate readers calling to my attention issues I missed.

It is important to bear in mind that a movie does not necessarily condone, promote or glorify the behavior of its characters, and that just because a character engages in blasphemy or sexual immorality does not necessarily mean that the movie encourages similar behavior.

One of my favorite examples of this with regard to blasphemy is in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in which Sean Connery’s Henry Jones fetches his son Indy a stunning slap across the face for misusing the name of Jesus Christ, admonishing, “That’s for blasphemy!”

Even if this is seen as an old man’s moralistic reaction, the scene still reminds viewers that there are people who do take offense at such language, and is actually more likely to discourage such language than to encourage it.

While the casual profanity in Star Trek is not critiqued in that way, in regard to the bedroom scene I think it’s fair to say that this scene, and the larger presentation of Kirk’s character, actually offer a critique of Kirk as a flawed, emotionally immature womanizer whose charm has distinct limits — whom a woman of substance like Uhura wouldn’t fall for, and who turns off even a more willing partner by his shallowness.

The old 1960s TV show, although less explicit, uncritically presented Kirk as a stud who routinely got the alien babe. That there was never an onscreen bedroom scene doesn’t change the basic James-Bond glamor with which the character was presented. The movie’s presentation is significantly less glamorous in this regard, and in my view is actually a more moral portrayal of the character.

A similar principle applies, in my view, to the even briefer bedroom scene in Iron Man even though in that case Tony actually gets the girl. The comeuppance of the morning after, in which Tony’s playmate gets taken out with the trash by Pepper Potts — and then we find out that Tony was hiding in his basement workshop the whole time — saps any potential glamor from the scene, and reveals Tony for the callous, cowardly cad that he is.

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