Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Critique of The Women

About a month or so ago when my husband was out of town, I decided to treat myself to a good 'ole chick flick after the youngster was in bed. I'm not really up on the latest chick flicks these days, so when I browsed through my options on Red Box, I chose The Women, which came out late 2008 and was apparently a re-make of the original from 1939 and an earlier Broadway hit. (I didn't know that at the time.) But with Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Eva Mendes and a brief appearance of Bett Midler, I thought it would be fairly entertaining.

While it was entertaining, my mind swarmed of all the truths that I have been learning lately about what it means to be a godly woman. (I'm sure that if I really thought about it, most films today would contradict that truth, but this one particularly bothered me.) Not necessarily because of the gossip, lying and cheating that took place (not to downplay those issues), but the real winner that hit home for me was how Meg Ryan's character (Mary Heines) viewed her marriage and how she reacted to adversity in that marriage.

In the film, she was apparently the "stable" one -- the one with the rich husband, the nice house, the daughter, the nanny and the housekeeper. And in the middle of all of that, she held a pretty high-up position in her father's fashion design company. But when she found out that her husband was cheating on her, she began to question everything that she had done for the past 15+ years of marriage. Why did she do everything for her family, instead of herself? (At the beginning of the movie, she is portrayed as a frumpy wife who gets walked all over and has no backbone.) Why did she need a man in her life to feel 'secure'? And by the end of the film, we see her transform into a "successful", independent woman, who wins her husband back. And the defining moment for her is when her husband apologizes and asks her to come back, and her response is, "If you can live with the new me and support my new life." (not exact words, but you get the point.) And when she takes him back, her friends praise her for standing her ground and becoming the independent, successful woman that she had become. In fact, part of the movie summary says that the film depicts "what it means to be a today's woman." This is what made me think about everything that I have been learning, and how our culture, in many ways, advocates the exact opposite.

There are many things I could critique about this film and how it's not biblical, but I'm not going to do that. I just want to briefly touch on how a biblical woman should live life differently than Mary Heines in this film according to a few things I've been reading lately.

Contrary to culture, a woman can have much joy from serving her family and loving and supporting her husband (we see this in Proverbs 31:28, 31), even when it's God's command for us ... it doesn't have to be a chore and it's not something that causes us to loose our identity, but rather gain a greater identity in the union of marriage as "one flesh" (Genesis 2:24).

However, if we're not careful, we can allow this part of our role -- serving our families and loving and supporting our husbands -- to become a chore if we do not constantly look to Jesus for his example, strength and renewal. Ephesians 4:20-24 speaks well about this:
20You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. [Speaking of the hardening of hearts that the Gentiles experienced.] 21Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
It's interesting, when I read this recently, I realized that this is the section of scripture right before Ephesians 5 (duh) and the directives about submission. (For some reason, I never put the two chapters together.) And if we realize the truth in Ephesians 4:22-24, we will realize the new self that we are in Jesus and forgo the ways of our old self (see also Romans 6:6), including the tendencies to do what is in our best interest and what we want (the example we see in the film) ... but what God wants for us, our husbands, our marriages -- true righteousness and holiness. (This is the beautiful part ... when we live a life as our new self, the idea of submission seems much more feasible, and that's how God designed it! Hence, that's why chapter 4 comes before 5 :).

This is very contrary to what was depicted in the film and the film is a fantastic example of what happens when we allow our "... old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires, ..." to manifest and be our way of life. And I find that when this is true of me, I need to proclaim the truth of 2 Corinthians 10:5b and "... take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."

Second, if we look at Proverbs 31, we see very tangible examples of life contrary to The Women - a life that gives us an opportunity to bear much fruit and glorify God:
  1. Her husband has full confidence in her (vs. 11)
  2. She does her husband good not harm (vs. 12)
  3. She is a good steward of the money her husband gives her and increases its gain
  4. She labors over her household to make it a "nice" home (vs. 17, 27)
  5. She speaks the promises of God to her husband and uplifts him (vs. 26)
  6. She is not idle and labors over her marriage (vs. 26, 27)
There is obviously a lot more to unpack from Proverbs 31, but I think this is what is most pertinent to this critique.

Finally, my intent is not to bash this movie or convince you not to see ... it's simply just to communicate my frustrations with the examples of womanhood that our culture gives us and to combat those examples with biblical truth -- the truth that I'm gradually learning and that I yearn with all my being to make a reality in my life, even though I fail miserable day after day after day.

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