July 6, 2006
Protesting, Pirates, and Potter: our inconsistent outrage toward Hollywood
The summer movie season continues. First Elizabeth Diffin confessed her affection for da Vinci. Then Skye Jethani thanked Hollywood for not marketing Superman to churches. And now Johnny Depp and crew blur the line between character and criminality. In this post Dave Terpstra, pastor of The Next Level Church in Denver and frequent contributor to Ur, wonders why so many Christians protest Harry Potter but seem passively accepting of Pirates of the Caribbean.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is opening in theaters this week and I haven't heard a peep from concerned Christian parents. Yet anytime a Harry Potter film comes up on the screen many Christians are quick to condemn it. So I have wondered, why the inconsistency?
The similarity in material between the two movies that should concern parents is amazing. First, both films focus on activities contrary to the teachings Scripture, piracy and witchcraft. Second, the hero of Pirates, like the hero of Potter, is practicing what is considered evil - not just battling against those who practice it. Third, there are dark forces involved in both. Harry Potter films are amuck with sorcery and the like. Pirates of the Caribbean films are full of curses and the undead. The list could go on.
So where is the outrage? I wondered if the issue was simply one of popularity. Was Pirates just not big enough to condemn publicly? But I checked the records. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl grossed only $12 million dollars less than the best-selling Harry Potter movie so far. And it beat the other three. With all of the hype for the Pirates sequel, this new movie might gross more still.
So where is the outrage, I wonder? Is there another issue here? I believe there is.
Because most followers of Christ are unfamiliar with the occult, anything that looks like it or hints at it is suspect. We simply don't know that much about the spirit world. Scripture speaks of it, but not in a highly detailed way. So when we see children casting spells on the big screen, we ban our little ones from watching it because we know that witchcraft is bad.
But for some reason the swashbuckling comedy of Captain Jack Sparrow doesn't draw the same ire. I believe Captain Jack could be far more corrupting to youth. In the first movie, when asked about his plans by two bumbling members of the British Navy he confessed it is his intention to "raid, pillage, plunder and otherwise pilfer my weasely black guts out." Not exactly Christian virtues. Harry Potter would never stoop to that sort of behavior.
One of the themes of Pirates is that a man can be honorable and a criminal. But, pirates by definition cannot be good. Or can they? In the first Pirates movie, Captain Jack Sparrow really was a hero. He stopped other pirates who where doing all of the terrible things that pirates typically do. He helped people who were in real need. Even though he said he was going to act like a pirate, he really didn't. Ultimately, greater good was done.
Likewise, in Harry Potter movies, Harry, Hermione, and Ron are true heroes as well. There is real evil in their world, and Harry, more than any other wizard or muggle (non-magical human) battles against it.
So, I wonder if fictional pirates and wizards really can be good. The issue is whether the phenomenon of heroes emerging among pirates and wizards is truly corrupting and dangerous to our youth, or if it's simply good storytelling. I suppose each parent needs to make up their mind on that issue.
Nevertheless, in my mind, if we are going to pick on Potter, we must pick on Pirates. Otherwise, perhaps Christians should keep their mouth shut about both.