DISCLAIMER: The fact that a movie is referred to in this post does not imply that the movie is recommended by the editor, the blogging team, the GMT leadership team, any particular local church, or my pet gecko. Complaints may be directed to my pet gecko.

sharpay-hsm-3The most influential preachers of our day do not stand behind pulpits. No. Instead their audiences pay to be preached at.

It’s hard to find a movie with an absolute message in our postmodern world. Sometime in the nineties, the movies started dancing around the idea of absolute truth—right and wrong. Now you’re lucky to find a single movie with a world-view which includes moral absolutes.

Now I know people tend to lose it the moment someone mentions the word “philosophy.” Try throwing in words like epistemology, metaphysics, and ontology and you get the raised eyebrow and the long “riiiiiight.” So let’s talk about some movies instead.

Movie 1: The Emperor’s New Groove

In Mary Poppins, it’s a talking umbrella that tries to act as Poppins’ conscience only to be firmly rebuked with “Practically perfect people never permit sentiment to muddle their thinking.”shoulder-angels-1

In Emperor’s New Groove, it’s “shoulder angels.” The bad angel says “He’s trying to lead you down the path of righteousness. I’m gonna lead you down the path that rocks.” If that ain’t a commentary on the hedonism that is 2009, I don’t know what is.

Then the bad angel proceeds to offer a handstand as an argument for doing what he suggests (allowing the talking lama to die). To the objection that this is a poor argument, the good angel says “No, he’s got a point.” It’s funny. And it’s ok to laugh. But we need to realise that this is classic postmodernism.

Watch! Here it is:

“Look guys, you’re sorta confusing me so… be gone or however I get rid of you guys.”

He then proceeds to rescue the talking lama. Not because it’s right. No. But because everyone knows in their heart what is right.

Morality is relative. Arguments for good or evil are “confusing.” You know in your heart what is right. Postmodernism at the movies.

Movie 2: High School Musical

The smash teen hit movie franchise of the decade, High School Musical is another showcase for postmodernism at the movies.hsm-31 Take Troy, the popular athlete-becoming-singer who has it all and the brilliant Gabrielle, his girlfriend. They are the heroes.

Then there’s the villain: Sharpay and her sidekick Ryan. Problem is by the end of the movie (and definitely by the end of HSM2), you’re not sure whether you like the heroes or the villain better. Oh, make no mistake, the villain does her fair share of evil scheming, but they wouldn’t want you to think of it as evil per se. Maybe, “unfortunate.” Otherwise, how could we end the movie by singing “We’re All in This Together”?

Daring heroes and dastardly villains

So why do movies still have the hero/villain plot structures in the postmodern world? Wouldn’t it be easier to live in a world without moral absolutes if you found some other way to tell stories?

I think the answer was explained decades ago by Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer when he talked about the “mannishness” of man. What Schaeffer meant by that is that even while man tries to pretend the universe is the one he imagines it to be complete with no God, no creation, and definitely no absolutes (savour the irony!), that world doesn’t actually exist! Instead, the world that actually exists is the one God made complete with moral absolutes and an inborn knowledge about God, sin, and guilt.

I suggest that this explains the whole hero/villain plot concept that “plagues” postmodern movies. We can’t get rid of these ideas because these ideas are an accurate reflection of the way God made us and the world and nothing in all the world will ever change that.

Well, if you read down this far, you just delved into *whispers* philosophy. Don’t worry. I won’t tell anyone.

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About Jason Harris

Dr Jason Harris is a writer, pastor, and academic. He has authored multiple books, articles, and papers including his book Theological Meditations on the Gospel. Jason has a PhD from James Cook University as well as degrees in theology, music, accounting, and research. Jason has lived in Cairns, Australia since 2007 and serves as pastor at CrossPoint Church. You can contact Jason at jason@jasonharris.com.au.


  1. Kez 7 January, 2009 at 7:29 am - Reply

    Hey, great post – I love the gecko! lol The question is whether or not said gecko is licensed, though… =P
    Of course, in Star Wars, Obi-Wan says: “Only a Sith (aka – the bad guys) deals in absolutes.”
    But then – if you think about this, that statement in and of itself is an absolute.
    (Don’t have a clue what that had to do with anything, but there you go…lol)

  2. Jason Harris 7 January, 2009 at 2:41 pm - Reply

    Hey Kez. Interesting observation. It’s been quite a few years since I’ve watched the Star Wars original trilogy. Which movie is that in?

    And you’re absolutely right, it is an absolute statement which is the beauty of it. Relativism is a self defeating philosophy. I think people tend to resort to it because it is the last option a rational person who hates his own rationality has. Yet he can’t even escape his own “mannishness” there.

  3. Kez 7 January, 2009 at 3:45 pm - Reply

    The ‘Obi-wan’ quote is from Revenge of the Sith which is the third and final installment of the entire sage released in 2005. Anakin – a sith – claims “If you’re not with me, then you’re my enemy!” To which Obi-wan – the Jedi – replies, “Only a Sith deals in absolutes.” signifying he has come to an end of reasoning with his former apprentice.
    So I guess what you said is correct. =D
    The irony of the entire Star Wars saga (and books) is the philosophies they teach – like the above – tend to be somewhat contradictory for the most part (and slightly wacko for the rest… lol)!

  4. Mel 7 January, 2009 at 9:35 pm - Reply

    The big question though is: Do you actually own a pet geko? :D

  5. Kez 7 January, 2009 at 9:42 pm - Reply

    Yeah, I want to know that, too, and what’s it called if you do have one?! lol
    I used to own nine – they make the best pets! =D

  6. Jason Harris 7 January, 2009 at 10:33 pm - Reply

    Well, there is one that hangs out behind the microwave sometimes. Does that count?


  7. Kez 7 January, 2009 at 10:38 pm - Reply

    Not unless you’ve named it! lol
    Aw, geckos are so cute… =P

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