Movies Too Disturbing to Sit Through

As a film critic, I have to see a lot of movies that are not necessarily pleasant to sit through. Which is fine. A lot of my favorite films—and some of the most beautiful, important films of all time—would hardly be categorized as “pleasant” viewing experiences. Films like Breaking the Waves, or Requiem for a Dream, or a number of films by David Lynch, are in my view works of art, deeply disturbing though they may be.

But sometimes it’s a fine line between “just far enough to make an impact” and “that’s gone too far.” Whether we are talking about brutal violence, explicit sex, or just a general thematic fixation on nihilism and despair, I think there is definitely a line that can be crossed.

Sometimes the line can be clearly agreed upon. Most everyone can agree that the brutality of Schindler’s List is worth watching, while that of Hostel 2 is probably excessive and needless. But more often than not, these “lines” are subjective things… rendered visible in one’s conscience when that inner monologue speaks up and says, “I shouldn’t be watching this.”

There have been moments when this voice led me to stop watching a film mid-stream. Such was the case last week, when I was watching the DVD of The Piano Teacher by Michael Haneke, a filmmaker (Cache, The White Ribbon) who I admire for his tasteful pushing of the envelope, but who in my opinion pushed it a little too far with The Piano Teacher. I stopped watching about an hour in.

Lars von Trier is another cinematic provocateur who I greatly admire; but this summer when I went to a theater in Paris to view his new film Antichrist, I couldn’t bear his sickeningly violent provocations. I walked out of the theater and tried to find a creperie on the Left Bank to get my mind on other things.

There have been other films I never finished or walked out of, for the same reasons: Films like Pasolini’s Salo, or Bertolucci’s The Dreamers, or Noé’s Irreversible.

The obvious question is: Why would you even attempt to watch these films? I can just hear the parents and preachers now: “Why subject yourself to such debased filth?” Trust me: I have thought the same thing; wrestled with it, prayed about it.

My answers usually have to do with the fact that “the line” is so subjective, and that my experience has shown that some of my favorite, most treasured movies included some “hard to watch” content. There is truth to be found—sometimes most clearly—in the midst of, or on account of, darkness. Should we wallow in it? No. Should we seek it out? Surely not. But should we bear with it, in the task of experiencing art? I think so, to an extent.

But I’m extremely interested in what others think. What is your line? Which films have you walked out of? What should be our moral ground rules for spectatorship? I definitely think there is a time when we should refuse to be subjected to certain things on screen—but I wonder sometimes about when those times are called for.

39 responses to “Movies Too Disturbing to Sit Through

  1. It’s a shame you didn’t finish The Dreamers— it’s one of my favorite films.

  2. There definatly is a line, but I believe it is different with each movie. I went to see Antichrist and knew when the graphic moments were coming and yes I closed my eyes. In the end I constantly debate Antichrist because it was so well made and had such spiritual depths. Yet Von Trier creates such power with his shots that he dosen’t need to revert to nastiness for his power. I’m glad I watched it and that I closed my eyes. I believe one needs to know their own personal limits and what films like Salo and Irreversible are trying to do and whether they really need to be expirianced or not. I’ve never walked out of a film, but I did fast foward the rape scene in Irreversible(a film which I hate) and have chosen not to watch Salo. As always great post with great questions.

  3. It’s hard to say where I draw the line. If it’s disturbing scene after disturbing scene after disturbing song with no break, I’m turned off. Examples of which include “American History X” and “Monster’s Ball.” However, if a film is dark but with a touch of humor, like “Blue Velvet,” I can stomach it.

    Part of me wants to see “Antichrist” just to see what the fuss is about. Plus Willem Dafoe is one of my all-time favorite actors.

  4. I remember renting The Piano teacher when I was about 20, and wanting to turn it off, but I didn’t. I’m actually glad I finished it, because though I’ve forgotten most of the movie, the bizarre final scene (shot?) has remained in my mind ever since. She slowly descends a staircase, casually pulls a small knife out of her purse and stabs herself in the shoulder, then calmly returns the knife to her purse, having never stopped walking.

  5. Two recent examples of potentially incredible films that I simply could not finish: “The Devil Came on Horseback” and “Gomorrah” Both were so bleak, so filled with stark depravity, that I just couldn’t handle it any more.

    Yet “The Road” was my favorite film of 2009, and I’d name other bleak, violent, and sin-exposing films as my favorites–“There Will Be Blood” and “No Country for Old Men,” to name a few.

    So I’m unsure. It feels inconsistent. There is a line, but it appears to be different from film to film for me (though I do dialogue with my wife before and after viewing a potentially sketchy film). Might “the line” have to do with the filmmakers’ intentions or artistic portrayal of the content in question?

    • I definitely think the line does have to do with the filmmakers intentions and the artistry with which the offensive content is treated. On the latter point, for example, I’d suggest that directors like Tarantino or Scorsese can make beautiful art out of brutal violence (stylized or literal) while other directors (the torture porn folks) are more akin to Thomas Kinkade in their approach to visualizing violence (i.e. excessively surface and exploitative).

  6. There are a few things that I attempt to keep in mind when determining whether or not a film is “too disturbing to sit through”.

    First, this will ultimately be a matter of conscience, personality, and conviction, particularly for Christians, and nothing can ever change that. We all have different psychological makeups, and that affects what we can or can’t handle. But above that, we all have different levels of conviction: what might be stumblingblock for one person might be perfectly fine for someone else. As a result, we need to exercise grace and charity — especially if and when we feel the need to correct or challenge someone’s assessment of a movie.

    And art being subjective, we’re always going to see different things in the same piece. For example, I’ve had people criticize Pulp Fiction for being so dark and violent (and understandably so). And yet, Pulp Fiction is one of my favorite movies, and that’s largely because of the themes of grace and redemption that wind their way throughout the film (most obviously in the diner scene at the very end). Admittedly, some people might not see those themes because they can’t get past the language, violence, etc. But that’s where the need for gracious discussion and debate comes into play.

    That being said, I’ve found a few things to be very helpful.

    I ask if the film is being truthful about humanity, sin, and depravity. If a film shows an adulterous relationship in graphic detail, then how the film handles said relationship determines, to a certain extent, whether I think the film crosses the line, if it’s irredeemable, etc. Does the film celebrate the adultery as a good thing, or does it ultimately show the toll and damage that such a relationship can cause? (This, of course, assumes that I don’t have a particular conviction concerning graphic sexual content, that such content isn’t a stumblingblock for me.)

    To use a film mentioned above, I found American History X to be very powerful and moving. I certainly found it disturbing and hard to watch in places, but I also thought it was an honest depiction of the wages of the sins of racism and bigotry, and a powerful exploration of how those things come to be and are spread through subsequent generations. So, to my mind, the film was quite truthful about humanity, sin, and depravity, and therefore didn’t cross the line for me — though, as I said, it was certainly hard to watch in places, and ultimately, I’m glad that it was.

    For what it’s worth, this is why I have such a problem with the so-called “torture porn” films (e.g., Hostel). Such films revel in gore and debauchery for their own sake; they’re interested in crossing the line simply for the sake of doing so, and not to make any point or convey any message.

    Contrast that to, say, Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale, an incredibly violent and twisted film which revolves around junior high students forced to kill eachother. And the movie doesn’t shy away from the bloodshed. But the film is clearly intended to be a satire of a culture which marginalizes and exploits their youth.

    That becomes even more apparent if you read Fukasaku’s reasons behind the film, as well as the incidents in his own life that led him to making the film. This is why I also find it important to know and understand the the filmmakers’ intent.

    I’ve seen so many reviews that are completely dismissive of the filmmakers’ thoughts and ideas behind the film, or don’t even take them into account. And yet, I’ve found that they can shed some valuable insight and can even make certain things “palatable” because I understand why the filmmaker included that particular scene or content. That might not ultimately save the film for me — I might find the filmmakers’ reasons weak and unsupported by the final film — but I think it’s only fair to give them their say, so to speak.

    • Very well-stated Joel. I agree with you about the filmmakers’ intentions and how important they are in our assessment of hard-to-watch content. But I can see where people would contest that–arguing that explicit content is explicit content. Its effect on the spectator doesn’t change depending on the “whys,” which are subtextual and hidden where the film itself is visible and viscerally experienced. A beheading is a beheading. Nudity is nudity. Who cares what the filmmaker was “trying to say?” I’m not agreeing with this approach (evocative of New Criticism), because as you probably know I’m all about authorial intention in the way I appreciate art… but in my more phenomenological moments I definitely understand the merits of such an argument.

  7. Pingback: Movies too DIsturbing to Sit Through « The Green Leaf Blog

  8. I walked out on Rob Zombie’s House of a Thousand Corpses and Tom Green’s Freddie Got Fingered. Both my college roommates idea of quality cinematic entertainment.

    Movies choices should be up to a Bible saturated conscience. There are definitely limits, but there is also freedom and I am reticent to tell someone else what to watch and what to avoid (unless they are part of the flock I am responsible for shepherding).

    I would say, first, can you watch the movie to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:30-31)? That is a question we should ask about anything. A movie reviewer might be able to answer yes while me sitting by myself in the dark might not. I would ask, “Is it good, is it beautiful and is it true,” and I also tend to avoid any explicit sexual content because, well, I’m a man and I want to guard my eyes and heart.

  9. Brett, this is an amazing articulation of the great balance beam we have to walk. Great comment by Jason as well. Thanks guys for making me think about my own convictions and my love for storytelling.

  10. “Why would you even attempt to watch these films?
    Why subject yourself to such debased filth?”

    Some of the above comments cut so deep that I want to first say thanks for the eye-openers.

    I’m going to try here to comment on the social aspect. If there is a film about it, or more generally if there is art about something, then the subject matter is being thought about in some way. That means either those kinds of acts or those kinds of thoughts are part of our society. There will always be monsters (mentally, physically, etc). We need to know how to face them.

    (Not to turn this too religious-y, but…)Why do you think ‘the committee’ chose Dec. 25 to be the day to celebrate the birth of Jesus? A mote of redemption, or at least a little light offered somehow in the darkest of times, is needed to keep us focused on the task of helping others. Resting in a “we’re comfy” sort of way while hand-waving aside someone else’s monsters is a terrible indulgence.

    Facing the monsters together and opening the conversation will mean one less place for the monsters to hide.

  11. Like you, I couldn’t finish The Dreamers. I think the only other movie I couldn’t finish was The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things. Sexual violence towards minors is extremely difficult to stomach for me, and I thought it crossed the line. I did finish Ma Mere, but I regretted it as soon as the credits rolled – I thought it was exploitive, nihilistic, and irredeemable.

  12. I don’t think there is a line, except perhaps with explicit sexual content because it incites lust and tempts the actors to act promiscuously. I think films simply should not have explicit sex, but that as a viewer we can’t necessarily demand purity.

    Anything else is simply a matter of taste and tends to serve as a reflection of the audience’s soul.

  13. Drew: “I don’t think there is a line, except perhaps with explicit sexual content because it incites lust and tempts the actors to act promiscuously.”

    Does not action in films sensationalize violence to the point where films become the basis of childhood games of “attack the evil Jedi” and “bomber jet to Moscow?” Are not the actors themselves at risk of enjoying the part too much in terms of thrill much like an actor might enjoy a sex scene for its sensuality?

  14. Anthony raises a good point. Violence can be just as objectifying and pornographic as sexual content. It might not incite someone to lust per se, but if it causes someone — the actor, the viewer, or whomever — to stumble in terms of how they objectify and view other human beings, isn’t that as problematic?

    What’s more, it’s not inconceivable that there are movies that don’t contain any explicit content whatsoever, and yet could still be deemed “too disturbing to sit through” due to the themes and perspectives that they espouse or condone.

  15. I don’t really think he raises a good point at all, because I don’t think there’s anything intrinsically wrong with violence — or with dwelling on the topic of violence. The Bible, for example, has tons of action and gore but essentially no explicit sex.

    Likewise, a movie might be extremely disturbing, but that has nothing to do with morality in my mind.

    Regarding themes that a movie not only describes but actually *condones*, I agree that there could be a line there. For example, I would not particularly want to subsidize a film that promoted communism, and arguably participating in such evil propaganda might be immoral. I know many people refused to watch The Davinci Code or The Golden Compass for those types of reasons. When I said there was no line, I was actually thinking about the graphics of the movie and not about the types of morals it advocates. (But as with sex, it’s hard to ask for ideological purity from Hollywood.)

  16. @Drew: You don’t consider “The Song of Solomon” to be sexually explicit? Regardless of whether you see it primarily as a metaphor for God’s relationship with His people, it’s pretty racy in places, especially in the original language.

    And let’s not forget about Lot and his daughters, Ruth and Boaz, or the 19th chapter of Judges. There’s certainly a fair amount of sexually explicit content in the Bible (it’s just often been “cleaned up” when translated).

    Furthermore, just because there’s lots of “action and gore” in the Bible, it doesn’t automatically follow that violence is “better” or more “acceptable” than sex. It’s all in the context. For example, how much of that “action and gore” was condoned by God, and how much of it was clearly sinful and perpetrated against His will?

  17. Speaking as a sexual being created by God, I’m going to have to speak up and wonder why explicit sexuality is inherently wrong. Exploitive depictions of humanity is certainly wrong, be it dehumanizing violence, lascivious sexuality, or demeaning depictions of the underprivileged, but I don’t understand why simple artistic depiction of any human action, no matter how base or depraved, is to be avoided. As Jason observes, there’s plenty of sinfulness (sexual in nature, violent in nature, economic in nature) portrayed in Holy Scripture, and mere depiction is not equal to endorsement.

    • Very simple Tim. We were created to be sexually intimate with one other person in our lives. Watching explicit behavior is becoming a part of it (the observer). I would imagine this is because the Lord realizes how easily our human passions can become inflamed through our visual predilections (i.e. David gazing on Bathsheba leading to one of his only moral stumbles).

      • Luke,

        David had eight wives. And in any case, I simply don’t understand why viewing ‘explicit behavior’ implicates me in such behavior any more than reading about it in the Bible. If lust is sinful (and I believe it is), then it must also be willful; my ‘human passions’ becoming ‘inflamed’ is a function of my own moral choice rather than a simple consequence of eyeballs and flesh.

  18. The fact that sinful and uncondoned violence composes part of the perfect Word of God actually proves my point. We are commanded to study those stories, which means that dwelling on violent plots is not sinful. If the plot presents a moral message, the sinful violence actually glorifies God. E.g., Darth Vader exhibits a disturbing persona and even kills some of his own people, but Star Wars as a whole presents a moral message (the pantheism and witchcraft aside).

    I think the whole idea that thinking about violence should be avoided is actually New Agey morality rather than Christian. I can understand why young children or even squeemish adults might avoid violent films, but their squeemishness is not a virtue. Squeemishness is morally neutral. E.g., consider someone who is so squeemish that he cannot bear to think about

    The stories about rape in the Bible were disturbing, but not “explicit” in the way that pornography or a romance novel would be. (Arguably, the story about Ham and Noah involved rape, but it’s so subtle that it’s actually hard for us even to tell for sure!)

    The Song of Solomon is racy, but it’s not explicit either. I don’t morally object to raciness or even scenes involving rape. I only object to pornography and, as you mentioned, films which *advocate* sexual immorality (which includes most films these days, as society no longer believes in marriage).

    To clarify with a couple examples:

    1. In my view, a disturbing movie about a serial killer would be morally neutral or possibly even morally good, depending on how the plot is developed and what ideals are glorified. On the other hand, a movie which advocates or condones murder would be immoral.

    2. In my view, a disturbing movie about a philanderer would be morally neutral or perhaps even morally good. On the other hand, a movie which advocates or condones promiscuity would be immoral, as would any pornographic film. And even if a film is not pornographic, I don’t particularly think actors should be putting their genitals on the screen — mainly for their own sake.

  19. Drew,

    If you are going to claim that the sexuality in Scripture isn’t ‘explicit,’ then I’d point out that neither is the violence.

  20. The Bible talks about slitting people’s throats and driving spikes through temples and cutting off dead enemies’ heads and tearing unborn children out of wombs.

  21. “The Bible talks about slitting people’s throats and driving spikes through temples and cutting off dead enemies’ heads and tearing unborn children out of wombs.”

    For what it’s worth, I remember a different sort of “driving” of an “spear” from reading a translation of the Song of Solomon which referred to the “plunging of his penis” into her body.

    “I think the whole idea that thinking about violence should be avoided is actually New Agey morality rather than Christian.”

    Morality is morality. There are not different categories of morality. Just as there is no such thing as Christian art. All art is inherently Christian.

    More to the point, I’m not sure who said that thinking about violence should be avoided, but I for one feel that celebrations of violence should be avoided. Such celebrations have been seen in many of blockbuster in recent years such as Inglorious Bastards and The Dark Knight; the first attempts to render genocide as a comedy and the latter suspends audience’s imaginations on the magnificence of terrorism and vigilantism.

  22. Drew – I’m afraid your view of violence/sexuality in the Bible is a little one-sided. As Jason says, it’s all about the context in which stories appear, as well as the overall message of Scripture. I think you and I would both agree that senseless killing and sexual promiscuity for its own sake are wrong, according to Scripture, correct? Because of this, it shouldn’t matter what stories the Bible presents to us to observe – what matters is the message behind the stories and the overall moral message that we are to take away from it.

    And even though the Bible may not go into graphic detail about what sexual organs went exactly where in which scene, the fact remains that the Bible is absolutely chock-full of sexual situations, and some that aren’t even necessarily about sex on the surface. Take, for example, the story of Ruth and Boaz. In the scene where Ruth goes to Boaz on the threshing floor and wakes him up in the middle of the night, a casual reader might only observe that she lay at his feet and he woke up suddenly. But when you read into the context of the story, knowing that on the threshing floor men usually drank heavily and went to bed more than drunk, and knowing that in the original Hebrew “feet” is actually “appendage,” and knowing that scholars and scribes in those days weren’t too keen on just coming out and saying “penis,” the meaning becomes even more clear: Ruth came to Boaz on the threshing floor and performed sexually explicit acts on him which caused him to awake suddenly. My point in telling this story is this: not only do you have to take the context of the story itself, you have to take into context when it was written, why it was written, and what it originally said, not just the fact that it seems vanilla and harmless on the outside.

    And also, yes, the Bible does talk about slitting people’s throats and the like, but not in an explicit way. It doesn’t go into detail about what exactly what kinds of weapons are used and how much blood flowed and all that sort of things, like many graphically violent movies do these days. Writing is very different from a visual medium like film, and you have to treat it as such. Saying “his throat was slit” and then showing a graphic representation of somebody’s throat being slit are NOT one and the same. Because of this, and because we know that senseless killing is wrong and each individual life is to be valued (according to Jesus! :-)), we should react to depictions of such violence on film just the same as we would react to two people graphically having sex. Movies like 2012 that glorify in violence and destruction are negating the value of human life for the sake of spectacle, and how is this any more okay than seeing an actress’s breasts being fondled by an actor? Of course, when it comes to sexuality and violence, as has been stated many times before in these comments, if you’re the kind of person for whom movies about sex are a stumbling block, it is your duty not to watch them and decide which movies are okay or not okay for you to watch.

    I think you’re right in saying that dwelling on violence or violent stories is not necessarily wrong, but I think sexuality should be accorded the same leniency. We are creatures of God, beautiful sexual creatures and there is nothing inherently more wrong about watching a sex scene then there is a killing scene. Like you said, it all depends on the context.

    • While I don’t whole-heartedly agree with Drew’s premise, I do have to disagree with your last statement Brandon:

      We are creatures of God, beautiful sexual creatures and there is nothing inherently more wrong about watching a sex scene then there is a killing scene.

      I believe there is actually something inherently more immoral about watching a sex scene than a killing scene. Frequently in the Bible, observation of violence is used as a powerful warning and teaching tool by God, whether it is through corporate punishment or retribution from enemies for disobedience. I cannot think of a single example of public viewing of sexual acts being promoted or even condoned. Not that this gives explicit violence a pass at all, but I can’t imagine a single circumstance where the viewing of an explicit sex scene could be beneficial to a Christian, while I can think of a few circumstances where scenes of violence could be beneficial.

      • I think I both disagree and agree with your statement, Luke. I agree with you in the sense that sex is a lot more personal and spiritual than violence. It is the main reason, I believe, why most sex scenes in movies come off as awkward and unnecessary – because sex is such a personal thing, any attempt to render it in a visual sense cannot, by definition, work. But on the other hand, I think that, handled in the right way, some sex scenes can be beautiful and edifying. Take, for example, A History of Violence, which contains two sex scenes, one intimately personal and another one that is brutal and horrifying. Within the context of the story, the intimacy and innocence of the first scene serves as a necessary contrast to the brutality of the second and ties in to the themes of the haunting power of violence and bad deeds and the chance for, possibly, redemption to be found in the end. The scenes are perfectly filmed but are definitely not for just any audience, and I’d argue that they’re necessary in order to be edified/educated in light of the message of the movie as a whole.

        I do have a question about your wording. You say,

        “I can’t imagine a single circumstance where the viewing of an explicit sex scene could be beneficial to a Christian”

        How explicit are we talking here? Full on penetration, or simple nudity? And I think to take the violent equivalent of penetration, e.g. something along the lines of “Hostel,” explicit violence per se wouldn’t have any redeeming value either.

      • Well Brandon, explicit means explicit I think. It’s hard for me to think of a scene anywhere in the spectrum of what you have asked (nudity to penetration) where a Christian would find edification or benefit. I’m not a Puritan but I do believe that our sensibilities and our moral bulwarks can be eroded over time, until we are practically indistinguishable from the unsaved.

        Is good art important? Absolutely. It communicates and shares timeless truths about our world and our souls. But for the Christian, art should never interfere with our walk with Christ, right? Our standards are clear: look on in lust and you’ve committed adultery, harbor hate in your heart and you’ve committed murder. Pretty clear line there, I think.

      • Luke, again, I don’t think it’s correct to equate ‘viewing nudity’ with ‘looking on in lust.’ Am I to understand that your position is that the great works of Christian artists of the Renaissance are incapable of spiritual edification?

      • If, in your view, “Explicit is explicit,” Luke, then by whose standards are you abiding, exactly? For some people, yes, they are unable to look at a naked woman and not feel feelings of lust. For those people, they should not watch a movie with a naked woman in it. But I really don’t see how you can possibly be insinuating that any kind of viewing of nudity is a sin and a bad idea.
        Consider this. You say you’re not a Puritan, but back in the day if a woman showed any ankle or wrist in the way she dressed it was considered highly inappropriate, even “obscene.” Nowadays woman wear shorts, skirts, and, horrors, T-shirts! Oh how our society has degraded!

        Not really, and since you said you’re not a Puritan I doubt that you think a woman wearing a T-shirt is any kind of sin at all. But for some people, “nudity” would have meant if you could see any skin down past a woman’s knees.

        And then, there’s the almost complete opposite.
        In certain parts of Africa in villages and towns it is not all uncommon to see topless woman walking around, or a man. For these people this is not an opportunity for lust – it’s just their way of life. It’s hot over there, why not walk around without a shirt? And you’re telling me that this form of nudity automatically makes it lustful? I really don’t think you are, but your statements so far seem to indicate you haven’t taken into account the myriad of different cultures and styles of life that exist on this planet.

        Tim is spot on, I think. There’s no place whatsoever in the Bible that should automatically equate “viewing nudity” with “looking on in lust.” Because of this, your comment of “explicit is explicit” seems insufficient.

      • Somehow you two have set up straw men in this discussion and are taking turns beating them. Let’s cut through some of this and get back to where our disagreement began. I said that “I can’t imagine a single circumstance where the viewing of an explicit sex scene could be beneficial to a Christian”. Brandon since your argument is beginning to slip entirely into relativism, let’s bring the discussion back to firm footing. I thought that the definition of explicit was well.. explicit, but I was wrong. According to explicit = “fully and clearly expressed or demonstrated; leaving nothing merely implied; unequivocal”. So (translated) what I said was that I can’t imagine a single circumstance where the viewing of a (fully and clearly expressed) sex scene would be beneficial to a Christian. If you disagree with my statement, then please provide a circumstance where this type of viewing would be beneficial to a Christian.

        There is no need to quibble about the evolution of social decorum, we aren’t speaking about that. Tim, to equate a Renaissance painting done by a Christian artist containing nudity with explicit sex scenes in current films is specious. I don’t remember any of the Christian greats painting sex scenes, maybe you can refresh my memory. You are both correct that looking at nudity does not provoke lust in all people, I never said that it did (straw man). What I said was that our guidelines are very clear and they are. If we do find ourselves lusting after a nude image, according to the Lord we have committed adultery. Again, am I incorrect?

        Straw men aside, where have I spoken incorrectly? What kind of edification and benefit can a Christian expect to receive from watching an unequivocal sex scene? We’ve already delineated what the potential negative ramifications are, what are the positive? And do they outweigh the risk of potentially committing adultery in the Lord’s sight?

      • Luke, I think you’re either forgetting what you wrote earlier or you are shifting the goal posts. I’m responding to your statement that ‘[i]t’s hard for me to think of a scene anywhere in the spectrum of what you have asked (nudity to penetration) where a Christian would find edification or benefit’ (emphasis mine). You seemed to pretty clearly state that nothing remotely sexual, even, apparently, including non-sexual nudity, obviated edification. If that isn’t what you meant to write, I understand, but I’m not attacking strawmen.

      • I agree with Tim. And I originally wrote a much longer and more well-thought comment but my computer died and I lost it, so here are the bullet points.

        -When you say “unequivocal sex scene” – what do you mean by unequivocal? Do you mean in the sense that we know it’s a sex scene simply by the context of the movie, or do you mean that know it’s a sex scene because we literally see penetration?

        -I understand your concern about potentially committing adultery when you watch a movie, and it’s a valid one, but because we are all such different people, it’s a concern that needs to be taken on a person-by-person basis and not, IMHO, on a “all unequivocal sex scenes are bad” basis. (Depending on what you mean by unequivocal.)

        -I thought we’d already been over what the positive ramifications could be. I have seen many movies were sex/and or nudity illuminated and was instrumental to the message of the movie, and spoke truth and beauty about life and the human race. I think it’s safe to say that I can always be edified by watching beauty and truth, whatever form it may take.

      • Tim, I’m sorry for the confusion. I’m really not shifting my goalposts. Since I began by speaking about explicit sex scenes, I assumed that the use of “scenes” would substitute for the whole phrase that I started with. Therefore I am speaking of sexual scenes in regards to that spectrum and I stand by my comment.

        Brandon, in answer to your first point: yes. I believe that both of those scenes are unequivocally sex scenes.

        -In regards to your second point, I can see what you are saying and I’m not trying to provide a blanket condemnation for explicit sex scenes. I am positing that inherent in every explicit sex scene is the potential for temptation/adulterous thoughts/etc. I am of the belief that situations rife with temptation should be handled as one would handle radioactive material: gingerly and with trepidation.

        – As far as your third point, I don’t completely agree with you. You state that you can “always be edified by watching beauty and truth, whatever form they take” and I don’t find this strictly to be true. Please remember that the Enemy often appeals to the eye and beauty to tempt; and that Truth, while essential, can often be crippling and devastating.

  23. I think you’re right in saying that dwelling on violence or violent stories is not necessarily wrong, but I think sexuality should be accorded the same leniency. We are creatures of God, beautiful sexual creatures and there is nothing inherently more wrong about watching a sex scene then there is a killing scene. Like you said, it all depends on the context.


  24. I’m a fellow conversantlife blogger, and saw this post and thought it was such a fascinating question. I stumbled over here thinking maybe there would be a better discussion at your personal blog, and low and behold, here it is. Love it.

    This is a fascinating question. I think for me, it comes down to purpose. If the movie (or tv show for that matter) presents violence or sexuality in a way that moves the plot along, furthers the character development, or reveals something we need to know, then I have a bit more tolerance. (For me, Brokeback Mountain would be an example of that). Whereas, sometimes I feel like I am watching violence or sex that is graphic just for the sake of being graphic (I felt this way watching Kill Bill, though I know others thought it to be artful).

    Personally, I have a hard time with movies that show graphic scenes between an adult and a minor. It is unsettling because regardless of how objective the viewer may try to be, visual stimulation is visual stimulation. Even though I loved these movies and thought they explored important themes, I was uncomfortable with both American Beauty and Towelhead for this reason.

    I also loved Six Feet Under but felt that there was a lot of sex for the sake of sex. Was thankful to TBS for cleaning it up for me!

  25. Pingback: Best of the Blog’s First Five Years | The Search

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