Friday, March 09, 2018

Iconic films

There are certain iconic movies and TV dramas that have a unifying force in pop culture, both because so many people have seen them and because they become a source of popular tropes, viz. the Star Wars franchise, Star Trek franchise, The Wizard of Oz. On a related note are iconic characters like Batman, Superman, Spiderman, vampires, and zombies. At a literary as well as cinematic level, The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia enjoy that distinction.

In addition, there are movies like The Matrix, The Terminator, Groundhog Day, and The Butterfly Effect which not only achieve iconic status in the pop culture, but popularize certain philosophical ideas. These movies provide fans with an interpretive lens. Fans interpret the world using these films as a prismatic analogy. And the more people who've seen them and use them that way, they become a common frame of reference. In that regard, they share both an interpretive and unifying significance in the pop culture. In casual conversation, a stranger will allude to one of these movies or TV dramas to comment on some event while the listener will recognize the allusion and appreciate the comparison. 

Fans sometimes argue with each other about the best Star Wars/Star Trek movies and TV series. Fans sometimes argue about the correct interpretation of movie, TV show, or episode thereof. Yet even when they disagree, there's an underlying unity inasmuch as they're familiar with the same stories, same characters, same mythos, and they use that in common to frame discussions. 

Although I'm citing fictional examples, a mythos can be factual. Real people and real events can attain iconic status as role models and illustrations. The Bible performs a similar interpretive and unifying function within the Christian community, except that Scripture is authoritative in a way that iconic movies and TV dramas are not. 

Catholic apologists criticize sola scripture because it leads to interpretive pluralism while atheists criticize Scripture as an inefficient mode of divine communication because God could simply beam the message into everyone's mind. What those objections overlook is the unifying force of having one book that all Christians use as a common frame of reference. We know the same stories, and those stories generate a mythos that we use as a filter to interpret the world. Even hermeneutical disagreements bear witness to a deeper unity, because they still share a common frame of reference. That sets the agenda. Debates occur within that paradigm. You can talk to any Bible-believing Christian, you can walk into any Bible-believing church, and even though you're strangers, there's preexisting code of shared background assumptions, because the same book channels the outlook. 

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