As I wrote about on Friday, I watched the Christian-themed movie Fireproof. It’s a story about a man who finds his marriage in deep trouble, decides to try and save it, and then goes to great lengths to do so.
I appreciated the movies portrayal of marriage. Its take-home message is that marriages are really, really important, and that we should put lots of time and effort into making them as good as possible. Furthermore, moral conviction drives our commitment to marriage, above and beyond whatever we happen to be feeling about the marriage or our spouse. The movie ends with the couple reaffirming their marriage vows in a Christian-themed ceremony.
This got me to thinking about other, more common themes in the portrayal of marriage in the movies or on television.
One theme is along the lines of “my spouse, the hidden monster.” In this plot device, a couple is married for some time and the protagonist discovers hidden, creepy things about who they married. Maybe they have some addiction, or they are secretly a cold-blooded killer, or they are a Yankees fan, or something other nefarious activity.
Perhaps more common than that is the “happily ever after” view of marriage. Here movies focus on the various ups and downs of courting, and the big pay-off at the end is the couple getting married. The really interesting, story-telling stuff happens during dating, and marriage is a happily-ever-after state of affairs. A happy marriage is a function of finding the right person, and these movies focus on the ups and downs of doing so.
Most commonly, however, are movies that present marriage as a stable backdrop to the important things in life. In these movies, the dramatic tension comes elsewhere—from the protagonists’ work, hobbies, past history, whatever. Marriage is just a form of scenery, in the background giving some context to the characters but not being particularly important in and of itself.
Now, I’m not advocating that all films focus on marriage, or that those that do always take a particular viewpoint on it. However, it was very refreshing to watch a movie that held up marriage as important above and beyond the romantic impulses that lead people into it.
This fresh take on marriage is probably what made Fireproof a commercial success, grossing more than 30 million dollars (and clearly not costing that much to make). Because it made money, I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll see more films like it in the future.