Year One is a film that is resplendent with elements from the book of Genesis. Characters such as Adam, Cain, Able, and Abraham take the screen in settings such as the Garden of Eden complete with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the ancient Canaanite countryside, and the city of Sodom. Yet, don’t get fooled: this is not a Biblical film.
No doubt it would be very easy to criticize this movie and say that it was not accurate and therefore should be boycotted and banned. Recent history has only shown that banning tends to bring attention to the subject of the boycott. So let’s take a different look at it.
Even if you choose not to see the film (which I am certainly not encouraging), it can prove to be an interesting point of conversation with our culture. The arch of the story has the main character (Jack Black) eating of the Tree and ultimately becoming the hero of the story by saving the city of Sodom from a famine as well as gods of all kinds, specifically by proving that he could enter the “holy of holies” and by killing the high priest. The reputation of Sodom in the movie is the same as that of Sodom in the Bible, which is prized as a proper and worthy way to live.
Taken as a cultural interpretation and summary of the themes of the book of Genesis it would seem that the filmmaker is in some way attempting to rewrite history, much in the same spirit and style as a Christopher Moore novel. So what does this say about the perception of our faith in our culture today?
First the concept of the forbidden fruit was that it really did nothing different to the one who ate it. Jack Black’s character eats the fruit and throughout the film is just as incompetent and dumb as he was at the beginning. All the characters wore clothes before the fruit was eaten and within the dialogue no reason was offered for not eating it except that it was a rule that should not be broken.
Short of being a commentary on Genesis itself, it is certainly a statement about a perception of the church. We are perceived to have rules that have no reason or purpose except to suppress freedom of lifestyle and expression. No issue is more obvious in this arrangement than is human sexuality.
As with this type of movie, this story was quite over-sexualized. In the context of the story of human beginnings, it appears to be sending a message that the church has oppressed the concept of sexuality and that there needs to be a revolutionary reclamation of that freedom. Sexual oppression is the overarching perception that implies that there is no real reason for the teaching.
Certainly Year One is not the only statement that our culture is making about sexuality. As with any other social issue, we need to have conversations about this where we can begin to really understand what is happening, what is driving these beliefs and values, and who uses these values to shape their lifestyles. As we begin to understand these ideas and values we can take the next step to having a conversation. We can then talk about not only what our faith dictates, but also what makes the most sense considering the dangers involved.