My wife writes very good blogs.
During her research for Easter in 5 Sentences I was surprised to discover a cinematic void on the subject.
By contrast, Wikipedia’s list of Christmas-related films is so long that viewing the entire inventory required 21 downward swipes on my Mac’s touch pad.
Keep in mind that Wikipedia casts its net widely, even including The Bourne Identity because “Late in the film, the protagonist stays overnight at a friend’s house which has been decorated for Christmas. It is also snowing throughout most of the film, indicating that time of year.”
Now maybe that’s a stretch, but Hollywood does love the holiday.
Christmas movies generally tend toward the sentimental (It’s A Wonderful Life) the comedic (Just Friends) or both (Four Christmases).
Or, the holiday may be used as a vehicle for other genres. In Die Hard, for example, John McClain (Bruce Willis) attempts to reunite his dysfunctional family during a Christmas party in a huge office building by killing villains from an even more dysfunctional family.
Valentine’s Day cinema works in another way.
While films dedicated to the event (Valentine’s Day) are not unknown, the Chicago Tribune’s list of the 15 “Best Valentine’s Day Movies” includes none of them, preferring the love-stricken vampires of Twilight, the World War II classic Casablanca or straight-up romantic comedies like 50 First Dates.
So a Valentine’s Day movie is not a film based on the event but one watched with a significant other in celebration of that relationship. Viewed this way, the number of V-day movies rises almost to infinity.
But can you name an Easter film?
While Amazon lists 305 “Easter Movies and TV Shows,” that number includes a relative hand full of actual Easter-themed motion pictures. Much of the list is old television programming or odd selections like The Karate Kid.
Some of the films are Biblically-based. Classic mid-twentieth century productions such as Ben Hur birthed a genre continued today by Passion of the Christ and the History Channel’s recent series on The Bible.
Around these Scripture movies orbit films with Christian themes (Soul Surfer) that qualify as “Easter films” only when using the logic of Valentine’s Day. By this metric, for instance, one reviewer recommends Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey for Easter.
However, the largest category by far offers media for children. Alvin and the Chipmunks have an Easter Collection, Peter Cottontale stars in his own movie and even Dora the Explorer has an Easter Adventure. The provide the media companion to Easter baskets, bunnies and eggs, something for the kids to watch while eating chocolate.
So Why So Few Films?
Writing for Gizmodo, Leslie Horn describes Easter as “a day of ham, nice outfits, obligatory church trips, and borderline abuse of baby rabbits. But most importantly, it’s the time of year when there are Peeps on the shelves of your local drugstore.”
Peeps are those marshmallow Easter candies we’ve all eaten, in this case used to make things like a dress formed from Peeps spotted in NYC’s West Village or a car covered with them on a Houston street.
Perhaps that’s it. Easter (like Peeps) has an intrinsic value less than it’s value as raw material for making other things, like $17.2 billion in retail spending, 180 million dyed eggs, and a flood of once-a-year church visitors (58% say they’re going).
So Easter cinema takes two basic forms: those who trust that Jesus overcame death have Bible movies to celebrate what they already believe, while another stream of media supports a children’s festival recognizing the arrival spring.
This dichotomy in the media reflects more than a shortage of Easter movies. It reveals a lack of common ground between the religious insider attending an Easter service and the springtime candy-fest enjoyed by the world outside.
Where do the two meet?
That “movie” has to be produced on a daily basis by the Church. The followers of Jesus have to live in a way that demonstrates the reality and relevance of His resurrection, the intrinsic value of Easter.
The better media depictions of the Bible may make audiences aware of the good news about Jesus. But openness to the reality of that story usually depends on a skeptical person watching it play out in the “movie” of another person’s life.
As the Apostle Paul urged: “let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:17 – ESV).
The Easter movies we need do not come from Hollywood. They come from our lives.