I am ill-equipped to jump head first into the cultural earthquake generated by the United States Supreme Court. Not to worry — within the confines of this newspaper you will find authoritative voices to respond, minister and educate anyone with an open heart and open mind of what the best Catholic response should be.
But if I just stated, “I hold to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church in regard to the definition of marriage,” I would have a very short article and my editor would not be happy to have to fill up all that white space.
So how does television play a role in this situation? Actually, it plays a huge role and has been playing that role since the 1970s. You’d need an abacus with extra beads to calculate the number of TV specials, TV movies and TV series that have been promoting all manner of activity that runs contrary to Catholic teaching.
Instead of railing against the sins of pop culture media, I’d rather praise examples of moments of grace and examples of true Christian marriage where it has emerged. Illustrative of the arid clime of current examples of Christian marriage in movies and television today, of the two examples I’m about to give, neither one is a television show — one is a cartoon and the other, a film that was made the year I was born — but if you want to see either of them you’ll still need a DVD and a television.
Since back in the day, movies started with a cartoon, let’s start with Pixar’s “Up.” Unlike other Pixar films of animated toys, animated cars and animated fish, the action and plot of “Up” is driven by animated people.
Even though the action and adventure part of this entertaining movie requires a balloon propelled house and talking dogs, it is the backstory of how the character of Carl Fredericksen got there that elevates this movie to another level and provides one of the best examples of what marriage is all about.
Given to us in montage form replete with heart-tugging score, we see Carl and his wife through every stage of married life. Young love with promise, then settled love in a home they have worked hard to make their own.
Heavier stuff like infertility and old age and sickness also intrudes into the story arc. This montage of pixels, not even real people, rendered my wife and daughter into a couple of sniffling, tissue-grabbing messes.
Throughout the montage, one thing is clear: Carl and his bride have formed a beautiful and complimentary union. It may not be rocket science, but neither is marriage as presented to us by the Lord through his Church.
It is a little ironic that in pixilated form, that truth comes through stronger than in a hundred hours of television where we see very different unions being celebrated.
Whereas the marriage in “Up” is about as traditional as one can get, way back in 1957, director John Huston gave us a rather unique and non-traditional relationship that, although not marriage in any real sense, does a pretty good job of demonstrating how we need to respond when our hearts say one thing and our material situations say the opposite.
“Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison” is a film starring Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr. That’s it. They are the only two speaking parts in the entire film.
Mitchum is a shipwrecked Marine who lands on a small tropical island where he encounters Deborah Kerr, a nun who was left behind when the island was evacuated due to an impending landing of Imperial Japanese forces in World War II.
As the pair hide out in a cave, making do in difficult situations, these very very different people — a European nun and a rough around the edges (and everywhere else) lifer Marine — form a special bond. It’s Hollywood, so of course they are going to start to have feelings for one another.
The tension is palpable and the performances and direction top of the line and this very good movie could be enjoyed strictly on one level.
But it’s deeper than that. The nun and the Marine care for one another and yes, love one another. They are also a man and a woman and that chemistry starts to make itself known.
At different times, the two of them each come to a point where they wish they might have not made their prior commitments. But in the end, they reconcile to the fact that although they love each other deeply and are willing to die for the other, they cannot enter in to a deeper, marital relationship. It is sad and it is beautiful at the same time.
No doubt the elephant in the living room let loose by the Supreme Court will provide us all ample opportunities to demonstrate the same — paradoxical only to those not looking at it from a faith-based foundation — that love and acceptance also comes with sacrifice.
A computer animated film and a film made by one of Hollywood’s most talented directing legends couldn’t be further afield from one another, yet at their core, they represent the complementary role all men and women were created for. These are an eye dropper’s worth in a raging current going in the opposite direction and as far as to where it will all end up, all I can say is, “Heaven knows.”