If ever a film had the Christian population talking, this would be it. Media and movie makers project the zeitgeist of their generation, and “Noah” is no exception. The movie touches on several hot topics: environmental disasters, gender issues, un-human beings, even the Bible gets a bit of exposure. Not too much, but some.
The familiar story becomes markedly different with some bizarre additions including angelic beings bound to the earth in rock form, and Tubal Cain, named in the Bible as the original forger of iron and bronze, as a king who manages to stow away on the Ark. It also has suffered from a number of subtractions, the most specific being a severe shortage of wives for the boys.
A Short Synopsis
To get any sense of satisfaction from this film, it’s important to start from the premise that any resemblance to the Biblical narrative is incidental. Director Aronofsky, who co-wrote the film and who describes himself as a ‘not so religious Jew’, called Noah the ‘the first environmentalist’ and stated that ‘Noah is the least Biblical film ever made’. It is clear that his intention was not to make a religious blockbuster, but to simply use the story as a base to be embellished. Not so surprising, Hollywood does the same to every story transposed from the book to the screen. I mean, dearly loved as they are by little girls who only saw the DVDs, Anne of Green Gables and the sequels are totally abhorrent for anyone who grew up reading the books.
Far from being an old guy with a long white beard, Aronofsky’s Noah is a man in his prime, with a loving wife and young children. He becomes obsessed with the idea that God’s purpose for the Ark is only to save the animals and the role he and his family play is merely to get them to safety. He figures that humans, including his family, are doomed to die because of their total inability to look after the planet responsibly. His behaviour becomes increasingly manic, his actions suggestive of someone in the process of a breakdown. He cannot be reasoned with as he pursues his goal to prevent any possible continuation of the human race.
Through the Gender Lens
The most salient point for me, and one which I have not seen addressed in all the articles and blogs that have proliferated since the movie opened, is the gender issue, highlighted by one scene in which two young girls are snatched and put up for sale to the highest bidder.
The movie goes on to depict Noah as completely deranged in his determination to enforce his belief that the human race must die out, and he determines on the Ark that if the soon-to-be born child is a girl, she must be killed in order to prevent the human race continuing.
In a world in which the news ‘It’s a Girl’ is a death sentence, where girl babies are murdered at birth, and where 200 million females (the population of women in USA and UK) are missing from the planet through sex selective abortion because sons are perceived to be of greater value, the final crisis point in Noah epitomises the issues of gender the world is currently grappling with.
In a scene more akin to Abraham, Noah stands with the knife poised over the newborn girls, his face conflicted as the mother’s tears pour over her babies. The tension escalates until he drops his weapon and turns away. His words express the heart of His Creator as he says: ‘I looked down on those two little girls, and all I had in my heart was love.’
And there’s the truth of it.
Despite the devaluing of women at some level in every nation – despite the tragedies of girls in Nigeria being kidnapped from their school classrooms, child brides, FGM, sex trafficking, domestic violence and rape, and the commodification of the female body – the heart of God is for women and men to carry His image together into every sphere of society.
The Danger of Faulty Reasoning
A good man who wanted to serve God with his whole heart, Noah made the mistake of adding to what God had said. God never told him the human race was to die out, but he took what he heard and developed the theme based on his own guilt and fear. He read every new circumstance from the lens of his flawed belief system and rather than see how God had provided, he felt an even greater weight of responsibility to reinforce God’s judgement.
Knowingly or not, the highest point of drama in the film is about whether males in authority have the right to decide the fate of their women folk.
Aronofsky’s fictionalised account has replicated a paradigm that is true for many religious leaders in the world today. For example, in desiring to obey the concepts of righteousness and right standing before God, many, going back as far as the early Church fathers and before, have made the assumption that if lust is the issue, it therefore follows that the object of that lust must be responsible, and steps must be taken to stifle and eradicate the threat by whatever means. This reasoning justifies violence and abuse of women, and the refusal of education, medical care, and equal status in the community.
In the religious world, it can also express itself as a denial of women the right to use their gifts of leadership and governance in the Church.
Despite its bizarre story line, Noah speaks directly to the heart of the issues we are currently facing with regard to gender equality inside the Church and out of it. Without the empowerment of women as equals, the mandate to bring the Kingdom into everyday life suffers heavy losses.
YOUR TURN: Have you seen the movie “Noah”? If so, did you pick up on these themes or any other themes related to gender?
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