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“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”  Phillipians 4:8

So asking myself why I am writing this Blog, why I’m willing to make myself vulnerable and opening up my love of stories, my thoughts on film, my take on life – Well, it can be summed up by the biblical quote above. Because what I want to do is to encourage you out there – friend, neighbour, stranger, companion, lover – to thoroughly embrace stories. And I don’t want you just to partake of ordinary stories, but these stories – ones in which I see truth, nobility, rightness, purity, loveliness. Stories to be admired, that are excellent, that are praiseworthy. I want to share with you something that I truly believe will actually help you navigate this life, will draw you closer to the Great Storyteller (that’s Jesus, in case you’ve missed the point in previous posts/pages), will help you form true communities, deepen friendships, bless, encourage and build you up. I will try to share films and stories of this nature. I won’t always get it right.  But that’s part of being a good storyteller myself (I’m assuming I’m good – having an arrogant day 😉 ) and part of exploring my own humanity, my own journey with God and my own steps into true community.

It’s also why it’s important for me to distinguish between what a story is about and the vehicle it uses to tell that story – For example, I’m sure you’ll find a number of Christians writing about how Harry Potter or Buffy the Vampire Slayer are not things which fit the pure, noble and right tags – but I’m saying they’re wrong, because they’re confusing the message with the vehicle. Saying you shouldn’t read/watch Harry Potter because it encourages interest in the Occult, is like saying you shouldn’t watch Macbeth because of the three witches. Macbeth is about Power – how it is used, manipulated, grasped for, lost, stumbled over – not about witchcraft. As for Mr Potter – I’ll address him in depth another time (or three), but again, his story is about family, sacrifice, bullies, loss, grief, courage – My good friend and lady who I seriously look up to Miriam once said It’s about how Loyalty and Courage can get you through so much more than cleverness – very wise ladye. Buffy is so full of stories of excellence, nobility, sacrifice, how family works there are about 20 blogs worth for me to talk about for her. Don’t get distracted by what something appears to be and miss out on an amazing experience.

But there are also stories out there that can indeed knock us down, give us pain, damage us. I’m not going to just post a list of Films and TV shows I don’t think you should watch – although it would be shockingly easy. I’ll mostly recommend Films, Books and TV shows I think would bless, which would hopefully mean a “not-to watch” list isn’t necessary. Some would say it’s a subjective issue anyway – I’m not convinced. Over the course of committing my words to the world, I have been quite honest about stories that haven’t particularly floated my boat – and I will continue to do so. But the best way to avoid the stories that aren’t particularly appropriate for you is instead to keep the verse above in mind when choosing what to “dwell” on. Oh and find friends to share your stories with, someone who will recommend a story to build you up, not knock you down (I will endeavour to do so, but find a physical recommender also); a community where you can share watching and talk about what it says to you. That’s kind of the whole point (for me anyways)

And there will come times in your community where your tastes will clash, or disagreements will arise – but that’s okay, that’s part of being in a community. And there will be days where you just can’t face crying for the 74th time at Les Miserables (for the record, I will NEVER be tired of Les Miserables), or where you can’t face the tension of Alien, or bear the twisty turniness of The Departed – for those days, for the days when you’re exhausted, when you’re at a loss. For the days when grief can overwhelm you, when the ordinary everydayness of life threatens to engulf you – As I said to Miriam and Rachel not too long ago, when Rachel was wondering whether it was appropriate for her daughter to watch or have watched Mean Girls (It was a strong NO! for the moment) – you can’t go wrong with a film that builds you up, that makes you smile, that is about Love, bravery, and just gives you a special bit of Joy inside whenever you see it. You just can’t go wrong with The Princess Bride.

The Princess Bride is one of those films I come back to again and again and again. Firstly, once again it’s one of those stories about the power of story. The Grandfather reads the book to the sick grandson as part of the boy’s convalescence. There is a feeling that the sharing of the story will help the boy get better, as well as building the relationship between the two of them.

The love story at the heart of the film (and the book) is a simple one, and yet it’s more than it first seems. The girl (Buttercup – has there ever been a more beautiful name for a princess? 🙂 ) only realises the boy loves her and that she loves him back because he serves her unconditionally. He answers her every whim with “As you Wish”. The idea that the thing at the heart of love is servanthood (Christian Jargon I know, but an excellent word) is both radical, true and enlightening.

What ensues is a study in devotion; The man in Black Pursuing His True love, the Princess (mostly) standing by her man. Along the journey, we see the benefits of gentleness (there’s a literal gentle giant – he’s really lovely), skill, wits and careful planning. Oh and it’s very funny.

The Vendetta of Inigo Montoya (Hello, My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father, prepare to die) is at once ludicrous, funny, sad and heartbreaking. Here’s a man who has chased something for all his life, but the constant deferral of his hope has broken him, has taken away the true virtue of the man – He regains his purpose, gains some heroism and kills the object of his ire – but really he is still that little boy who wants his father back. A very real and beautiful picture of grief and its potential resolution.

I would simply say judge for yourself, but a story like this of love, adventure, courage loyalty – Oh and Rodents of unusual size – is one that is so simple and beautiful it cannot be ignored. It can touch your heart if you let it, it can make you smile if you let it. And it will live with you for a long time. I’m going to curl up with it right now  cos I’m a little poorly after a weekend away with my lovely friends (I’m pretty sure I ate something dodgy – but windy roads didn’t help the situation) and I know it will make me feel better. I would heartily encourage you to do the same – and share it with someone special.