Along time ago in a High School class that I no longer remember the name of I heard the phrase, “the medium is the message.” The phrase has stuck with me for over 40 years probably because of my interest in communications and how various forms of communications can influence public opinion or perceptions.
I lifted this illustration from a wiki article to explain what that can mean:
–Likewise, the message of a newscast about a heinous crime may be less about the individual news story itself — the content — and more about the change in public attitude towards crime that the newscast engenders by the fact that such crimes are in effect being brought into the home to watch over dinner. —(Wiki source for quote)
The phrase “the medium is the message” was coined by a fellow named Marshall McLuhan and he wrote a book by the same title, a book, as I recall we had to read for that High School class. A more formal definition of what McLuhan meant by that odd phrase might be:
“The form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is received.” (wiki link)
I no longer remember what illustrations McLuhan may have provided in his book but he could have used Leni Riefenstahl’s movie\documentary titled Triumph of the Will.
Triumph of the Will became a triumph of propaganda for Adolf Hitler and the Nazis but it did so because the medium of the cinema was masterly crafted by Rienfenstahl to rouse the German people to patriotism and to thoroughly embed the idea that the Nazis would lead Germany into a new age of European dominance (what would become the Third Reich). The film is a classic not for its resulting message (how the form of cinema functioned) but for how well crafted it was.
The point is the way a medium functions is more important than it’s form (movie, radio, newsprint, etc.) because it can manipulate the message and thus steer people one way or the other.
Another example of the medium is the message might be Darren Aronofsky’s new film, Noah, starring Russell Crowe.
Aronsky by his own words is not a not particularly religious Jew who has claimed that the film is basically true to the account of Noah as found in Genesis. But as many have pointed out that is not really true given the distortion of the message by the medium. (Best review of the movie found here, by Al Mohler from Southern Seminary)
I have not yet decided whether I will watch the movie. I certainly will not pay for a movie ticket but I may rent it down the road simply out of curiosity and because I like Russell Crowe’s acting. Besides, it may result in more grist for my blog!
What I would expect to find is a story told through the considerable talents of Aronsky as a director. The story may even be entertaining and I confess I am looking forward to seeing the rock monsters masquerading as Nephilim as well as the special effects used to create a really big flood. What I would not expect to see or hear is an accurate message from the Word of God. Frankly, I’d be on the look out for any inaccurate message from a movie that is supposed to be biblical. In the interest of full disclosure I’d watch Roma Downey’s series, The Bible, with a similar critical eye but expect less distortion.
Evangelical critics have pointed out that the basic message of the film is that Noah is a vegan eco-nut in the movie and that God destroys the people of the earth because they are destroying the earth. I would consider myself a conservationist and certainly am not for the careless exploitation of the earth but I am also aware that God gave Adam (and mankind) dominion over the earth (Gen. 1:26).
Dominion means the subjection and management of earth’s resources for the benefit of the ones having dominion. We can argue all day about what that looks like but the bottom line is that God intended that man manage his earth and that as originally intended that management would be done in a responsible manner.
The reason it has not always been done in a responsible manner is because of the fall (Gen. 3:1-19) and by the time of Noah all that mankind did was evil all the time (Gen. 6:5). God destroys man except for Noah’s family (a total of 8) not because of one evil (misuse of the earth) but for all evil and all types of human depravity that resulted from the fall. When man fell he did not just stumble, he fell hard and every part of man’s soul has been corrupted by the fall.
Genesis 3:15, called the proto-evangel teaches that God would provide a solution to man’s essential problem (sin, evil) and the story of Noah serves as part of the larger narrative that would eventually point to Jesus.
What Aronsky and his helpers have done is provide an interpretation of Genesis that they claim is faithful to the text. It clearly is not.
To be sure part of the motive is to make money and be entertaining but the other part may very well be a progressive agenda that is against fracking, big oil, whatever that means, nuclear energy, and for windmills and solar even though those resources are not reliable nor can they generate the power needed. One would think that the eco-nuts won’t be happy until we’re all living in the times of Noah as portrayed in the movie by being “one with the earth” rather than having reasonable dominion over it. I’ve heard that kind of propaganda all the way back to my High School days and the very first Earth Day which as I recall was May 1st, 1970.
So, the medium is the message and Noah is probably a well-crafted movie that promotes a particular message, a message designed to influence people and as such is a piece of propaganda. It’s also creative license that results in a horrible interpretation of the Genesis story and as a result misses the main point of the story.
In that, we should not be surprised because there is no way Aronsky has ever had a course in biblical hermeneutics where by the student is taught to do his best to get the biblical message right.
If you chose to watch the movie understand that the medium is the message and in this case a horrible interpretation of what is taught in the story of Noah.
I’m a Christian and I think “Noah” deserves a four star review (By a fellow named Matt Walsh and utterly hilarious)