If you’ve seen a preview for Beautiful Creatures, opening in theaters Wednesday, February 13, 2012, then you probably already know that the movie bills itself as a struggle between good and evil, with “love” being the key that will help a “caster” girl choose her side on her 16th birthday. I imagine most Christians are going to have a negative reaction to what they see in just the previews and probably keep their distance from this movie. If they are easily offended, that would probably be best.
However, from a Christian critical thinking perspective, there is much to be discussed in Beautiful Creatures because it is a movie that is actually a tad deeper than you might think. There are layers that are peeled back in the end, and the movie actually makes some interesting and almost insightful observations about human nature. But keep in mind, it makes a whole lot of completely weird and inaccurate commentaries on humans as well. It is a wildly fantastical paranormal chick flick, so that’s to be expected.
From a family friendly point of view, the movie sits well within what I consider appropriate for a PG13 rating. There is some sexual suggestiveness but everyone stays fully clothed, and the violence is mostly bloodless. Bad language was scarce. Unfortunately, the movie makes a point of stereotyping certain people groups, and if you allow your children to see this movie, be prepared to discuss that part afterward.
Don’t forget to check out Focus on the Family’s Plugged In for a family review.
This review from this point does contain spoilers. Read no further if you do not wish to know the content of the movie before watching it.
Books—bad for your mind or the only thing that’s holy?
One of the stereotypes that pretty much slap you in the face while watching Beautiful Creatures is the one that presents Christians as back-country, book-banning rednecks, who reject all modern thought and ideas. At one point, one of the “Christian” characters states that books are “bad for the mind,” which is contrasted with the “pagan” character saying that the library is her “church” where her family “comes to celebrate what is holy: ideas.” The children in the school at one point refuse to read a book that the English teacher is teaching because it is “banned” by their church, and then proceed to start praying in class, at which point they are loudly rebuked by their teacher: “you can’t pray in class!”
To be honest, if there was anything in this movie that really offended me, it was this one thing, that Christians are too insular, and non-Christians the only ones open to knowledge. Historically, most of the advances in art and science have been made by Christians—the “fathers” of almost all of the scientific disciplines were working from a Christian worldview. While it is true that it is part of human nature to segregate ourselves from things we fear, and Christians are no better than anyone else in their reaction to different ideas, that’s not necessarily a biblical approach.
The Bible tells us to search the Scriptures to test ideas (Acts [17:11]), and to reject ideas that are not godly (James 4:7-8), so I can see where some Christians get the idea that some things should be banned. I am not of the opinion that banning or burning books is the proper reaction, however. You can’t test ideas if you ban them, and you can’t teach people discernment if you protect them from the things about which they need to have discernment. Overly sheltered people can’t protect or defend themselves.
Wolf in sheep’s clothing
At the beginning of Beautiful Creatures, we are introduced to a very self-righteous Mrs. Lincoln. She seems to be the epitome of the stereotype that the movie is using against Christianity. The first time we see her, she’s forcing her son to kneel at a small table set up like an altar, and she’s reading to him from the Bible. We later see her leading the congregation in an attempt to expel Lena Duchannes from the school. She’s vocally hateful, spewing all kinds of the worst prejudice, enough to make the audience of the pre-release screening I attended gasp. But within a minute or two of this hateful diatribe, we find out something very intriguing about the ever-so-righteous Mrs. Lincoln. She is actually possessed by the most evil of the castors, Sarafine.
It was at this point in the movie where I was able to sit back and enjoy the parallel, thinking that perhaps Beautiful Creatures is not quite as stereotypically hateful of Christianity as I assumed from the beginning. In fact, there is some very interesting biblical context to this character. You see, Mrs. Lincoln isn’t really a Christian—she is an evil creature masquerading as a righteous one, leading others astray with her false Christianity. The New Testament is full of warnings to the church of such false teachers (2 Peter 2; 1 Timothy 1:5-7, Jude 1:4). In a way, this character is the perfect example of why Christians must be judged according to their fruit. If what they are producing in this life is not of the Holy Spirit, than that is NOT the spirit that is possessing them (Galatians [5:22]-23).
One interesting tidbit regarding this character. 1 Timothy 1:7 makes the observation that false teachers don’t really understand what they are saying. Near the end of Beautiful Creatures, Lena admonishes her mother, the evil Sarafine, “You really shouldn’t use words you don’t understand.”
The curse and the sacrifice
The biblical parallels didn’t end there. The basic plot of the movie is that Lena is a castor, born to control magic, and whether she will be good or bad will be determined on her 16th birthday, which is fast approaching. She is fated to be claimed by evil because of a curse that has been cast on her mother’s line because her ancestress called upon a dark spell to save the life of her mortal beloved when he is killed on her 16th birthday. Each generation after her is fated to make the same choice until the curse can be broken. After much research, Lena discovers to her horror that the only way to break the curse is for her to sacrifice someone she loves at the time of her claiming. In other words, a curse of evil was caused by an ancestor’s choice which is then inherited by her offspring and only a “blood” sacrifice of someone innocent of the curse can break the curse.
It’s almost biblical in the parallel. Mankind is cursed with hereditary sin because of the evil choice of the first Adam. And as the Bible states in Hebrews [9:22] “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.” The curse of sin has been broken because of the sacrifice of the only sinless man, Jesus Christ, and the curse of death has been broken, because he rose again from the dead (1 Thessalonians [4:14], Romans [5:10], 8:2).
Mortals and God
There are some interesting statements made about God by various characters in Beautiful Creatures. Sarafine at one point makes the claim that mortals “invent ideas,” one of which is the concept of “God.” Since Sarafine is a false teacher, you can pretty much discard anything she says as false. The pagan “keeper” or “seer” who guards the caster’s secret library, mentions at one point that “God gives us what we can handle.” When Ethan questions her, since he thought she didn’t believe in God, she replies “God created all things, didn’t he? It’s only man” that messes things up. What an incredibly insightful statement.
While the movie sets up the “casters” as something other than mortal, I find it interesting that the statement was made that “no caster can reverse death” and that Lena’s grandmother “lost her soul” by casting the spell to give life back to her dead lover. We see varying ages of casters in the context of the movie, and one caster (Lena’s uncle) is killed. Because of this, I questioned the use of the word “mortal” in Beautiful Creatures, because it seemed to me the term was not used consistently. The casters are not presented as mortal and seem to be set apart from regular people, whom they call mortal, yet they seem to be just as mortal—having souls to lose, and who suffer age and death.
There was much more in this movie to discuss. More than I could even takes notes for. I took notes as quickly as I was able and still felt like I missed a good bit of what was going on in the movie that could be discussed from a critical thinking point of view. I hope to get my hands on the book that the movie is based on some time in the future. So stay tuned. There is a very good chance that I will delve much deeper into this movie and the book series it is based on in a future podcast.
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