April 15, 2011 Surfing the Soul: a review of Soul Surfer
Last weekend we took our family to see the movie Soul Surfer. I didn’t realize how much controversy this movie would cause. Many people are familiar with the
story of young Bethany Hamilton (age 13, at the time) who was tragically bitten by a Tiger Shark that removed her arm. This young, determined surfer pressed on, despite the odds to get on the surf after only one month from the accident. When I first saw the preview for the movie I was so excited, because I had read (and knew) of her strong faith in Christ. I love true, exciting stories of people who defy the odds.
We took the whole family to see the movie. On previous occasions we had talked about Bethany. (The Boy had read about her in a nonfiction book about sharks, for example.) The kids, with the exception of the Baby (who is 4 years old), knew the story. This movie is not suitable to all children, especially if your children are sensitive to intense action scenes, blood, or violence that is seen in natural life, like National Geographic. The Baby thought that we were going to a movie about Silver Surfer, the marvel character. She kept asking me questions through out the movie: Who is the bad guy? Where is the hero? Who is the hero? When is Silver Surfer coming? I’ll come back to this in a minute.
The reason I was surprised there was so much controversy was because I was pleased with how the movie portrayed this vulnerable Christian family. Although I knew of Bethany’s strong faith, I didn’t realize that the producers of this movie would bring this out, because the movie was not produced by a Christian Filmmaker.
Over the last week I have read many reviews. I personally like to read different views, even if I don’t agree. I know my opinion is not the only one out there, and it can be healthy to hear (or read) other perspectives. Let me tell you, there are MANY different ideas about how good/bad Soul Surfer is.
The main reviews are about the mediocre acting. By no means is this film an Academy Award winner, but honestly who cares. There have been many times that I did not care for the films that have won such great honors.
Then you have the two main attacks on the movie for what is portrayed. On one end you have the atheists who hate the movie because of the Christian messages. One review I read couldn’t believe the message of God punishing Bethany for sneaking out the night before the attack to a Moon Party on the beach. Many people think that God allows terrible things to happen to us when we are not living in a right manner. Although I would agree that there are consequences to our sin, I also know that God allows bad things to happen to us even when we do nothing wrong. Bethany wasn’t attacked because she did something wrong, but I believe one purpose (not the only purpose) is to show that we can overcome in the strength of Christ.
The other end of attacks on this movie come from some Christians. They slaughter the movie and it’s message. One of the major complaints of the movie is all the swimsuits and skin that is shown. I strongly believe that if you have a problem with seeing someone in a swimsuit, if this causes erotic thoughts in your head, do NOT go see the movie. I don’t, however, think the actors in this movie were portrayed in the “sexual” way that many people are saying that it is. Yes, the girls wear bikinis and boys are shirtless, however it is not done to arouse. It’s not a Victoria Secret commercial. It is a movie about surfing. Perhaps if this is a “problem”, you should read the book instead and imagine in your head that they are surfing in burqas.
When the Baby asked about who the bad guy was I quickly responded, “the shark.” Obviously, Bethany is the hero of the story. It made me think about how true to life this story is for the average person. Although the movie did produce a fictional rival surfer, many time in “real life” there isn’t an enemy. Not a real enemy for us to fight against. The battle the Bethany had to fight was inside her. Was she going to be defined by her circumstance (the former surfer who lost an arm), or was she going to conquer the circumstance and define her life.
Let’s be honest. Life is hard. Many times I make it harder for myself. Soul Surfer isn’t a movie about a girl who overcomes difficulties on her own, but finds an identity in the Creator of the universe. The One who made her with two arms, will also be the one who defines her with one.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
NO, in all these things we are
MORE than conquerors,
through (Christ) who loved us. (Romans 8:35,37)