My partner and I have been busy with a comic convention over the last few days. It was a wonderful experience. I was able to meet quite a few writers and publishers. I also finished my last exam on Friday and am now looking forward to enjoying a summer of writing and networking.
After the festivities of the day, my partner and I decided to go to a movie. There was one theater in town that was playing God’s Not Dead. I have wanted to see that movie for a while because of how much hype it had received. I must say that I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of acting. It was very well done. But there were a lot of obvious stereotypes in the movie. The Chinese father and son where the father tells the son to accept what his professor tells him without question. Grades are more important than supporting and defending your own argument. The Muslim who’s forced to wear a hijab by her father and is abused and thrown out of her home when her father discovers that she has been listening to the bible on her ipod. The dying woman who denied god for years and then accepts god when the good Christians pray for her to be healed. And of course the angry athiest who is mad at god.
These stereotypes bothered me. They put people in a box and allow the viewer to judge all people in that group in the same way. It doesn’t help that the movie didn’t seem to represent the university experience very accurately. Most professors don’t care what their students believe unless the student becomes disruptive to the class. They have a particular subject to teach and giving that information to their students is what they truly care about. Philosophy professors can be different. They aren’t there to give their students a particular set of information. Instead they are there to teach critical thinking. Philosophy professors may actually care what their students believe, but it should not be in a “you must believe this” way. It should be in a “read this and tell me why you agree or disagree” manner. The professor in that movie was not a good professor. He was intellectually dishonest and he was a bully. That professor likely wouldn’t have kept his job very long in a real university.
What’s more, the professor wasn’t actually an atheist. Maybe he thought he was. Maybe he just wanted to be. But he admitted to being angry at god when pushed by the student. That is blatantly stereotyping the atheist. It is a trope held by theists that says that atheists are just angry at god. I don’t know of any atheists who would have responded the way that the professor did. When asked “why do you hate god?” the atheists that I know would either answer “how can I hate something that doesn’t exist?” or “why do you hate the tooth fairy?” depending on their nature. Atheists do not hate god. We simply believe that none exist. We could debate for days any other possible belief held by an atheist, but the one belief that all atheists agree on is that there is likely no god.
I would go into the problems with the other stereotypes that I listed, but I don’t know to what degree they are true. And rather have somebody who knows what they’re talking about pointing out those flaws. However, I was able to determine rather quickly that they were stereotypes and they do cause problems in the form of putting people in boxes and allowing one’s self to avoid understanding another person. The atheist trope bothered me the most. A) because he was the “bad guy” and b) because of the ending. If you have not yet seen the movie and want to, and don’t want to know what happens, then stop reading now.
The movie ends with a tragedy. The atheist professor reads his mothers note and realizes that he had been wrong.He goes to make up with his now ex-girlfriend and is hit by a car before he gets there. He dies. Before he dies he accepts Jesus into his heart. He then receives a text from his ex that says “god’s not dead.” The missionary tells the pastor that something good has happened. I can’t remember how he worded it. No. Nothing good has happened. A man died. His death was horrible and painful. That is a tragedy. To say otherwise is just plain wrong. It is supposed to be a good ending. A Christian band is playing happy music, everybody has come to Jesus, the Christian student won his debate, and everybody lives happily ever after. Except the atheist professor. The antagonist. He’s dead. There will be no happily ever after for him. For the creators of the movie to portray that ending as a good thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Also, for all the good acting, the death scene was terrible. It looked completely fake. I suppose that’s kind of a good thing. But it makes it less important and it makes it easier for the audience to swallow the “happily ever after” BS.
What are other people’s opinions of the film? How did those of you who saw it interpret it?