Two things have put me in is frame of mind, the book Lolitha by Valdimir Nabokov and the movie, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I'm almost to the end of the book . . . and I just saw the movie.
There's several issues at stake here . . . so many I don't know where to begin.
The first question to raise, is there a limit to art? Is there a boundary line over which Christians should not pass when it comes to art? I think there probably is, but it is more of a dotted line than a solid one, meaning the line is in one place for one individual and somewhere else for someone else. No one can judge what is good or not good for someone else, not unless they know that person very well.
In my Evangelical days, we had a solid line. It was not only solid, but thick, 27 pt, line that was universal. In my Navigator days, our rep had the view that we shouldn't (nor anyone for that matter) watch a movie that is not rated G, nor read a book that has any sex in it period and certainly not sex between unmarried (and Godly) people.
But that's on the extreme edge of self-censorship. It also reflects a very poor understanding of art and the belief in a Satan that is more powerful than God. I say that last part because we literally believed that if someone saw The Exorcist, they would immediately be demon oppressed.
I don't want waste anymore time on that issue, although it deserves it. I want to talk about the specific art that I mentioned.
If you don't know, Lolitha is a very graphic story about a man in his forties obsessed, sexually, with teenybopper girls . . . ages 12-14. Indeed his obsession leads him on a narcissistic journey to marry a women, in order to get his hands on her 12-year-old daughter. Fortunately (for him) his wife dies and the girl is all his to manipulate, rape and possess to his dark heart's content. Could this book be edifying?
So why am I reading it? I've mentioned before, since being turned on to good fiction by my sons, I've been reading the top 100 English novels and Lolitha is number four. I hesitated at first. I didn't really know the subject matter for sure. Here are my thoughts why it is a good read.
First of all, the reason it is number four, because Nabokov is a literary genius. The book is written with incredible layers of meaning and richness . . . despite the dark content. Yes, you can admire the beauty of an artist, who is created in God's imagine, and reflects God's creativity, even though the content is dark. But Nabokov didn't just pull the story from some dark place in his evil mind. I'm known hundreds of people (if you include my patients) who have lived the life of Lolitha. They were sexually molested, raped and possessed by their fathers, stepfathers, mom's boyfriends or, in some cases, complete strangers. Nabokov enters that world and more than that, the deep chambers of the mind of the perpetrator.
I could write 20 posts about that book, but the thing that sticks out to me the most is the complex rationalization that we all are capable of. The perpetrator weaves this mental narrative that makes himself out to be the victim. But it is an insight to the human condition that is worth exploring. It comes back to the parable of the log and the speck. Mentally, we judge others more harshly than they deserve and ourselves more lightly. The thinking goes like this, "Yes, I did bad thing X, but you have to understand why. I'm not a bad person, but I did X because of these circumstances." Then we look at the other person who did X and we have the notion that they did it simply because they are evil.
Reading the book did not tempt me to become obsessed with teeny boppers. Now, if that was a weakness in someone, then maybe that's where the dotted line falls down. Maybe they shouldn't read it. Maybe I shouldn't read books that try to convince me to stop working and to sit in a coffee shop all day reading and writing.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo can be appreciated as well for its artistry. If I were to pick the highlight of the art, it would be in the acting ability of Rooney Mara, who plays the key role Lisbeth Salander. I don't have any clue what Rooney is like in her real life, but unless she is really like Lisbeth, she is a remarkable actress.
It is a dark movie. My wife, who is an addict of Hallmark movies, hated it. She closed her eyes during much of it. It does though teach us about the human condition and that fine line between brilliance and insanity. I don't have time to say much more, but that I was swept away by the talent. It was so intense that I would only want to see a movie like that no more than once a month.