By David Calhoun
As everyone has experienced, a strange part of the COVID year is the new ways we’ve gathered together. An odd example of this was during winter break when my Capital Fellows RAG (Randomly Assigned Group), and I decided to make PowerPoint presentations for others to present. This is a thoroughly mundane idea on the surface but it became a way for us to have fun together when we were apart for over a month. In addition to the laughs that came from watching Eric Weinberger explain the wonders of American Girl dolls and Mattie MacDonald diving deep into the mental health benefits of Dungeons and Dragons, I had the pleasure of creating a slide deck about the genius of the movie, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
All of the fellows have had positive reactions when I say my favorite movie is Good Will Hunting and Dr. Clark himself spoke highly of it during our last class, but every time I’ve mentioned Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs as one of my top five favorite movies, I get mixed reactions. While I can’t say that I am surprised by this tepid response, the exploration of gender roles in Dr. Clark’s class has reaffirmed my appreciation for this kids movie.
Talking about gender roles in our current cultural moment is complicated and emotional because it affects all of us. A key lesson I took away from our in-class discussion was that we as Christians need to engage with the culture’s conception of the ideal man or ideal woman when we consider our biblical understanding of gender identity. While the notion that culture has a set understanding of who a man or woman is could be debated, idealized examples of men and women, elevated through film, TV, and social media, communicate what it means to be a ‘good’ man or woman. Conforming to the unspoken standards is challenging, especially when they are incomplete.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, in the vein of common grace, points out the errors of incomplete cultural images of men and women. Flint Lockwood’s father, Tim, and Flint’s love interest, Sam Sparks, spend much of the movie fulfilling incomplete cultural expectations for men and women. In the first 10 minutes of the movie, Tim fulfills the stereotype that men are less adept at connecting on an emotional level as he consistently fails to do so with his son. His stoicism and emotional detachment aren’t surprising given the frequent portrayals of other men fulfilling this expectation. At the very end of the movie though, with the help of one of his son’s inventions, Tim discovers how to tell Flint how much he loves him. This new level of vulnerability allows him and Flint to connect in an intimate way for the first time and brings healing to their relationship.
Sam Sparks, on the other hand, begins the movie as superficial and insecure. When she is mocked by classmates and later a professional colleague for wearing glasses and a scrunchie, it becomes evident that she has been affected by the culture’s objectification and oversimplification of women. This has caused her to be insecure about her own appearance and intelligence. Throughout the movie, though, with the help of Flint’s encouragement, she begins to embrace her intelligence and lives free from insecurities over how others see her. This leads her to challenge Flint to be a better man when he is tempted to value success more than those who are closest to him. By the end of the movie, both Sam and Tim have countered negative cultural expectations in ways that lead to flourishing for themselves and others.
These images of going from conformity to flourishing echo the holistic picture of gender painted by scripture. Emotional intimacy among men is elevated in David and Jonathan’s friendship (1 Samuel 18:1) and Deborah’s intelligence and leadership is a powerful example of a woman embracing her many gifts to make an impact (Judges 4:4-5). In these stories and others, the Bible depicts a holistic understanding of men and women working together to promote flourishing in light of their collective representation of the imago dei. This is not meant to oversimplify the many complicated and emotional issues related to gender identity and the Church but to demonstrate the ways scripture also rejects the incomplete cultural conceptions of men and women critiqued by Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
All in all, my time as a Capital Fellow has consisted of many expected and unexpected experiences that have had an impact on me. I expected that the classes and follow up discussions with other fellows would cause me to think more deeply about my faith but I did not expect to explore how a kids movie critiques incomplete cultural expectations for men and women. Both the expected and unexpected parts of my fellows year have worked together to reveal, among other things, what it can look like to engage with culture from the basis of a biblical worldview.
Happy Easter! He is risen!
Picture from the Week
Some of the fellows enjoyed seeing the cherry blossoms and playing frisbee on the National Mall.
Become A Capital Fellow in 2021-22
We are now receiving applications for Season 15 of the Capital Fellows program!
We are specifically looking for fellows interested in working in church ministry. We have two specific jobs available, one on the worship team and one with the children's ministry teams. These are special Capital Fellows opportunities because McLean Presbyterian not only pays your salary, but also pays your Capital Fellows program fees!!
The next program year runs from late August 2021 through mid-May 2022. If you are a college senior or recent college graduate - or know someone that is - we would love to hear from you!
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Pray for the Capital Fellows
Thank you for praying for the Capital Fellows each week!
This week, we pause to reflect and celebrate the most beautifully complicated act of selflessness in human history: Jesus' death and resurrection. Without these events, Christianity is just a myth. With them, however, faith in Jesus means hope for a new life, a new sense of purpose, a new joy. Our prayer for you, blog readers, is that these real events - Jesus' death and resurrection - would be, if they are not already, the foundation of your life. May God bless you this Easter Week!
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Benefits of The Fellows Initiative
You probably already know that Capital Fellows is one of 30 fellows programs in The Fellows Initiative network. But, did you know that the sponsors of TFI offer great benefits to Capital Fellows alumni? For example, Reformed Theological Seminary offers a 33% tuition discount for 5 years. You can learn more about TFI's sponsors by clicking here. TFI is also sponsored by The Budd Group, the Gordon College Master of Financial Analysis Program, and Regent College in Vancouver.
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