Thursday, April 21, 2005

Sin City as Secondary World

I can’t imagine that any of the Christian movie parable sites are using Sin City this month. I can’t imagine any of them ever will, except for maybe those radicals over at Hollywood Jesus. Anyone who can get spiritual content from American Pie has a radar that sees Jesus everywhere.
For the average Evangelical Christian viewer, Sin City is just way too violent, smutty and dark. It’s the first film where I could say I say more than one castration. It’s the first film I’ve seen in ages that featured as much skin as bold a fashion. So for the majority of Christians, I think you should just stop reading this review at this point, and hear me say loud and clear, “You people should not see this movie.” Oh. And my mom too. My mom should NOT see Sin City.
With that out of the way, let me tell you why I rated it a ten and would not only see it again, but plan on owning it.
I can digress to a number of reviewers across the web to disseminate the information concerning the artistic merit of the film. Much has already been said about artistic vision, Rodriguez’ integrity to the source material and its creator, the high caliber of actors and their performances and all the other things that make this a great movie; I would only be restating what’s already been overstated.
But I know what people will be wondering. How can I justify enjoying the viewing of a movie such as this?
I’m not sure my agenda would ever be to justify it. I don’t know why we have to constantly go around justifying everything. Especially in a world where Christians support the NFL without justification. So I won’t justify it.
I will attempt to explain it a little.
It has to do with that Secondary Worlds concept I explored in an article a while back. Seeing Sin City crystallized a new Cinemaprophecy concept for me; it’s all about the secondary world.
Secondary worlds aren’t exclusive to the fantasy genre. I would propose that every work of fiction creates a secondary world of sorts. Morality becomes defined within the context of the story being told. The morality of Sin City is not our everyday morality, at least not our ideal morality, and thank God for that. However, it may in fact be an amplification of the way we are. When I first started thinking through the extension of the secondary world concept to all fiction, I realized that in and of itself, the secondary world premise does not guarantee a morality cogent with our own. But it must have an inner coherence in order to be successful.
The work of Cinemaprophecy becomes then the task of an anthropologist, a linguist, and a sociologist to each and every secondary world the viewer comes into contact with. It is useless to talk about the violence of Sin City as though it is directly related to the violence of the world we live in, because there is no North American city where prostitutes rule the inner city. In real life these relationships and dynamics are more complex. In film they become grossly simplified.
Some stories are very close to being the world of the reader. These, most would argue, are ‘realistic’ stories. But at best, all the fictional world can gain is verisimilitude. To replicate reality would result in a book the length of War and Peace where nothing ever really happens. Stories are always an enterprise of secondary worlds, even when they’re based on fact. Catch Me if you Can, while biographical, moves into the mystical from time to time through the onscreen relationship of Frank Abagnale Jr. and his father, since in real life Frank Sr. was dead shortly after Abagnale ran away. Or take any ‘period’ piece. Even if the replication of that time period is immaculate, it is not the world we presently live in, and as such becomes a secondary world. Fiction can never truly be about the primary world. One might be able to argue that a good deal of non-fiction is involved in the construction of an idealized secondary world that the primary aspires to. Self help books, books about faith practice, the environment, relationships, even travel books with their glossy perfect scenario presentations offer a secondary world to us.
In fiction though, these worlds are more purely distilled. The idea of story is to take us on a journey through this secondary world, not to see that world bleed into our own, although this may be an outcome of cinemaprophecy.
So in the secondary universe of Sin City, where all the priests and nearly all the police are corrupt, Marv is our Don Quixote, tilting at the windmills of his psychotic temper, Gail is King Arthur watching benevolently over her queendom of street walkers, and Hardigan is Christ, taking the blame for a crime he never committed, and sacrificing himself to insure the angelic Nancy Callahan goes free.
It may not be a secondary universe you’re interested in visiting, and as such, you have my blessing to stay out. Just don’t look down your nose at me if I borrow a quote from AC/DC and head down to Sin City.

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