Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Seen Any Monsters Lately?

As a general rule, a sequel is almost never better than the original film on which it’s based, but many would agree that 1935's The Bride of Frankenstein is a rare exception to the rule.

The Bride of Frankenstein © 1935 Universal Studios
Elsa Lanchester as the Bride of Frankenstein
Some people point to the pacing, the quality of acting, the introduction of humor, the score or other aspects to explain why Bride is such a great film. For me, even though I still personally prefer the 1931 film, the reason I think Bride is so strong is because it makes use of several elements from Mary Shelley's original novel that had been overlooked in the first movie. The creature seeing his reflection in the water, the blind man in the lonely cottage, the creature learning to speak and the idea of Frankenstein creating a mate for his monster are all pulled from the pages of the book. This film also succeeds at painting Frankenstein’s fiend in a more sympathetic light, which - as I mentioned a few weeks ago - is true to the original tale.

To me, this is also a very visual story with rich symbolism everyone can learn from!

Early in the movie, Frankenstein’s monster is wandering through the woods and finds his way to a stream. As he leans down to get a drink, he sees his own reflection, and it is here (as the novel explains) that he finally understands why everyone screams and runs away when they see him. His hideous appearance even causes him to pull back from the water and growl at himself in disbelief.

The monster sees himself for the first time © 1935 Universal Studios
The monster (Boris Karloff) sees himself for the first time
When was the last time you took a good look at yourself? Some people seem to be in love with their reflections, while others avoid mirrors and pictures at any cost, but that’s not so much what I’m talking about. I mean when was the last time you sat back and reflected on your behavior, your attitudes and the way you treat others? It’s easy sometimes to see what’s wrong with others, but I think we’re often afraid to look at ourselves objectively. If we did, we might just see some things we don’t like!

There is room for improvement in all of us, and there are things we all must learn to control and give up in order to be closer to God and become who he intended us to be. In 1 John 1, the apostle tells us that since we are all sinners, we should not deny it - to do so is to call God a liar - but instead, we should confess our sins, and when we do, God offers forgiveness and cleansing through Christ Jesus. As the old saying goes, "Confession is good for the soul." This is the beginning of eternal life, but it’s not enough for us to just read those words or even to believe them. We must be willing to do what the Word says, taking that step of repentance and allowing God to help us. 

"For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, 
they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; 
for they look at themselves and, on going away, 
immediately forget what they were like."
- James 1:23-24

When the creature finally meets his bride at the end of the movie, he thinks they will be happy together because they were both created from dead tissue, but his bride wants nothing to do with him. She knows nothing about how or why she was made, nor about the hideous scar which marks her own neck. She only sees the ugliness of her intended mate, and she wants nothing to do with him!

How easy it is to see others' faults while remaining oblivious to the truth about ourselves! I think of all the negative political ads and biased media reports that seem to only be intent on bashing the opposing side instead of addressing the issues themselves. But as I mentioned above, we are called to examine ourselves. Jesus himself even calls us to this!
"Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,” while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck our of your neighbor’s eye."
- Matthew 7:3-5
The Bible also calls us to see the best in others. The apostle Paul, for instance, encourages us to be like Christ and "in humility regard others as better than yourselves" (Phlippians 2:3b). This is perhaps best illustrated in our story by the lonely blind man who befriends the creature.

Blind man prays © 1935 Universal Studios
Praying over a new friend
Because he cannot see the monster, the blind man doesn’t know to be afraid. Instead, he sees beyond the angry and frightened fa├žade and sees another being in need of a friend. The blind man even thanks the Lord the first night for bringing these two souls together. He offers food and shelter, and over an unspecified period of time, he nurses the creature to health and begins teaching him how to talk. Just imagine all the good we might do if we could learn to see others, not just for how they appear or for what they’ve done, but as fellow children of God in need of love and respect!

The fact that the blind man also teaches the monster to smoke and drink may serve as a sad reminder of human imperfection and the truth that others will sometimes pick up our bad habits. But the willingness of this man to reach out to a lonely creature despite personal risk (even if he didn’t know how much danger he might be in) is still a good thing. It reminds us of God and the way he calls us to live.

"But the Lord said to Samuel, 
'Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature...
for the Lord does not see as mortals see; 
they look on the outward appearance, 
but the Lord looks on the heart.'"
- 1 Samuel 16:7

Don't pass up the cross! © 1935 Universal Studios
Don't pass up the cross on the way to the grave!
We frequently need to examine our hearts and confess our sins, that the "monster within" may be transformed by Christ. At the same time, we need to give others the benefit of a doubt because, while we may know our own evil tendencies, only God truly sees the hearts of our neighbors. Instead of rejecting or demonizing people because they're different from us or we think they're in the wrong, let's try to welcome as many as possible in godly love! Instead of spreading hatred and fear, let's spread the Good News that Christ died for everyone so that he could save anyone who comes to him, regardless of who they are, where they come from, or what they've done!

Let's make this a truly...
Happy Halloween!!!

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