Sunday, February 10, 2013

Christian Lessons from Classic Movies, pt I: Girls sleep in the house, Boys sleep in the barn

I do not own the rights

A growing trend in the parenting world is setting a tight limit on the amount of TV their kids can watch every day. As a baby sitter, I am often the enforcer of such rules until mom and dad come home and put on a show so that they can make dinner. They do this so kids don’t rot their brains or get wrong impressions of the world.

When I was growing up, I watched A LOT of TV and movies. I mean a lot; however, my parents and grandparents watched with us, and used each moment as a teaching lesson. For that I am eternally grateful.

One classic movie that my family has viewed umpteen times is the 1954 musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. In case you’ve never seen it, it is the *ahem* very realistic portrayal of seven backwoodsman brothers and their quest for love.

Set in Oregon territory in the 1850s, the oldest brother, Adam, meets Milly when he rides into town to trade grain and pellets for whatever they need on the farm. Upon introduction, he proposes to her. She accepts, the two get married that day and then venture back to his cottage in the woods.

I do not own the rights
However, he neglects to mention that he lives with his six younger brothers (Benjamin, Caleb, Daniel, Ephraim, Frank, & Gideon) and their lifestyle is an unbelievable mess (that she is now responsible for cleaning up after). Spunky and sassy, Milly takes none of this lying down, and she honors her marriage vows while teaching her new brothers manners and etiquette, guiding them through their new social and romantic lives.

And they all sing and dance! Why on earth would any two parents show this to three young girls repeatedly as an example of true love and respect? Because it became a WONDERFUL teaching tool about love, responsibility, and abstinence.

What?! Yes, that’s right. My parents and loved ones started elements of “the talk” before we hit kindergarten. Before we knew that there was “a talk,” they laid the foundation for the values they wanted us to uphold through life.

I do not own the rights
In the film, the boys fumble in love when they “accidentally” beat up all of the eligible men in town at a barn-raising (what can I say? It happens…). Depressed and forlorn, these lonesome polecats think about leaving the farm to just get away. Milly hears this and sends Adam to talk to them about the trials of love.

Adam, who thinks he knows everything and never needed to learn etiquette to woo his wife (let this be a lesson, ladies), takes the story of the “sobbin’ women” from Plutarch’s Lives and applies it to their predicament. He convinces his brothers that the best course of action is simply to ride into Town, collect the women and steal them away to the cabin for seclusion, because that is the true course to earn requited love. So they do it. And they cause an avalanche so that the women can’t be returned and the town can’t come to fetch them. BUT THEY FORGOT TO GET THE PARSON!

When the men return with these petrified, sobbing women, Milly comes out of the house, on fire with rage and disappointment in the men in her life. She lovingly gathers the women around her, and after hearing that the avalanche blocked them all in for the winter, speaks the words that every parent wants his or her daughters to understand as truth.

I do not own the rights
She stood in front of the door and said, “This house is for the girls. As long as they are here, you all will eat and sleep in the barn with the rest of the livestock.”

Men sleep in the barn; women sleep in the house. When were little, my mom would gather us around and say, “Now why did the boys have to go sleep somewhere else?” And we would reply, “Because the boys and the girls weren’t married, and there are only seven beds in the whole house. Boys and girls can’t sleep in the same bed unless they are married.”

Boom. My parents took the time to teach us values as the standard way for living, not a rare incidence of weird. For the rest of our lives, men and women sleeping separately before marriage was not only normal, but necessary. Where else will you find that in popular culture?

There are several other important lessons in this film, which I’m sure I’ll sketch out at another time. If you haven’t seen it, go pick up a copy! I recommend watching it with one or two friends who have seen it a lot and totally love it – you won’t be bored, I promise.

It wasn’t until fourth grade that I realized: 1) it’s not exactly normal to talk about premarital living arrangements with your parents, and 2) the rest of the world didn’t know what I’d always known: sex (and sleeping together) was made for marriage.

What you watch and what you let your kids watch is important, don’t get me wrong. But HOW you watch something makes all the difference. By working with the media, our parents set the Christian standard in our hearts.

1 comment:

  1. Boom. A) I love this movie. B) This is a great post. C) It's so true. We have to work with the media because it's going to be there. We have to make lemonade here, Christian people.