“Scream” And The Loss of Truth, Beauty and Joy
Rambling Ever On content is the definition of eclectic. We write about theology, sports, music, movies, introversion, bathroom etiquette, Big Foot, and more. We have comedy, short stories, poetry, and multi-part essays with tens of thousands of words. In trying to find a way to wrap the diversity of our website into one mission statement-type bow, Phill came up with “Finding truth, beauty, and joy in all of life”.
And that nails it. This is exactly what we achieve with every article, I believe. The content itself can be judged in a variety of ways, but I know when we write, joy, beauty, and truth are the unifying themes. At least one of the three and sometimes all three.
Why Truth, Beauty and Joy Matter
This came to the top of my brain as I watched Scream (2022) in March of last year. Before I get to the why of that statement–the main point of this article–I want to mention two things in the way of setup.
First, in deciding what entertainment I will watch, and what my wife and I will watch together, we definitely go through criteria the way many Christians do. And we do not have hard and fast rules. We can tolerate some language, but not the level of The Big Lebowski or Pulp Fiction. We can tolerate some violence, but nothing like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre1. Except in rare cases where it is entirely non-sexual and purposeful, we do not do nudity. Even shows or movies without nudity but still a lot of sex are off-limits.
We read up beforehand, rely on our friends and family to give good recommendations and sometimes we just watch an episode or two to get a feel. But we have standards.
Some may find our standards too lax and others too rigid. But the reality of Christianity is that we have a lot of freedom to decide for ourselves where we can find truth, beauty, and joy. I do not judge people who have no TV in their house and never go to the movies or people who watch Pulp Fiction2.
Secondly, I consider myself a huge fan of the Scream franchise. I remember not knowing much about the original when it came out and not even watching it until it was on DirectTV six months after release. After my brother Ashley raved about it. But all it took was one film, and I was hooked. Actually, it only took one scene. That opening scene with Drew Barrymore is legendary. I was 18 when I watched it and just like Dumb and Dumber was the perfect movie for 16-year-old me, and Labyrinth was the perfect movie for 8-year-old me, the original Scream hit me just right3.
And so, Scream entered into a special realm of movie series that, no matter how many sequels they do or how bad are, I will keep watching. Rocky and Jurassic Park are a couple of others.
The sequels had been a mixture of good, eh, and blah to me4. Yet for every single one through Scream 4, I was there on opening day or at midnight. I just couldn’t get enough. Every time they announced a new one, I was ecstatic. Especially considering I thought the franchise was done after the third one. And especially after the fourth one.
So when the fifth one was announced, and it was clearly going to be a legacy sequel, I was out of my mind excited. The trailers and the hype had me riveted in a way only the Creed series had done in my lifetime. Yet for all the previous installments, I was single. Now, with a wife, a child, and another one on the way, I could not justify seeing it immediately. I waited until it came to streaming.
Blindsided by Something Quite Ugly and Depressing
Which brings me to the point of the article. After watching Scream (2022) a year ago, I don’t ever recall a time in my life I was so revulsed by a movie. Partly based just on the movie itself and partly because I had hyped it up so much in my mind. I wasn’t just utterly disappointed, I was disgusted5.
I spent a few days and a few forum posts trying to figure out why. Some of it was plot choices. I won’t spoil anything as the movie is still relatively new. But for the most part, it just seemed obvious to me that with a new generation that has seen way too many of these types of horror films (as Scream really injected much-needed life into the genre over 25 years ago, causing an avalanche of similar movies, some of which have been reboots and the like), they needed to up the swearing and violence to unprecedented heights. Or depths.
Scream has always had profanity and gore. But this was next-level. It was too much. As such, I hated the whole movie. I noted to my friends in private that Creed and Cobra Kai had done something amazing–they both have caused me to love the original Rocky and Karate Kid movies even more than I did before. Rocky IV is a better movie to me now because of Creed II. Cobrak Kai even caused me to love and appreciate Karate Kid 3, which is a movie I have panned since it was first released.
Scream 2022 did the exact opposite; it caused me not only to hate the movie I just watched, but it caused me to not want to watch any of the movies ever again. I own the first four on DVD and I am thinking of selling them.
Even though I spent thousands of words working through this experience, I think my feelings can be summed up by the mere fact that I cannot find any truth, beauty, or joy in Scream 5. I don’t know that there was any truth or much beauty in the first four. But they brought me great joy. Now that this is gone, the franchise is likely dead to me.
We have written numerous articles about movies in our 7+ years as a website. I have written several. But never before have I written about how they fit into the overall goal of Rambling Ever On. I find truth in Won’t You Be My Neighbor? I find beauty in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. I find joy in Dumb and Dumber. I find all three in The Lord of the Rings.
But since I found none in last year’s Scream movie, I felt it would be appropriate to write about it for the public. Hoping to help people think about why they watch what they watch, perhaps even starting a dialogue about it.
I can’t say I won’t ever watch Scream VI, which comes out the very weekend I’m writing this. Despite what I have written here, I have watched every trailer and even listened to some podcasts about it. Like the romantic breakup in real life, I’m having a hard time letting go. But I know whatever I decide, beauty, truth, and joy will guide me.
I hope they guide all Christians in choices of entertainment.
- True Story: In 2005 I was working at Ames Middle School in Chicago. Saw had been released and I had no intention of seeing it because of the gruesome images associated with it. A kid at the school talked me into watching it. So along with my two roommates, I watched it, pausing it every ten minutes so we could read from the Bible. ↩
- I’d imagine there are some TV shows and movies out there that essentially no Christian should be watching. And that there are limits to the amount of time any Christian can watch and not be affected by worldly philosophy. But, for the most part, I see decisions like these as non-essential convictions as discussed in 1 Corinthians 8-10 and Romans 14-15. ↩
- It probably matters as well that this was an era as a young adult where I was far away from following Christ ↩
- In fairness to Screams 2 and 3, they both ran into real-world problems that caused rewrites that were inferior, in my view. Scream 2 was released in December 1997 when the internet was still new, at least as far as being ubiquitous. No one had a plan for things like leaked scripts. The original script did leak on the internet. As a sophomore at the University of South Carolina in a computer lab, I read it. The boyfriend and best friend were the killers, and most of the core cast died. It was enthralling. And the first two-thirds of Scream 2 is amazing to me. But once it leaked, they changed the ending the whole thing fell quite flat to me. Additionally, according to Matthew Lillard, in Scream 3 Stu was supposed to be alive and in jail and manipulating two high school kids to do the killings. But after Columbine, that was scrapped. That idea sounds much better than the bottom-of-the-barrel effort we got from the end of the original trilogy. ↩
- I honestly think a lot of it comes from having kids now. Kayla and I last watched all of these movies in 2016, over two years before Liam was born. Having kids changes a person no doubt. ↩
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- “Scream” And The Loss of Truth, Beauty and Joy - March 9, 2023
- Creed 3 and Hollywood’s Love Affair With ‘Re-quels’ - March 2, 2023
2 thoughts on ““Scream” And The Loss of Truth, Beauty and Joy”
First, did reading from the Bible every ten minutes help while watching “Saw”?
Second, this is fantastic. We need to really evaluate why we are watching the things we do. Is it just to be entertained? Is there something more we are searching for? Do we draw any lines? Good thoughts, Gowdy!
It probably helped but the whole experience was still quite negative! Ha! I was young and foolish. I’m older now and less foolish. But at that time I really thought I had to do stuff like that to “reach” those kids at that school. Definitely no truth, beauty or joy to that series either. About the only thing good that came out of it is that “Jigsaw” has a one-off role on Seinfeld from years before and it makes me laugh now to see him in that episode.