Where is the road of modern culture taking us? The real question is not whether there are intriguing, entertaining, and even edifying details along the route, but what is the final destination. Are we Christians asking this question as we consume contemporary cultural material? Or are we gradually losing our bearings, the moral compass spinning aimlessly? What is the dominant terrain, the pitch of the slope? I believe it is heading downward, and the occasional bumps in the road that offer a sense of upward mobility (such as the “values” in the Harry Potter books) contribute to an illusion. In order to see clearly the extent to which we have been absorbed by the illusion, we first must recognize how strong is the need in human nature for confidence in the world, and the instinctive aversion to the threat of “negativity” or “intolerance.”
Most contemporary films are infected with some degree of symbol-erosion. A case in point is the Spanish language Pan’s Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno, 2006), by the Mexican film-maker Guillermo del Toro, whose previous work includes Hellboy and Backbone of the Devil, films that draw on strange fiction, fantasy, and war themes. Pan’s Labyrinth is particularly interesting for its integration of fairy-tale, classical myth, horror, and political propaganda. Profoundly beautiful in parts, it is graphically brutal and subtly anti-Christian in its use of symbols. It won several international awards and three Academy awards and was listed in the top ten favorite films of many film critics.