by Bonnie Anderson and Dan Webster
As Tina Turner would say, “What’s love got to do with it?”
A romantic comedy directed by Judd Apatow, starring Amy Schumer (who also wrote the screenplay) and SNL’s Bill Hader, is a raunchy, poignant, and sometimes funny social commentary on American life for the “connected – C generation” of 18-34 year-olds.
Schumer is to be congratulated for taking a very honest (and sometimes coarse) look at sex and the cult of celebrity in our society. ‘Trainwreck’ is anything but.
No spoiler here, Amy lives a life of selected excess; excessive casual sex, excessive drinking and “soft” drugs. By day, she holds down a good job with a magazine aimed at people with similar interests. Amy, who just “doesn’t get sports” is assigned the task of writing a story about a sports doctor, Aaron. (Hader).
Although the story line of this romantic comedy is predictable, there are surprises that make the film worth seeing. LeBron James gives a good debut film performance as Aaron’s friend, Amy’s family relationships ring true for diverse generations of movie-goers with Dad needing assisted living care, the costs to be borne by Amy and her sister, and angst between sisters with different life styles. Schumer and Hader have good charisma.
The film is a simple exploration of primarily white, upper middle class, mainstream “C” generation individual and family values. The only thing that is subtle in this film is God’s appearance in the form of intimacy, developing trust, forgiveness and reconciliation and redemption.
But nowhere do we hear anything from a character about what God or the church might say about sex. Maybe that’s because for centuries, churches have tried to control sexual activity, judged it as immoral outside of marriage and even in marriage only certain acts were allowed. The Puritans have clearly had a special influence in America on how many view sexual intimacy.
So what’s missing in ‘Trainwreck’ is any kind of celebration of sexual expression as a gift from God. We do see Amy change the direction of her life (metanoia) and grow into a person who can experience love, and sex is part of that love. But we’re not going to see anything like what one spiritual writer calls marriage as the only 24/7 sacrament and the couple the fulltime ministers of that sacrament.
We’re not going to hear anything about marriage being for the mutual joy of the couple as stated in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. That’s because the Church does not widely proclaim such messages. It generally stays silent on the subject.
There are rare exceptions.
Thad’s, an Episcopal faith community in West Los Angeles, occasionally hands out to members items that mean something in their lives. Many members travel on business often. Thad’s gave away baggage tags. But they also printed up pillow cases that read, “God is here.”
The church can learn something from Thad’s. If it’s going to be relevant in the world today it better start helping people see God’s presence in their lives.
So isn’t it just like God to be smack dab in the middle of a sometimes raunchy Hollywood, romantic comedy? In answer to Tina Turner, “What’s love got to do with it?” In this instance, the answer is “Everything”. God is love.
Bonnie Anderson is a very active lay leader in her parish, diocese and in the wider Episcopal Church. She is an experienced community organizer and lives in suburban Detroit. Dan Webster is an Episcopal priest in Baltimore, Maryland and a former broadcast news executive. But don’t expect only east coast urban perspectives here. As it turns out, we both grew up in Southern California. They blog about films and faith at Faith Reels.