Thursday, November 3, 2011


Last week, my husband and I finally got around to seeing "Courageous."  Having an afternoon off together is enough of a reason to celebrate by seeing a movie, so Josh went to Grandma's and off we went.
I have to put a disclaimer here: I was fully prepared to not like this movie.  "Fireproof" was so badly acted and the fire and rescue scenes so ridiculous that I can't watch it for more than a few minutes(Kirk Cameron, admittedly, can act. The actress who played his wife made me want to throw things at the screen.).  I'm not a big fan of the other movies the Kendrick brothers have made for the same reasons--poor acting, silly dialogue, and, really, what is their obsession with stereotypically manly men(firefighters, police officers, football players)?  Especially since some of the finest firefighters and police officers I know happen to be women.  But I knew my husband would want to see "Courageous," so I agreed. After all, he's sat through enough of my foreign art films.

To sum up the story, it centers around four police officers and a construction worker.  It's worth pointing out that the police officers are three middle class white guys and an African American, who, unsuprisingly, never knew his father and has father issues.  The construction worker is Latino, clearly living in poverty level, and can't find or keep a job.  Racial stereotypes, much?  In any case, the four police officers are good cops, busy dad.  I don't think they are "bad dads" or "uninvolved dads" as some reviewers have said; I think they are just busy in a stressful job, keeping things up around the house, and making their wives happy(more on their wives later).  Their kids fall by the wayside, until one of the children is killed in a car accident.  This is a wake up call and they all vow to be better fathers, signing a resolution in a ceremony reminiscent of a wedding.  There are a number of tangents and plotlines, but this is the basic story.

The acting in this film was much better and the dialogue sharper and more realistic.  The plotline is still a little silly, and, honestly, I've never seen a group of cops sitting around a backyard barbecue drinking soda. But the Kendrick brothers are clearly advacing in their writing and producing skills, and I give them kudos for that.  There were several genuinely funny moments and some touching moments.  As for the overall message, I can't disagree with the fact that many men need to step up and be fathers, being an active participant in their children's life and not just checking in with Mom at night.  If this movie is a wakeup call to the fathers in the audience to be a part of their child's life, then I think it will have served it's purpose.

I still walked out of this movie feeling very squeamish.  One part of me genuinely enjoyed it.  One part of me was trying to imagine how I would explain it to my teenage son in the future.
The racial stereotypes bothered me on some level, but on another level, they are accurate.  African American men, statistically, are less likely to grow up in a home with their father than are caucasian men.  Latino/Mexican immigrants in this country do often hover near poverty levels and struggle to find work. 
Much more than this, though, is the portrayal of and attitude towards women in this film.  The women are little more than walk on characters who sometimes gently chide their husbands to spend more time with their kids.  The one character who is drawn out a little more, Carmen, is still shown doing nothing more than keeping house and homeschooling their children and making tortillas while her husband struggles to find work(begging one question: if they can't buy food and make the mortgage, why don't they put the kids in school and she finds a job? Never answered.).  It is insinuated that all the other wives in this movie are stay at home moms who do nothing but devote their lives to their children--all well and good, but not realistic.  The wives stand beside their husband in the vow ceremony, as the men promise to "provide for and protect our wives and children."  Children, I can see, but providing for and protecting our wives?  Really?  Why, Kendrick brothers, do you feel the need to infantilize women so much?  Do you really believe that women need to be protected and provided for?  Because if you do, I can introduce you to many, many women who do not, and would most definately not appreciate our husbands coming up with a vow to do so.  I shifted uncomfortably in my seat during the entire vow scene, because--while I totally appreciate calling men out to do their jobs as fathers--it ignored the very vital and important role women do in raising children, and made it seem that women need men in their lives as much as children do. 

In another scene, one of the police officers takes his 15-year-old daughter out on a "date."  Besides the plain ickiness of fathers "dating" their teenage daughters, he gives her a beautiful ring and asks her to pledge him her virginity, and to allow him to approve of any boyfriends before she establishes a relationship with them.  At fifteen, I expect to have some say in my children's dating activities, but he doesn't put a time limit on it.  When my daughter is 23, I have no desire to be involved in her dating life more than quick advice here and there.  Why?  Because I strongly desire to raise my children to make good decisions, and I hope I can completely trust their judgement when they are in their twenties.  No, I can most assuredly say, my husband and I will not be asking to approve our children's boyfriends/girlfriends when they are adults. 
My other concern with the whole scene is the idea of a purity ring.  If my sixteen year old comes to me and tells me that he or she has decided that they want to remain a virgin until marriage, and would like a purity ring, I would be willing to buy one.  But that is their decision, their pledge--not mine.  I am not ever going to ask my child to promise me their virginity; sexual decisions are theirs to make.  Again, I hope I raise my children in such a way that they have good judgement and make wise decisions, but I want those important decisions to be theirs alone.

So should you see this movie?  I actually would go see it again.  The dialogue was sharp and many of the cop scenes were fairly realistic.  The interplay between the police officers was often spot on.  And, overall, I do think it had a good message--that fathers need to be a part of their children's lives, whatever the cost.  I just wish that message hadn't been buried under stereotyped characters, cardboard cutout women, and an icky, icky father-daughter scene.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like the Kendrick brothers need to have a sister help them with their stories a bit. :-)