Hollywood’s Boys (and Girls) of Summer

Josh Larsen

Summer is over as far as Hollywood is concerned. No more big potential blockbusters await us. Looking back at the season’s hits – mostly morality plays writ large – I wonder: What do this summer’s movie heroes say about us?

Psychologically, watching a star on the screen can be like looking in a mirror. Sometimes we transfer our own worries and dreams on the characters so that we see heightened versions of ourselves. Sometimes our heroes reflect the attitudes of our era. Seen this way, Russell Crowe in “Robin Hood” is much more than Russell Crowe in “Robin Hood.” Why, I wonder, was this 2010 iteration of the legend so world-weary and glum?

You could ask similar questions of other recent big-screen heroes. Robert Downey Jr.’s cocky Tony Stark had the smugness beaten out of him in “Iron Man 2,” while Leonardo DiCaprio played a con man who literally lived his nightmares in “Inception.” Why did we have so many dark antiheroes in this supposed season of light? Many Christians tentatively tiptoe around movie theaters because of this. Did they have even more reason to do so this year?

Sure, there was joy to be found. Tom Cruise’s spy in “Knight and Day” joked his way through life-and-death scenarios, while the entirety of “The A-Team” was a gag. Were these escapist fantasies America’s way of ignoring two wars and a lingering recession? Likely not, considering they both grossed less than “Inception” and “Iron Man 2.”

As for women looking to see themselves reflected in the summer’s movies, they mostly had uninspiring choices. Angelina Jolie’s rogue agent in “Salt” was as grim as any of those tortured men, as was mopey “Twilight” heroine Bella. The season’s chick flicks – “Sex and the City 2” and “Eat Pray Love” - only offered female figures mired in materialism and narcissism. Were there any heroines this summer?

Obviously the cast of “The Expendables” doesn’t count. The summer season ended with this brawny blow-’em up, in which Sylvester Stallone directed himself and other 1980s action icons in a time capsule of manliness. The movie took first place at the box office two weekends in a row. I’m not sure what this nostalgia for the likes of John Rambo says about the state of heroism in 2010.

What popcorn movies did you indulge in this summer? What did the heroes in them represent for you? Could you describe any of them as Christian figures, or is Hollywood helpless when it comes to that?

Topics: Movies, Culture At Large, Arts & Leisure, Entertainment