Films seduce and indoctrinate us in the same way as soap operas, but there is greater variety and the opportunity to discern the difference between the real and unreal worlds. Consider this sequence of films:
The films based on CS Lewis's Narnia stories (2005 and ongoing), and The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003) and The Hobbit (2012-2014) based on J R R Tolkien's books. These stories are very skilfully crafted. There is no reference to religion, no priests, prophets or preachers, no creeds or catechisms. Yet the visible world is not all there is. There is an unseen world, there is a universal moral order, there is a clear distinction between good and evil and there is an overarching Big Story with allusions to and echoes of the Biblical Story.
Then there are the eight films based on J K Rowling’s Harry Potter novels (2001-2011). Again the visible world is not all there is. There is an unseen world, there is a moral order, there is a clear distinction between good and evil. But there is no overarching Big Story, no ultimate grounding for the morality, for the distinction between good and evil.
The Hunger Games (four films, 2012-2015; 2014 release date 21st November) is based on the trilogy of books by Suzanne Collins. In these films there is no unseen world – now the material world is all there is. There is no supernatural, no magic; it is just high technology. The distinction of good from evil remains, but there is no underlying moral order, or overarching Big Story out there, no justification for the morality, or for the distinctions made between good and evil.
The highly acclaimed vampire film Let the Right One In (Swedish, 2008, American version 2010), based on the novel by Swedish author John Lindqvist. Now not only is there no unseen world, but the absence of any Big Story or moral order out there is affirmed and morality becomes a human creation that can be altered at will. So a vampire (murdering) girl becomes 'moral' because she protects and mentors a bullied boy.
We must explain films and all the media and internet offerings to our children. We live in a dangerously indoctrinating society. The great danger of indoctrination in schools and society today is not from religion, but from secularism. In today's environment it is hardly surprising that almost 100% of unbelieving parents successfully pass on their unbelief to their children. That unbelief is affirmed and reinforced by the surrounding culture. But barely 50% of religious parents succeed in passing on their religious faith. Religious faith is ignored and thereby undermined by the culture. Research also shows that many children give up on their faith in their teenage years or as they enter adult life. The loss of active Christian faith during college and university years (50-80%) is especially shocking, but almost certainly roots back to school years.
We desperately need to rediscover and live in the Biblical Big Story and to be a Christian community (church) that visibly does so.