Pulling the Strings

“All movies are manipulative.”
Mark Kermode, film critic, BBC Radio 5 live, 23 November 2012


Every movie has an agenda, and uses visual and sound techniques to manipulate you to think, act, and/or especially feel in a particular way.  It is all about stirring the thoughts and the emotions that the producers want you to experience.  The whole point of the genre is to create an experience, to stimulate a particular response in the viewers.

A movie does not primarily use propositional truth to challenge you, it uses visual tricks to manipulate you.  Unless you are alert to the tricks of the trade, you will follow wherever it leads and may not even realise what it is doing to your thinking.  The result may (rarely) be good thoughts and good emotions, but good or bad, your thoughts and emotions are not the result of conscious decision by you but by the person pulling the strings.


God has entrusted money to your care.  You can use it for many Biblical purposes such as:

  • Provide for the needs of your family.
  • Help a Christian brother or sister in need.
  • Save for future needs.
  • Build an inheritance for your children.
  • Give something nice to someone for no reason but kindness.
  • Give to the financial needs of your church or another ministry.
  • Use it for a rest break from your responsibilities.
  • Pay for a rest break for someone else.
  • Buy something that will save you time so that you have more time for serving the Lord in whatever roles and responsibilities He has given you.

Or, you can spend a lot of money on a regular basis to be manipulated.  The people who pull the strings while your thoughts and emotions dance to their tune don’t love the Lord, they love the world.  They don’t value what you value, and they want you to think and act for their financial benefit, or to help change society to fit their views, or both.

I John 2:15-17

15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

About Jon Gleason

Former Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
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8 Responses to Pulling the Strings

  1. Darren says:

    Jon, how dare you speak against our god of entertainment! Don’t you realize we are now enightened and entertainment is one way in which we “connect with our culture?” By watching the filth which the world provides we learn about our world and we can better engage them in gospel-oriented conversation. (Hopefully, you know I am being sarcastic – just reiterating what Ihave heard.)

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Hi, Darren. Kermode’s comment struck me — it even applies to movies that are “clean”. They are still manipulating, taking us places we don’t consciously choose to go. That’s dangerous, whoever does the manipulating, but when it is the filthmongers, even if they don’t use obviously filthy things to do it, it is just foolish. They aren’t on our side. As you know, I’ve said things about the entertainment industry before. If it bothers you, why keep coming back? 🙂

      We must internalise that people are not saved by skill in Gospel-oriented conversation, but by God’s power opening the eyes of those whom the god of this world has blinded.

      Thanks for the good comment.

  2. Darren says:

    Wow! Jon, you must have been eavesdropping in my class on evangelism – it’s not us, our skill, ability, etc. it’s Jesus continuing His ministry by the Spirit through us. That means we simply need to tell the truth and trust the Spirit to do His work.

    I agree with you that movies don’t need to be filthy to be manipulative. Even the directors of “little House…” had a message they wanted to communicate.

  3. ukfred says:

    I just spent yesterday evening, and some money, at a fund-raiser for a local Christian organisation by a Christian ‘magician’ and illusionist. He explained that he had learned about his tricks in the same way we all ought to learn about life, by going to the right places, talking with the right people, and reading the right books.

    Unfortunately too many movies are manipulative, and the better made the movie, the more manipulative it can be. I can even remember being shocked by my feeling sympathy for Michael Corleone at the end of ‘The Godfather’ a character who was completely immoral. Probably the worst sort of manipulation comes from films that are advertised as Christian but project a message that has corrupted the Biblical message but which comes close enough that we have difficulty is seeing the differences.

    • Jon Gleason says:

      Hello, Fred. I think you are right about what is most dangerous.

      Poison that is clearly labeled as poison is not as dangerous as that which comes labeled as healthy food. The most dangerous wolf is the one that has managed to disguise himself as a sheep. Either can kill you but at least you know to avoid the one.

      Fortunately, our Great Shepherd protects us from a lot of dangers that we don’t recognise, but that doesn’t mean it is ok to shut our eyes to the obvious ones, nor to fail to “be sober, be vigilant,” because of our adversary like a roaring lion.

  4. ukfred says:

    Indeed, Jon. That is why I like to remember a man at a church I used to attend who would tell us that the Bible told us not to have hard hearts, but nowhere tells us to have soft heads. If we had not been meant to use what is between our ears, God would have had no need to give it us. We need to be vigilant to be innocent as doves yet wily as serpents.

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