George Valentin’s Evangelical Nightmare


There is a scene roughly a quarter way through the recent Oscar-winning movie The Artist which is simply mesmorizing. Here George Valentin, the silent movie star, sits down at his dressing table, stares at his mirror and then is alarmed by the sounds that are slowly filling his small room. A bottle wobbles, a chair scrapes, glass shatters, passerbyers shuffle and mumble while dancing girls giggle. Actor Jean Dujardin probably won his Oscar by his portrayal of the horrified Valentin as this new world of sound invades his previously silent existence.

SPOILERS PRESENT. IF YOU WANT TO READ ON…

This short scene showing the nightmare of a man who has just seen his job, and existence threatened by changes in both technology and consumer tastes spoke to me as an evangelical. Valentin’s nightmare could be our very own. Here we are comfortably affixed in our comfy trailers on the big lot. We are the victors, the winners, the people that everyone wanted to be. We were the dominant player in our culture. Then somebody invented sound playback, and another person used it, and now the masses are craving, no demanding it. Our silent movies are now relics of another age. Now we are the thrown-out actor loved by decrepit old-timers, and if remembered by the youngsters it is as their parent’s favorite actor.

And like Valentin, we are angry about it (when not sitting despondent in our half empty auditoriums). We want to take back our clout, our power, our love from the masses. Like Valentin, we are using what’s left of our  money and power to create our next big thing (which is the same of the last big thing we did). Yet in the end we face the very real possibility that this next thing will just be received as another thing to remind the country of what used to be cool and fashionable. Sound, it seems, is here to stay.

At the end Valentin faced a choice put the pistol to his mouth, or adapt. Find a way to bring what he does, and who he is to the masses in a new way. Valentin, of course, could not do this for himself. Here he needed a guide, and Peppy Miller, the bright new face of the movies, becomes the helping hand. She supports, encourages, and eventually forcing Valentin back into the spotlight. Coincidentally it was Valentin that give Miller the idea, motivation, and first lesson in being a star, and now that favor returns itself in Miller offering Valentin a second chance at life.

Likewise, Evangelical faces a choice between seeking oblivion in worn out spaces, or a chance to adapt.  And Evangelical cannot adapt by himself. Luckily Evangelical has been offering many a person a chance and providing first chances to a host of people: congregants, students, and so on. As Evangelical has sat around in a stool at a counter sipping his (root) beer and mumbling complaints to the server, these bright young stars have been maturing and stepping into the spotlight themselves. They have been hard at work taking their lessons learned in silence, and expanding their talents into sound. Evangelical can take their hand and waltz back into the spotlight, or take a gun to their burned-out apartment.

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