NOT FOR NOVICES
Subject: Cider House Rules
Date: Tue, 26 Jun 2001
From: "John Blackman"
I just watched the cider house rules , it really is an excellent visual aid for explaining the foundations of relativism and a good wake up call for the church that " Toto we aren't in Kansas any more" . I would not reccomend you let an adolescent watch it without intentional discussion of the slippery themes, however with that in place you could sure help them see where relativism eventually leads. The concept about the "Cider House Rules" , being "written by someone who doesn't live here" were very inisghtful. I hope the other christians out there also caught the dialogue late in the film when Homer finally reads all the rules and most of them are redundant regarding the roof. "Why don't they just say "don't go on the roof" one picker asks mockingly . As we pontificate on our never ending lists of rules and regualtions we should ask ourselves " why don't we just say Love the Lord your God with all your heart soul and strength , and love your neighbor as yourself".
Brantford Ontario Canada
PRO-LIFE FILM, DR. AS DECEIVER, CANDY AS EVE.
Subject: Gospel in Cider House Rules
Date: Thu, 12 Oct 2000
From: Richard E. Rowan
I was first offended by the apparent pro-abortion stance of this film. However, by the end I realized that it is a powerful pro-life film with the gospel message evident. As with any "type", the film is not a perfect reflection, but the analogies are striking. The orphanage, in its beautiful setting, is an Eden-type. In this Eden lurks a serpent, the father of lies and a murderer from the beginning. Dr. Larch is this deceiver. Candy is our Eve. She even picks apples!
The Cider House Rules are seen as meaningless, just as many view God's rules. Those under the authority of the Cider House rebel, first by ignoring rules (smoking in bed), tearing down the rules and burning them, and then blatantly violating rules just for the sake of doing so. Remember Satan's basic lie is that we can be our own gods, making up our own rules.
Candy's pilot boyfriend is an interesting minor character. He may also be the most type. I see in him both the first Adam, the fallen one, and the second Adam who once was dead (went down with his plane behind enemy lines and whose fate was unknown), and emerged wounded and broken for others. He even seems to return to claim his bride, just as Christ will return for his bride.
Homer? I think he can be any of us. Once we were young and innocent. Then we fell victim to the liar and his lies. His ways seem so good. Homer's ultimate fate is left untold. We must fill in the blanks. I was surprised to see that Miramax did this film since I saw the gospel so clearly in it. Perhaps that's because they never read the book.
Richard E. Rowan
RACISM IN CIDER HOUSE
Date: Mon, 09 Oct 2000
Mega Kudos for Hollywood Jesus! I love your site==just wish I had more time to peruse it fully. About Cider House: Because I teach English at a Christian college, I'm always on the prowl for books I can use in class, so I will typically read the novel that has prompted a movie. I did this with Cider House but found it too sordid for my Christian students. There's much the movie can't cover, of course, and that's where the sordid comes in.
At any rate, I found the book and movie to be a blatant manifesto for abortion, so I'm appreciative of your comments and the email (especially the one about the rules paralleling the Ten Commandments--interesting!). It's one of those works that a person can develop a love-hate felling for. As you point out, there's much to like, but I was disturbed by some of the blatant overtones, yet I hear no one talking about them: Is it not feminist to cast Charlize Therone who looks much older than Tobey McGuire and whose character seems only to be using him to gratify her sexual urges in the absense of her lover?
Even as a middle aged WASP female, I bristled at the racism in the movie. I wondered if it was something I was misreading, but a young African woman was working the ticket counter when I came out after viewing it. Because it was a slow afternoon, I was able to strike up a conversation with her. I told her I thought it was a rather racist; she looked at first startled (because this white lady was saying it) and then began to smile and nod in agreement. I told her I found it offensive on that score, and again she agreed. How is it that a movie with such a liberal message could come off looking racist to the two of us? Just some thoughts. Again, thanks for what you are doing here. I , too, see God crying Himself to the masses via Hollywood in an era when the methodology of the church is outdated. "The rocks and stones will cry out"--the biblical paraphrase found in "Jesus Christ, Superstar" lyrics.
A DISTURBING FILM
Date: Tue, 5 Sep 2000
From: "Kent Loar"
My wife and I just rented "Cider House Rules." While I found the movie thought-provoking, well-acted, and beautifully shot, I felt myself horribly disturbed as I watched. In fact, not since "Pleasantville" have I found a movie that left me feeling morally bankrupt at the end of it... and this movie made "Pleasantville" pale in comparison. Now I agree whole-heartedly that this movie is a conversation starter and may be useful in some venues, but what troubled me most is how Irving took decidedly destructive and immoral values (nihilism, relativism, etc.) and passed them along in such a way as to make the audience feel GOOD about them. This is communicated both at a deep level in the moral conflicts Homer faces as well as a surface level that (unfortunately) even children can understand: lying, drug abuse, abortion, fornication, etc. A society which "makes up its rules as it goes along" is a society which will end in chaos. Yet the movie portrays this as the ideal society. This movie would be great if it were a case study in how "not" to live your life. Unfortunately, it seems to paint immorality as "good." "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight." -- Isaiah 5:20-21 --
P.S. Feel free to print my other e-mail account:
email@example.com. I use this one mostly for personal mail.
IT'S ABOUT RULES
Subject: Our review
Date: Mon, 28 Aug 2000
From: "Keith Sandberg"
Hi! My wife and I finally rented "Cider House Rules" last night, and we loved it! To us, it had a "Forrest Gump"-like quality -- the central character is naive, innocent, and morally unconfused, while the world around him is cruel, lonely, and morally confusing. Much has been said about the movie's focus on the abortion issue... and from what I've read it would appear that this was the writer's and director's intent. But if you watch and listen closely, the movie's true topic is "rules". Abortion is simply the vehicle the moviemakers chose to use to explore the validity of rules made by people who don't have to live by them - which, to me, makes abortion an excellent choice by the moviemakers. What other issue in today's American society better defines this moral question? Do we really have to obey laws that we disagree with? Do we really have to follow rules that were made by someone who doesn't have to follow the same rules themselves? Shouldn't we just let people make their own rules for their own lives? Does a person who makes rules have the moral authority to do so?
When we saw the list of rules posted on the wall of the cider house, we immediately thought of the rules that God gives us to live by -- to us, the "cider house rules" represents the 10 Commandments. There is tremendous debate in our country about whether the 10 Commandments should be posted in public buildings like courthouses and schools. You could even go a step farther and say that every person in the world has the same internal debate -- do I "post" the 10 Commandments on the "walls of my heart", or can I make my own rules to live by? Deep at the core of this debate are the questions - "Is there really a God who has authority over me? Does God really have the authority to make rules? Do I really have to follow rules made by a God who doesn't have to live my life?".
In almost every scene the characters are confronting rules/choices - the doctor who performs illegal abortions and falsifies medical records to keep someone he loves out of the war; the people who adopt children (and have to pick one at the expense of the others); the women who come to the orphanage for abortions; the bomber pilot who volunteers for the extremely dangerous "Burma Run"; even the apple pickers who have to pick the apples carefully to avoid damaging next years crop. The movie doesn't give any "cheap, easy-way-out" typical-Hollywood resolutions either -- each character in the movie suffers a consequence for the choices he/she makes. However, unlike "Forrest Gump", where the central character remains morally unchanged by the world, "Cider House Rules" seems to imply that a person doesn't really "grow up" or "mature" until he/she understands that sometimes it is necessary to break a rule "to make things straight". The plot point revolves around a scene where Mr. Rose convincingly makes his case that
#1.> the cider house rules were made by some unknown person who doesn't have to live in the cider house; and
#2> doesn't it sound more fair to let the people who live in the cider house make their own rules? This is the same argument that abortion rights advocates use -- how can any male-dominated society make laws against what is a "woman's issue", and shouldn't a woman have the right to terminate a pregnancy, since it is her own body? When Homer agrees, tears down the rules and throws them into the fire, the movie seems to play this as a "liberation" or "awakening".... but any student of the Bible knows that Mr. Rose's argument is the same one used by Satan in the garden to get Adam and Eve to disobey God.
Abortion stance aside, this is a brilliant movie. The characters and relationships are well-developed and the acting is first-rate. The soundtrack is beautiful. There is no frontal nudity or profanity. I would think that it's a great movie to share with your teenagers, who are in that period of life where they are deciding what rules they will follow into adulthood -- this movie should get you thinking about those areas in your life where you've decided that God's rules "don't apply" to you.
Thanks for a great site!
Keith Melbourne, FL (you may use my email address)
Subject: Cider House Rules
Date: Wed, 26 Apr 2000
I watched this film without prior knowledge of what the film was about, nor was I aware of any uproar regarding the film. I found it very thought-provoking! I was particularly fascinated by the issue of "rules" in this film. Although it may be easy to dismiss the whole issue by saying "God save us from more rules," I think that it is actually highly instructive and useful to examine the rich material the film gives us on the topic. Given that even the title of the film makes reference to the subject, I think that the significance of rules in the film should not be underestimated.
First, I think it should be noted that the characters living in the cider house are aware of the existence of the rules, but they do not know what the rules actually are, because they cannot read. No attempt on the part of the "establishment" has obviously been made to communicate the rules to them in a way that they can understand, nor do they make any attempt to find out what the rules actually are because they view them as irrelevant to their lives. Infractions of the rules are obviously ignored by the establishment, since blatant disregard for the rules on the part of the workers does not elicit any punitive action. One can assume that this is due to the fact that either those who made the rules have such little involvement in the lives of the workers that they are unaware of the infractions, or that the rule-makers have died off long ago or have been rendered powerless, and there no longer exists an authority who recalls the existence of the rules and has the ability to enforce them. When those living in the cider house actually find out what the rules are, they blatantly disregard them because they "don't make sense" to them (although they do not consider the possibility that the rules of not smoking in bed and not going up on the roof might be for their own good, so that they do not get killed by accidentally setting their beds on fire or falling through a roof that was not designed to hold people). They consider that the establishment had no right to impose any such rules on them, and assert that "sometimes you have to break the rules to set things straight."
In general, the rules are seen as antiquated, overly simplistic, and irrelevant to real, modern life which is complex and requires a much more thoughtful approach to issues. This is obviously what is communicated by the ancient, yellowed paper on which the rules are printed. The treatment of abortion in the film parallels this theme of rules--the clear message is that the only people who could possibly object to abortion are those who have an overly-simplistic, naïve view of life. Homer, who had never left the orphanage and had never seen the ocean (and had therefore never experienced the "real world"), only holds to his stance on abortion until he is confronted by the harsh realities of life, which is far more complicated than he had imagined. When faced with "real life" and its complexities, he realizes that his objections to abortion cannot stand, and he performs an abortion. I think that the treatment of rules in this film reflects a faulty but prevalent understanding of God and His law. In my interpretation, the film presents the establishment who made the rules as symbolic of God. It therefore presents God as far-off and out of touch with reality, not caring about the plight of mankind, and ultimately irrelevant to modern life. His law does not make sense, and therefore it should be rejected, and besides, there are no consequences to breaking His law anyway. Contrast this to the Christian view that God knows and understands all things (including the complexities of "real life") far better than any of us, and that He is holy and His law is righteous. He hates sin and will not fail to punish sin, and at the same time He loves us so passionately and is so involved with us that He not only came close to us, but became one of us and took on the punishment for our sin. His law is meant to reveal to us our own sinfulness and inability to live up to God's perfect standards, and is designed to drive us to our knees before God in the realization that we need a Savior. God does not really save us from rules, in my opinion, but from our sin and the punishment for our sin. The rules remind us of our sin, which is why we want so desperately to get rid of them all the time. However, an understanding of God's righteousness and our sinfulness, along with God's relentless and unfailing love, is what leads us to freedom.
WHY ARE CHRISTIANS BECOMING BENT ON MORE RULES?
Date: Sun, 26 Mar 2000
I read the book, Cider House Rules, and I am a Christian. That said, I do not understand the uproar over the abortion issue. I guess I never did. As far as it goes, it is a story about things that happen and Irving's point of view seems to be that we live in a sadly flawed world. As for the issue of rules and laws, God knows that there are lots of them. But does a reading of the New Testament tell us that laws and rules are what we are to be most concerned with? Are we not supposed to be most concerned with the ideas of justice, mercy, love and faith? I am an English teacher and a writer, I like delving deeply into themes and issues, but I wonder about this one. Why are more and more Christians bent on more and more rules? MS
Response: Yes, God save us from more rules. The Rules in theCider Bunk House where stupid and made no sense. However, practicing medicine without an accredited education and a legitimate medical license makes no good sense. You are a teacher with an accredited degree and teaching credential. What would happen to a teacher with bogus credentials? Or, a principal that deceives a school board? But, more to your point, I think of Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. who had an accredited degree and an official ordination --and broke the law -many times- to bring about justice issues and end racist segregation is a great example of Christianity. Sometimes laws need to be broken, and eliminated. Remember apartheid? Remember Gandhi? I think, too, of the biblical Vasti/Esther story. Jesus taught that we live by the spirit of the law -not the letter of the law. -David
IT'S ABOUT JOURNEY, NOT ABORTION
Date: Mon, 20 Mar 2000
From: Jason Allen
I've been waiting for you to post your review and analysis of this film for a few months now. Here's hoping this might prompt you to action. I think just in your short, two-line description of the plot, you've missed the point of the film. In fact, it seems like most media has missed the point of the film. It's been some time now since I saw the film, but as I remember it, abortion was not the topic at all. It was a sub-plot and a side discussion. Instead, this film was about the journey of Homer Wells. He's a boy making the change to a man, and struggling to understand the life he's living. Abortion is just another issue he struggles with, along side other issues like loving Candy and loyalty to his extended family of orphans and the men he works with in the orchard. That the mainstream is taking this as a pro-abortion work is even more mystifying. Homer spends the entire film arguing for responsibility from people and the unjustness of abortion. In the end he performs the abortion to save a life, not to justifiably end one. And he returns to the orphanage, I believe, not to accept his role as an abortionist, but to accept his role as a doctor and surrogate father to the kids he left behind. He cares for unwanted kids. How does this translate to the idea he desires to end unwanted children's lives? How does a secondary plot point get translated into a pro-choice epic? I even read an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education stating that pro-life backers indifference to the film was because the lives involved in the sexual attacks, murder/suicide and abortion all involved black characters, whose lives are deemed less valuable because of their color. Whatever the case is with the film, it deserves your attention. Hope you find the time to finish the page and start a discussion.
Response: Thank you for the encouragement and your point of view. As you can see I have post the review. Sorry for the delay -David
LOVE AND TENDERNESS, BUT....
Date: Mon, 13 Mar 2000
From: "Jon Zuck"
Not knowing anything about the story, I saw The Cider House Rules with an open mind. I must say I was very disappointed. Yes, there is a tremendous amount of love and tenderness in the film, but almost all modern movies have "morals," some point, some lesson to be learned. The lesson here seemed to be that there are no rules, that maturity comes only when rules are forsaken. Yes, I am pro-life, and yes, I was offended by the abortion stance of the film, but I really think that there were moral problems here beyond that. Lies and manipulations almost never have consequences in this movie, the exception being the incest sub-plot. According to Cider House, any thing done for "mercy" is a good thing. When their brothers and sister orphans die, the children are just told they got a home. (True in a sense, but they imply adoption.) Does no one ever go to the graveyard and rail, "Why didn't you tell me they died?" Yes, Dr. Larch is compassionate, yes he does think about the moral issues of abortion, yes, he does love Homer and the other kids. But the dark side of his overarching controlling and guilt-manipulating nature never is addressed. Larch tries manipulating Homer from afar as strongly as he did when Homer lived with him in at the orphanage. Because Larch wants him to be his successor, he should. Because Larch wants him to do abortions, he should. Because Larch wants him to never go into the military, he shouldn't. Because Larch shapes Homer's life for him, he should follow it. It is beyond belief that Homer feels no anger when he realizes that he was lied to his entire life about his health. Is the lesson that you can't find happiness away from home, you should live there forever, that if you don't have a direction for your life, you should let another make it for you? Some call this a coming-of-age movie, but it seems like the point maturity is reached is in either performing abortions or going home! Why not honesty? Would Homer ever confess that he cheated with his friend's fiance? Why not moving in a new direction? Why not confronting Larch for the hurtfulness of his manipulation? It greatly bothers me. Why is a forged certificate okay, as long as it's forged well? This isn't Gattaca or Nazi Germany where forgery might be the only way to escape to a life worth living. This is Maine! The acting was excellent, but it amazes me that critics will rally around a movie like Cider House Rules, and destroy a movie like Simon Birch. Why? The charge of "sentimentality" could just as easily apply to Cider House as Simon Birch. Was it that one was truer to the book which inspired it? I don't know. I felt drained watching it, and get drained just thinking about it. ---
Shalom v'Tovah, Jon Zuck Web URL: http://surf.to/frimmin
Response: Thanks Jon, you are always so right on.-David.
MY ETHICS CLASS WATCHECIDER HOUSE RULES
Date: Sat, 11 Mar 2000
From: Miss netne
My ethics class watched this movie together and I thought it was very interesting. We were discussing the role of law in society. What is another word for law? Rules? THis movie was full of people bending the rules, making the rules, and even finding out the rules. The people in the Cider House had no idea what the rules were so they created their own. Dr. Larch knew what the rules were but he thought the real world was above them so he bent them. It was a very good movie. Yes, there were sexual scenes in it but it was a part of the story. She was already with a man and the moment he leaves she breaks the rules and goes to be with another men. I found it intersting in the beginning that the main character said people should just be responsible from the beginning and not have sex. Then they wouldn't have the problem of abortion. When he gets out into the real world and is tempted by a young lady his statement goes out the window.
Response: Ah yes, the flaws of humanity. Say on thing and do another! I would love to have been in your ethics class. Cider House has so many issues. -David
DON'T MISS CIDER HOUSE RULES
Subject: Cider House Rules
Date:Fri, 21 Jan 2000
From: Shane Fuller
I wondered if you have seen the movie "Cider House Rules". I am sure you have heard of it and you will probably put something about it on your website soon. I just wanted to make sure that you did not miss it. It speaks much of our society's desires to make their own rules and seeing God as totally transcendent and not imminent even into the tiny details of life. One phrase really describes the point of the whole movie - "SOmetimes you have to break the rules to set things straight." There is also a very poignant scene where they trash the rules of where they live because someone outside their lives made the rules and they want to make up their own rules. This movie shows how all of us forget that what we sow, we will reap. Just thought I would share this with you. Thanks again for your continuing efforts to help us think through the issues of our society - Shane Fuller