Let’s Maintain Our Sense Of Humor

Having seen the film License to Wed on its opening day, I am surprised to see a critical reference to it in the Wall Street Journal’s OpinionJournal as unfair to marriage preparation courses. As a person who volunteers for an organization dedicated to marriage preparation, the tone of Christine Whelan’s article seems a little too defensive over a harmless bit of fun:

This week, Hollywood takes the focus off of “bridezillas” and puts it on marriage preparation courses. In “License to Wed,” which opened Wednesday, Robin Williams plays the “Reverend Frank,” a clergyman of unspecified denomination who puts his charges through a series of tests–including an exercise in the diapering of urinating robotic twins–to earn the right to marry. Off the silver screen, marriage preparation courses are about shared values rather than simulated disaster drills, and are increasingly popular. …
“License to Wed” paints a terrifying picture of marriage preparation courses as bizarre rituals that a couple must endure to prove their worthiness. Certainly rabbis, pastors and priests have the right to refuse to marry a couple they don’t believe is ready for marriage, but most courses simply reinforce a couple’s commitment to marriage.

This is a demonstration of why people think that conservatives and the devout have no sense of humor. Anyone who thinks that a Robin Williams farce about marriage paints any kind of picture about real life probably thinks that Down Periscope accurately portrays life in the submariner corps. Comedy is based on exaggeration, and the best comedies play on the fears and hang-ups of the audience and twists them into laughs License to Wed falls somewhere in the middle, but never once pretends to be representative of real marriage preparation.
The First Mate and I have volunteered for Twin Cities Marriage Encounter for the last eight years, the last two as president couple for its board. We have also volunteered for the Catholic Prepare pre-Cana counseling during that time. We have never seen ministers bugging couples, nor have we seen church choirs swing into a four-part harmony scolding parishioners who show up late. (We did have a pastor at one time who would have endorsed that, though, and I imagine that priest will have a good laugh at that part of the movie.) We still laughed all the way through the movie, and so would Whelan if she allowed herself to not take it seriously.
It’s just a movie — and one that, in the end, makes the case for marriage preparation, although I wouldn’t wish Reverend Frank on anyone.
The rest of Whelan’s essay gets it right, and she hits on one particularly good point. One reason why more Muslim marriages fail in the West, Whelan asserts, is because arranged marriages lack the societal support that used to exist in tribal communities. That’s undoubtedly true for most Western marriages over the last few decades, too. Our mobile and disconnected society reduces the cohesion that bolstered struggling marriages. It makes it even more incumbent on young couples to gain the communication skills necessary to make strong marriages and to discuss the issues that will arise before they become insurmountable problems.
If you’re inclined to have a few laughs, go see License to Wed. If you’re inclined to get married, go to Engaged Encounter or another marriage preparation course. If you’re already married, try Marriage Encounter to help make your marriage stronger. These options, fortunately, are not mutually exclusive.
Note: Twin Cities Marriage Encounter is a non-profit group that can always use a helping hand. If you’re so inclined, please toss a few dollars into their tip jar.

8 thoughts on “Let’s Maintain Our Sense Of Humor”

  1. the other recent example is Bill O’Reilly’s criticisms of the Will Farrell and “baby Pearl” videos on funnyordie.
    Sometimes things can be entertaining without having existential meaning and dire consequences.

  2. Cap’n,
    As a former submariner, I can assure you that Down Periscope was the most accurate submarine movie ever made from a personnel standpoint. I had worked with every one of those people! (heh)

  3. I’m glad that you realize that it’s “just a movie.” I’m just not so sure that Robin Williams, the directors, producers, writers, and others in Hollywood think that the movie is a farce and that it does not paint a picture about real life. And to the extent that they do know that it is not real, I’m not so certain that they intended some good-natured fun, rather than ridicule and mockery. Hollywood has been anti-Chrisitan and anti-religion in general for too long to give them the benefit of the doubt.

  4. Funny movie, you say? The review in our local rag gave it one star (out of four) and blistered it as being painfully unfunny. Supposedly the script was so weak, the film was forced to rely on those (overdone and passe) Robin Williams “ad lib” riffs; and that the engaged couple in question conveyed zero chemistry.
    Ah, well, to each his own.
    I’ll make the safe assumption, until someone who has seen it corrects me, that the film and/or Williams’ character essentially does what Hollywood does best – which is to ridicule and mock christianity and its symbols. Just as on Sat Night Live and other “hip” evening t.v. comedy shows – there are no easier targets for satirization (other than W, who now has his own cartoon show it appears) than priests, nuns, preachers, evangelicals, etc.

  5. And to the extent that they do know that it is not real, I’m not so certain that they intended some good-natured fun, rather than ridicule and mockery.
    This is a big-budget comedy meant to make money. A big reason this script has hit the screen was the success of The Passion of the Christ. Hollywood saw the potential for “Christian-themed” movies to draw in big bucks and is looking to cash in.
    That’s the motivation behind this film, not some anti-Christian agenda.

  6. Hollywood makes fun of Christens in the movies because they are the only group who won’t riot and kill people because of fun being poked at them.
    And I been through the Catholics version of Marriage prep and it wasn’t to bad, although I think part of it was because our priest was kick-ass funny.

  7. That’s the motivation behind this film, not some anti-Christian agenda.
    OK, what’s the motivation of Robin Williams in making these comments in promoting the movie on the Tonight Show?
    Leno invited the actor on to his show to plug his upcoming movie “License to Wed,” in which he plays a Protestant minister who forces a couple to go through marriage preparation courses. However, the experience of portraying a minister didn’t seem to engender any respect for the clergy in him.
    Williams pretended to play a game with Jay Leno where a pedophile is hidden under a cup. “Here we go. Find the priest, find the pedophile. Find the priest, find the pedophile. Here you go right now. Move ‘em around, move ‘em around. Oh, you found the pedophile.”
    Williams then put his hand over his groin, saying, “You have to realize that if you are a Catholic priest, you have retired this. That’s it—no more sex.” Then he took a shot at confession: “But they are going to put you in a small dark box and people are going to tell you the nastiest sexual stuff they have done.”
    Somehow, I don’t think that his motivation was to “draw in big bucks” from the Christian crowd.

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