One of my readers was kind enough to link to my post on Fireproof on a Christian forum thread where the movie is being discussed. I was pleasantly surprised by the reaction of many of the readers there. However, commenter JaneFW (avatar to right) made a fairly standard denial of my point that the movie sends a message to wives that threatening divorce will give them power:
If you aren’t haaaapy, threaten divorce and let high status men compete for your heart!
I never, for one moment, ever, thought this – and have never heard anyone else say it. What a horrible concept.
For most normal people? Divorce is the last resort when the marrige is obviously in the dumpster. I would never hand over divorce papers expecting someone to fight for me. I would hand over divorce papers because we were done.
And yet some people around here have said that it’s sinful to assume the worst about other people’s motives. Hmmm.
If I’m reading her correctly, not only is she denying that the movie contained this theme, but she is also suggesting that it might be sinful of me to point this out. The real problem with her statement however is it simply isn’t true. The theme that divorce gives women power and they can use it to invoke a fresh round of courtship from their husband and/or other men is extremely common. This is actually how I first started discussing this movie. Fireproof was one of five movies I pointed out which had this extremely common theme. Readers identified many other movies with this theme in the comments section of that post as well.
This message is most dangerous because it is communicated without the idea itself ever being directly stated. These kinds of themes in literature and movies can at times slip past our conscious thought process, and thereby prevent us from logically or morally evaluating them.
I mentioned these scenes previously, but you really have to see them for the full impact (warning the volume varies greatly on these clips). Here is a scene where Katherine is carrying on with the doctor. Shortly after this she tells Caleb that she doesn’t love him. Just in case the audience doesn’t understand that she has stopped caring about her husband, we then have this scene where she expresses almost no concern for him after he is dragged out of a burning building. Then we have the scene where Caleb finds the love letter she kept from the doctor and confronts him about it. Note that he doesn’t say what the man is doing is immoral or against God’s will, but instead he says he will fight for her heart. After that she learns that he has not only been doing the love challenge, but has exceeded the actual 40 day term and isn’t giving up. She isn’t impressed.
Finally we have the climax of the movie, where she learns that it wasn’t the doctor who was the highest bidder for her heart, but her husband instead. Note how her body language changes during this scene. She lights up and plays with her hair when talking about the doctor. Then when she learns it was from her husband there is a look of great confusion:
What is so troubling is that this idea has become so accepted that it found its way into a Christian movie which is supposed to strengthen marriage. Not only that, but apparently this wasn’t noticed by millions of Christians who watched it.