Family Life and the Kendrick brothers set out to make a movie to teach about biblical parenting. The title of the movie is Like Arrows, and they describe it at Family Life as portraying the typical Christian family (emphasis mine):
The film centers on the joys and trials of parenting and the power of family to shape the next generation. More than just an entertaining movie, the goal of Like Arrows is to honestly show a couple journeying through every phase of parenting. The film opens with Alice telling her boyfriend Charlie she is pregnant. As they are married and begin growing their family, they face typical parenting struggles and become aware of their need to be intentional and to cling to God’s blueprints for marriage and family.
“The parenting journey is both incredibly challenging and incredibly rewarding at the same time,” says FamilyLife’s Bob Lepine, who served as one of the executive producers for the project. “We wanted to take viewers on what we hope will be a very relatable journey. And in the process, we hope they’ll be inspired to make their faith more core to how they function as a family. That’s the goal.”
But like the larger modern Christian culture they are selling to, they are filled with contempt for the kind of man who marries and takes his children to church. Naturally, this feeling came out in the movie they made.
How do they see the married fathers they sit next to on Sunday, the men who buy their products? In their minds the men they sit next to on Sundays only married their wives after an unintended pregnancy, and are failures as husbands and fathers. From the movieguide review (Warning: plot spoilers ahead):
The movie opens very powerfully with Alice telling Charlie she’s pregnant. She thinks she’s messed up and remembers all the times her mother told her she was a mess. After some argumentation, Charlie decides to do the right thing and proposes to Alice.
Alice is overwhelmed by the prospect of parenting. The nurse who helps her deliver her baby invites her to church. Alice convinces Charlie they might find support in church, but life is still not easy when they have their first child, Ron. When they have their second child, Alice is told that Kate won’t be able to go to preschool at church because she keeps hitting the other children. Alice tries to talk to Charlie about it, but he’s too busy.
The movie skips ahead, and Charlie is still too busy, but he’s losing his children. Kate is going out with all the wrong guys and was thrown out of one guy’s car. Now, Alice and Charlie have four children, another boy named Joshua and an adopted Asian girl named Faith.
Finally, they go to the church to seek help. They learn children need direction. They are arrows in the quiver of the parents, gifts from God, and they need a target. Now, Charlie decides to devote his life to his family.
The reviewer at Dove describes the plot very similarly. The typical married churchgoing father portrayed in the movie is clueless and detached:
With a spontaneous proposal and a quickie wedding, the couple begins the lifelong journey of parenthood.
Viewers watch as Charlie and Alice navigate parenting through the course of their lives, pausing to focus on specific times in their journey. It’s clear from the start that they’re flying blind, and out of anxiety Alice decides that they need all the help they can get, which means raising their children in church. Alice quickly realizes that she is in over her head, but after five years and two children, she has no idea how to correct the issues she sees.
Meanwhile, Charlie appears distant and uninterested in his family, leaving Alice isolated and overwhelmed. As the years wax on, more children—and more issues —are added to the family’s life. They’ve already done all they could, right? Raising the kids in church and providing a nice life for them should produce happy, well-behaved children, right? Or at least that’s what they thought.
When their eldest son, Ronnie, leaves for college, Alice discovers that he has not only abandoned their shared faith, but apparently any love or respect for his parents. Kate follows in her brother’s waning footsteps, seeking attention and acting out. It is Kate’s safety that ignites a fire in Charlie. He realizes that he must take his role as father more seriously, and Alice is relieved to finally be working toward a solution.
The irony is that Alex Kendrick, one of the creators of the film, has spoken out against the secular anti father message that he amplifies in this and other movies. He knows exactly what is going on here, he just can’t bring himself to do something different.
Interviewer: As Stephen [Kendrick] was saying this morning, you can start holding up Courageous as the antidote to the popular culture, which now denigrates the role of the male—which rarely prevents viable, positive role models. As a critic, I can point to that as a very unique and special thing that comes out of your work. Do you feel that’s something that’s naturally come out of your work as something God-given, or is that something you’ve really focused on—honed and developed?
Alex Kendrick: I would say that we’re driven to do that. That’s the heartbeat behind what we’re doing, other than the general desire to please the Lord. When I turn on the TV—and we don’t watch TV much any more at all—every other character, every other commercial, demeans and devalues the role of the man. It’s terrible. Just take note of the commercials that you see when you’re watching TV. How many of them make the woman look like, “Well, I’m the smart one. The man can’t figure this out, but I can.” And while there’s plenty of demeaning behavior spread around to both sexes, it does seem heavily biased to be anti-father, anti-man. And in movies, when parents are having problems with their children, things get resolved by the parents saying to the children, “Oh, I’m sorry. I was wrong all along. You were right.” I mean, even look at Finding Nemo. I love the movie! It’s very well done. But at the end, the father says, “I’m sorry, Nemo. You were right—I was too hard on you.” That seems to be a running theme.
In a separate interview with CBN Alex leveled the same criticism against secular entertainment:
Alex: Look at how media is portraying fathers today. You look at almost any commercial, and the father figure is the idiot, the goober, the guy who doesn’t get it. The wife or mother is the one who really knows what’s going on, the smarter one. And you can’t name one TV show right now that has a really good, honorable father. This generation is growing up with anti-heroes rather than heroes. Rather than Superman, truth, justice, and the American way, it’s now Bart Simpson and his dad, Homer.
Alex made those remarks promoting his and Stephen’s 2011 movie Courageous. Yet Courageous had a far darker anti married father message than Nemo or the typical secular movie. Alex then went on to help create another Christian movie titled Mom’s Night Out. That movie was so anti father that it shocked the secular feminists at Dame:
‘Moms’ Night Out’ may be a Christian movie, but it’s part of a long cinematic tradition portraying men as useless louts. And that’s not good for anyone.
And that’s the biggest problem with Moms’ Night Out: The moral of the story isn’t that the women are supposed to stay home and not have fun, but that the men are totally hapless morons without them around—and that this lesson is still being drilled into our heads in 2014. We’re supposed to feel better about this “men are total idiots, the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world” philosophy (and that latter piece of wisdom was actually uttered in the movie in case you missed the point). But this story of the helpless manchild is a disservice to men—and families—everywhere.
After Mom’s Night Out in 2014, Alex and his brother Stephen released their next anti married father movie War Room in 2015. Like Mom’s Night Out, War Room was so conspicuously anti married father that it confounded a secular reviewer. In his review on rogerebert.com, Matt Fagerholm complained that the movie portrays the Christian husband and father as lacking any redeeming qualities (emphasis mine):
The film’s centerpiece sequence occurs early on, as Elizabeth sits weeping in her closet while pleading, “God, help him love me again.” This moment is heartbreaking for all the wrong reasons. Since the Kendricks have mistaken one-dimensional caricatures for people who exist in the real world, they forgot to provide Tony with any redeeming qualities that would make us want to root for his marriage. As for the film’s advice to women who are beaten by their husbands, one of Elizabeth’s co-workers advises, “Learn to duck so God can hit him.”
What is most striking however is not that Christian movies like Fireproof, Courageous, Mom’s Night Out, War Room, Indivisible and Like Arrows are so reliably contemptuous of Christian husbands and fathers. What is most striking is that conservative Christians find this contempt for respectable men so normal that they are entirely unaware of the trend.