December 6, 2007

On Knowing the Whole Story

Nobody likes knowing half the story, except perhaps so they might be able to continue living in denial. But when the whole story helps make the experience fuller and richer, it's safe to say we all like to know the full story. A current example that comes to mind are the Harry Potter books and movies. I am an avid fan of the Harry Potter franchise. If I told you the extent of my fanhood, you'd probably decide I'm insane and stop reading, because who wants to read the blog of a crazy person?

Anyway, my friend (a fellow Harry fan) and I have discussed on numerous occasions the many faults of the HP movies, particularly the third movie, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Overall, we love the movies, but we of course would rather the movies be five hours long and included every detail of the books. We are aware of our full-fledged crazy. If you had never read the books and went to see the movie, you'd be missing plot points and details that would further enrich your Harry Potter experience. The two most blatant examples are the marauder's map and the form of Harry's Patronus (a stag). For those who haven't read the books or seen the movies, first I must ask where the heck you've been in the last ten years. Second, I'll explain what each of these things are.

The Marauder's Map is a map of Hogwarts that shows where every single person or animal is located in the school. Tiny dots with labels move all over the map, enabling the user to see if anyone is coming to ruin their fun or mischief. The makers of this map were Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs. Later in the book we find out that these four people were actually Harry's father and three friends. Each of them could turn into animals (Moony was a werewolf and didn't turn on purpose, the others did so on purpose) and so these nicknames corresponded with their animals. Harry's father transformed into a stag, so his name was Prongs. This brings us to the Patronus.

A Patronus is created using a spell and protects the witch or wizard. Each wizard's Patronus takes the shape of an animal that is either meaningful to them or has qualities similar to them. So what shape does Harry's Patronus take? A stag. Like his father's animal form.
You're probably wondering why I just explained all of that. In the movie, each of these facts is completely disregarded. Viewers never learn that Harry's father and friends made the map or that his father's animal form was a stag. This bothered me because I felt like these two facts would have given the story and the characters more depth. We could have learned more about the character of Harry's father and more about Harry's feelings toward his father. We could have learned some history of Harry's family. Instead, we got a ten minute scene with the knight bus, a completely irrelevant part of the story. I'm still bitter.

Now let's bring it all in. I'm assuming we all agree that knowing all the facts of a story helps to make a story better and more meaningful. Granted, in many instances it's impossible to know the full story and fit all the facts in. Whenever someone complains about the media being one-sided or not telling all the facts, I remind them that if we told every single fact, news stories would each last an hour or take half a day to read. The media has to pick and choose which facts they believe are most important. Does that result in lopsided storytelling? Sometimes, yes. But if you have a problem with it, read more than one story on the same subject. Read CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. But I digress.

Most people avoid reading the Old Testament. It's long and wordy and there are a lot of rules. It's hard to pronounce the names. And don't even try to get them to read about the history of those times (using outside sources). But I believe we're missing so much of God's character and His plan when we only read the New Testament. We only know the major details of half the story! We all hear about how angry God seemed in the Old Testament, yet we avoid reading it for ourselves. The Israelites didn't exactly make it easy on themselves. I've always enjoyed reading and learning about history, believing that it will help us understand the actions and culture of the people at the time. I think if we knew more about the culture and way of life for the characters in the Old Testament and the world at the time, we would gain a better and richer understanding of the stories and of God.

I guess all I'm saying is that we've gotten used to reading the highlights and just getting the gist of stories and of history. If our belief system (Christianity) is more than just a set of rules to live by, but it's a lifestyle that permeates every facet of our being, then shouldn't we know more about it? Shouldn't we know where we came from so we know where we're going? So we can fully understanding where we're going and why we're going there?

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