Beautiful Creatures is a YA (young adult) paranormal romance, coming of age story about a teen, Ethan, who falls for troubled girl, Lena, who happens to be a witch. In just a matter of weeks, Lena is about to reach her 16th birthday, where she will be “claimed” by either the dark side or the good side of the powerful forces that control their lives. Her uncle, Macon (on the good side) and her mother, Serafine (the wickedest witch of the west) both fight over her soul to pull her to their respective sides. The problem is that this Claiming for good or evil is beyond the powers of the witches themselves. It seems to be connected to some innate essence in them, but nobody knows which side will achieve the Claiming.
This is a tale of Fate vs. Choice and the belief that humans have the power to “make their own lives,” or “control their own fate.” It is a story about identity.
It sets up a world in the South of hackneyed stereotypes and cliché occultic powers. Christians are made out to be religious bigots who ban books to keep children from experiencing the wonderfully liberating glories of Kurt Vonnegut Jr., spout self righteous mean words about witches, reject outsiders, and of course, are racists (Since they are depicted as rejecting the book “To Kill a Mockingbird.” – Puh-leeze) In other words, they are the trumped up tired old boogeyman and whipping boy of secular bigots and Hollywood hicks who have no clue of the real world outside their cloistered mansions of vanity and self-righteousness.
Topping it all off, is the villain, who is the mean witch inhabiting the body of the most religious and uptight church lady of them all, Mrs. Lincoln, played by the otherwise inimitable Emma Thompson. The filmmakers go out of their way to show Lincoln using the name of Jesus and praying, as if we should all be aware of such “evil” people who love Jesus. Children’s prayers are shown as powerless against the young Lena, who can blow out windows with a mighty power. Hey, let’s all be pagans cause they have a more powerful religion!
Okay, so if you can get past this anti-Christian hate speech J, the movie deals with some other universal issues of coming of age and choosing our destiny for good over evil. Of course, there are good witches and bad witches, another modern bias, so it’s all about what you do with the powers you’ve been given. That’s why they like to call themselves “Casters,” (of spells) rather than the negative term “witch.” Ah, that liberal talent for euphemism and thought control through language.
But the entire dramatic question through the movie is: Can Lena control her own fate or is she subject to natural causes? The old free will debate.
This brings up a rather obvious undercurrent of theme to the entire movie, namely about the hormonal changes in young women as they come of age (the “curse” as they say), and whether or not they will give in to their emotional instability or master it. Politically incorrect, but truthful. Okay, this movie isn’t all bad. Boys and men are relentlessly chastised in our feminized society to learn how to suppress their natural urges for sex from their destructive tendencies. Finally, a story that admits girls and women have to fight their natural urges for emotional excess from their destructive tendencies. One merit.
But there’s another kind of redeeming theme that this movie wrestles with: Sacrifice. The problem that Lena struggles with is a curse brought upon her by her ancestor who was a witch during the Civil War. When this witch violated the natural order by casting a spell to bring her beloved back from the dead, she brought this curse that Lena now struggles with.
At one point in the movie, there is a scene of a preacher explaining to his congregation the power of sacrifice. He says that “Some people believe sacrifice is loss, giving up things in a world where we are supposed to be able to have it all. But I believe true sacrifice is a victory. It is giving up something you love for someone you love more than yourself.” And Lena realizes that to break the curse, she must do the opposite of her ancestor: She must let someone she loves die. She must give up what she loves most, and that will have to be her new love, Ethan.
Okay, now sacrifice is not an explicitly Christian notion. Pagans also believe in sacrifice. All religions have it through all of history, because the Creator embedded it into reality. But I still have to give some kudos for the film portraying ONE PERSON, ONE MOMENT of a real Christian speaking truth. Two merits.
And I have to give some credit to the fact that the villainess does say ONE LINE that actually resonated truth as well. Now keep in mind that what the villainess believes will be the worldview that is critiqued because the bad guy (girl) believes bad things. Got it? So when Serafine says, “Love is a spell created by mortals to give females something to play with beside power,” we see a rather poignant damnation of feminism. I’m not saying the filmmakers were deliberate here. They may not have realized it. I just don’t know. But that claim is precisely the bitterness and false accusation that feminism projects onto western culture. It is a bitterness that one of the heroes says sacrifice wins the battle against. Again, it ain’t ALL bad. Three merits.
My ultimate gripe comes with the metanarrative that drives the worldview of this story, and that is the belief that our destiny is ultimately in our own hands. We “claim ourselves,” we don’t have to be claimed by anything outside ourselves, such as society, or other people, or even natural law – or even, dare I say — GOD?
Well I have an idea where that self-righteous view of human autonomy comes from. As the SNL Church Lady used to say, “Could it be – Satan?”