Christian Freedom in DEAD POETS SOCIETY | FCC 23

On this episode of Finding Christ In Cinema, we suck the marrow out of life as we find Christian themes in DEAD POETS SOCIETY. Is the Welton Academy a symbol for oppressive religion? Does that mean that Professor Keating is the Christ-figure who leads his disciples in a new way? All that and more in 3…2…1!

We are joined by David Gaddy and Jeremiah Orr, who together make up the Theonauts podcast. David and Jeremiah have joined Michael and me at the Great Commission Transmission Network, and we celebrate that connection in this episode by letting the Theonauts lead the discussion on this film.

Curious about David’s mission work in Haiti? Check out his non-profit organization Footprints of Charity to find out more. Wanna read Jeremiah’s personal blog? Get over to Ragamuffin Orr and show him some love. And don’t forget to check out the Theonauts podcast at either their Podbean home or their new home here at GCTN.


DEAD POETS SOCIETY

As we are living in the aftermath of what may turn out to be the most devastating and most heartbreaking news in the entertainment world, we at FCC alongside the Theonauts tackle what we believe to be one of Robin Williams’s most powerful films Dead Poets Society. It’s not only powerful because it showcases some of the most moving speeches vivified by Williams, but it also shows a tempered side of control. Such dynamism is rarely accomplished on stage and screen, and Williams rocks it all in this film.

Other performances are to be doted on as well. Robert Sean Leonard gives us the classically tragic hero Neil. Through Neil, Keating’s instruction is met with wild-eyed optimism that leads to an untimely event. Ethan Hawke as the silent-schmuck-turned-poetic-genius Todd woos us with his open heart. And Gale Hansen as the zealous Charlie “Nuwanda” Dalton wins us over with his burning desire “to live deliberately.”


Welton Academy as Oppressive Religion

In Dead Poets Society, we get a most adequate picture of an oppressive religious institution in the film’s residential school for boys Welton Academy. The motto of this place – “Tradition, Honor, Discipline, Excellence” – oozes through the castle halls and is enforced by the strict and legalistic faculty. This sense of legalism then acts as a ball and chain to the boys who attend the school. This mimics the legalism as exhibited by the Law and its conduits the Pharisees. Any move that breaks the Law is worthy of not only public shame but also expulsion.

Of course, both instances create the perfect discontent that can set up the need for reconciliation…that make straight the path for a Savior.

This is an image from the film DEAD POETS SOCIETY, and it features Professor Keating teaching his students in the school hallway.


Professor Keating as the Christ-Figure

Yes, as if it couldn’t be anymore appropriate, Robin Williams’s character is Professor John Keating. He is a graduate of Welton who has returned to his alma mater to foster the next generation of its graduates. His teaching, however, is different from the rest of the faculty’s. He teaches about experiencing poetry on the inside, not just the outside.

These teachings inspire the students to experience a new perspective on life. The students have only known structure and obedience, not love and inspiration. This is exemplified even in their home lives. Todd’s parents gift him the same birthday gift as last year and Neil’s are overbearing and unforgiving. When tragedy strikes because of this, Keating is sacrificed for all of them. The true believers however choose to honor him in the end.

This is an image from the film DEAD POETS SOCIETY, and it features Professor Keating knelt down in the midst of a huddle of his students.


That Sweet Freedom

This all points to the freedom that Christians can now enjoy because we aren’t shackled by the Law; instead, we are released from those fetters to embrace the Holy Spirit with arms wide open.

The key text for this episode is Galatians 3:23-26:

Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came,in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.

It perfectly describes the case for our boys in this film. In the beginning, they are all prisoners in the cells of this school – trying to be obedient in some cases, and not caring in most others. But then a liberator comes along and releases them from their chains and teaches them a new way.


Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes, including links to articles discussed, by clicking here.

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About Brenden Taylor

Brenden is a graduate student pursuing his Master in Theatre Arts degree with Regent University. He is an educational assistant and tutor by day and a theatre practitioner by night. You can find him live-tweeting his favorite movies on Twitter @LeviTheBeliever or posting poetry and unsolicited opinions at thebookofbrenden.com
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