I have never seen a movie that portrays modern youth with such vain and shallow character as the movie Bratz
(based on the line of girls dolls of the same name). Besides being a poorly done movie (with a paper-thin plot and one-dimensional characters), it is the depth of moral character and selfishness of affluence that really stunned me. The movie follows four best friends, all girls very well-off, starting high school and attempting to overcome the peer pressure of splitting up to join other cliques.
To the best of my knowledge, Bratz
intends to send a deep-ish message - the bonds of true friendship defy the pressure to conform to a made-up social order. Unfortunately, that message gets swallowed up in the weakness of moral character of the girls presented, both in their affluence and their shallowness. Today I'll briefly highlight this plague of affluence:
The Plague of Affluence
I wonder why the writers of Bratz
wanted to portray the four main girls in the way that they did. My guess is that it had nothing to do with sending a cultural message. Yet that's exactly what happened. Like I said before, these girls all live in nice suburban homes, and as the movie opens, are all video chatting on their computers about what to wear on their first day of high school. They each survey their walk-in closets jam-packed full of clothes and pick their outfits. So yes. They are your typical affluent youth.
But later in the movie, we get a "twist." They're invited to a big party and decide that they naturally
all need new outfits. So they go shopping at a designer clothing store when suddenly, one of the girls, Cloe, whose mood has all-too-quickly sunk to the floor, gloomily announces,
I'm not going to Meredith's party, okay? I can't afford to buy anything new. You guys need to go without me.
We later find out that Cloe is raised by a single mom who is a caterer and is not even sure if she can put Cloe through college. Thus Cloe is now pitted as the sympathetic character. When I watched this for the first time, I actually wondered if it was supposed to be a joke. Now, granted, I have never been raised by a single mom, nor have I wondered if my parents could put me through college. I am not undermining that that is a difficult thing. But still.
Cloe lives in a nice house, goes to a nice school, has a computer and a video camera, a walk-in closet full of clothes, and can't afford to buy a designer outfit - and she's supposed to be the mark of poverty?
This is the plague of affluence. We in North America have so much that when someone else has something more than us, we feel less-than. It is the hunt for materialism that consumes us - especially us teens. From the magazine covers to the Disney Channel, clothes and styles and toys and things grab at our attention. And though some of those things may not necessarily be bad, when they become our focus, they become idols. When our eyes widen with wonder at the gifts and close in boredom at their Maker, our affluence has suddenly cheated us.
In the end of Bratz
, the girls perform in a talent show in order to win a college scholarship for Cloe, a valiant action that should be praised. Yet based on their actions throughout the rest of the movie, their obsession with shopping and clothes and parties and material goods, this action doesn't seem so genuine. The plague of their over-abundance of affluence has made this kindly act seem fake. And now perhaps the deepest point of the movie culminates in that another one of their affluent friends gets to go with them to a wealthy college. This is supposed to warm my heart?
But this post isn't really about Cloe or the rest of the "Bratz." It's about me, and it's about you. Though perhaps not as shallow in character as these girls (stay tuned for part two), we can be just as materialistic and consequently cheated by our affluence. We have so much, yet we want so much more. Why is that? It's because we're discontent with what we have, and we lack thankfulness to God. It's a stinging truth. We look at pictures of the slums in India, and we say, "Boy, am I thankful for all the stuff that I have!" But are we really? Or are we just so consumed with goods and dictated by social polity, that we feel obligated to say that? And now the guilt is alleviated.
But then we look back to those Indian slums, and we see Americans or Canadians wading through the muck, giving up all of their affluence to serve the poor and the weak, and they are singing hymns, full of joy. Are we really better off than them? Is our affluence a blessing or a curse? That's all a perspective. God has placed you where you are for a specific reason, and He has given you what you have for His glory. Is your attitude toward Him one of gratitude and worship? Or is it selfishness? And perhaps maybe you are called to give up more. Maybe you're called to sacrifice affluence for India. But maybe not. Maybe you're called to use your affluence right where you are to further the kingdom of God.
Is affluence a plague? It can be. But it can also be a great blessing. Look to God today with gratitude, seek His will, and use what you have for His glory. Reject the message of the Bratz,
and embrace the hope of the gospel.