Have far have we come since then?
On the way out of the movie, The Other Bolyn Girl, my wife and I had an interesting discussion.
I initially commented that I was glad that we had progressed as a society and no longer lived in a medieval mindset where women were bought and sold, used and abused like they were in this movie, set in Tudor England of the 1500s.
But my wife responded that we may not have come as far as I thought. She brought up the fact that, while it may not happen in the exact same way, many still look at marriage as a way to move ahead in society, that divorces are a dime a dozen, that people are still treated like objects, that it's not so much what you know but who you know, and that people are still tortured and even killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I have to confess. She was right.
Perhaps we fool ourselves into thinking that, as a human race, we have evolved, grown, and learned our lessons since the Dark Ages. And while some parts of our world have developed, are we committing the same silly sins as Henry VIII was guilty of five centuries ago.
In this film (as in history), Henry (Eric Bana) goes through love affairs and wives so he can either have his lustful passions fulfilled or produce a male heir to the throne of England. Into this mess step two young girls Mary and Anne Boylyn (played by Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman, respectively) - both of whom are forced into the king's court by a father (Mark Rylance) who just wants more power and prestige for his family name.
Sadly, while centuries seperate us from these events, we still haven't learned much. In fact, there are so many issues that are brought up in The Other Bolyn Girl, from the horror of capital punishment to nasty sibling rivalty (and everything in between), that to blog about every one of them would be excessively long-winded.
For me, this movie spoke most loudly about our view of marriage.
Marriage is sacred, and love is central to its success. It should not be arranged, nor should we even hope that our sons or daughters might "marry up" and find a nice doctor or lawyer. Marriage should not be entered into lightly, and because of its permanence, there should be no thought to the concept of a "starter marriage," an increasingly popular term these days. And while children are very important, marriage of a man and a woman is - at its core - about a husband and wife and their bond of friendship, intimacy, and love.
Henry Tudor and Anne Bolyn, in this movie, did not understand this, and because of that, they spiraled into a miserable existance, torturing themselves and ultimately dying too early.
Even if we find ourselves stuck in this pattern, we can move ahead and learn our lessons. That is the power of grace. Mary Bolyn seems to have understood that, and by the movie's end, she has come around to a better image of marriage, love, and responsibility.
Through the centuries, marriage has been used and abused, and in many cases, still happens to this day. I believe God still has hope for us yet, though. God hopes that we might be the generations that turn the tide and make marriage meaningful as a society. Then we can be proud to say that we truly have evolved as a human race.