Opinion: Don’t run away from what you don’t agree with

Art, and particularly film art, is always under fierce controversy due to its heavy, sometimes offensive content. Of all the films from last year, “American Sniper” faced the most controversy. But even if it is a film we do not agree with, there is always a lot we can learn from it.

Which is why it came as a shock to me when earlier this month the University of Michigan abruptly cancelled its scheduled screening of “American Sniper” after nearly 300 students and others complained about the film’s negative and misleading stereotypes against Muslims.

I want to make it very clear that I do not think “American Sniper” is an outstanding film. I very much liked it and it was full of shining moments (particularly Bradley Cooper’s performance) that made seeing it worth my money, but the film as a whole is not without its issues.

What does upset me is how something that people find “offensive” or “negative” can just be shielded from the public eye as if it doesn’t exist. Instead of engaging in what the film gets right or wrong about war or Muslim culture, it can just be swept under the rug without addressing these very issues.

Soon after this news broke, the University of Michigan decided that they would in fact show the film with a time for reflection and discussion right after the showing. E. Royster Harper, vice president of student life, said in a statement:

“The initial decision to cancel the movie was not consistent with the high value the University of Michigan places on freedom of expression and our respect for the right of students to make their own choices in such matters.”

So the story should end there, right? Why am I taking your time to tell of these matters? Well, it just so happens that Calvin College will be showing the film on Saturday, April 25.

While there have been no signs of a cancellation (and I applaud SAO for that), I have heard many of my peers talking about how they wish there would be.

We have a tendency in our culture to run from the things that we disagree with. It is a common feeling that if the very subject doesn’t fall in line with everything we believe to be true, then it is not worthy of our time. I get it. Who wants to pay money to support a movie that they don’t agree with?

But what if you used the power of your point of view to educate and engage in a conversation with those around you who have similar or different feelings about what you just watched?

Some of my favorite moments of going out to a movie aren’t within the movies themselves, but in the conversations I have with friends or family after I see them.

Hearing different perspectives can open our minds to new ideas. No one is begging us to compromise our morals, but even just listening to the perspective of someone different than you can really make you a more rounded thinker.

On the other side of that coin, your point of view can be what causes others to think deeply about what they just watched, whether you liked it or not.

It’s all about the intelligent conversations we as students are capable of having. Art, whether it’s a book, painting, theater performance or a film such as “American Sniper,” has the ability to influence us and make us ask big questions.

But the great thing is that we have this ability in our discussions as well.

I of course have my own thoughts about the movie that can be saved for another time. This isn’t me trying to convince you whether it is a good or bad film, but rather me asking you to jump out of your comfort zone and experience things that are uncomfortable to you.

I encourage all to attend Calvin’s screening of the film and stay for what is sure to be a thoughtful discussion. You may learn something, or better yet, you may teach someone.