It makes the short list of every parent’s worst nightmare: the abduction of their infant child. This is where Brigsby Bear opens, some 25 years after James was taken from his parents to be raised by his captors in a desert home of bomb-shelter seclusion. He has been completely cut-off from society, brainwashed through the help of his favorite (and only) television show, Brigsby Bear Adventures, which debuts a new episode on VHS every week. James’ only interaction is with his captor-parents and the fake online forum profiles they impersonate. His life revolves completely around his parents and his love of Brigsby until he is rescued by police and reunited with his birth parents and younger sister. Thus begins the adventure of James in the real world, complete with awkward social interactions and the discovery of things he didn’t have in captivity, like basketball and movies. Inspired after seeing his first film, James decides to make a feature film, in an effort to bring closure to the Brigsby television series.
At first, James’ family and friends don’t know how to accept him in all his quirkiness, but through collaboration on the film, eventually everyone rallies behind James and his quest to complete the Brigsby Bear saga. This is a film about friendship and acceptance. James comes into the world and is understandably different. His teenage sister reluctantly brings him along to a friend’s party where James meets people willing to accept him, along with his freakish fandom for his favorite TV show. As James becomes more passionate about his movie project, his sister and parents slowly come along in support, bringing Brigsby to the big screen.
This film reminded me of my faith community and her reluctance to accept the other, especially if we see the other as strange or peculiar (or sinful?!). Fear reigns in many parts of the American church, especially when a character like James enters and challenges the status quo. Ironically, throughout the scriptures, God repeatedly commands his people, “Don’t be afraid.” Has the church given in to fear over being a blessing to the nations? Now I understand that perhaps it is not fear that causes the church’s reluctance to accept the other. But the alternatives (anger, hatred, racism, homophobia, etc.) seem so much worse and far less Christian. In Brigsby Bear, James brings his new friends and family along on the mission to bring Brigsby to the big screen. I think the church’s role is to break through whatever is preventing her from bringing others along in carrying out God’s mission in the world. James is fearless and the result is beautiful.