Brigsby Bear
By Marcus Eiland on February 12, 2017

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.

About the Author: Marcus Eiland

2 Responses to "Brigsby Bear"

  1. As soon as the audience saw “LonelyIsland productions” in the beginning credits, we already started laughing. Hopefully this movie is funny I hoped. Brigsby Bear was written by Saturday Night Live’s Kyle Mooney, who also stars in the film and is directed by another S.N.L. alum Dave McCary.

    The film begins in a “futuristic” post apocalyptic dome where a young man lives with his” parents”. They claim the air outside is not safe enough for James(Mooney) or for any human. So James stays home and eagerly watches his favorite show, in fact the only show that is available to him on VHS—Brigsby Bear.

    This is until of course we see him get rescued by the Police and find out he has been abducted for decades and that his fake parents were public school teachers who snatched him to raise them as their own.
    Thus begins the adventure of James awkwardly trying to fit into the normal world with his new parents, his sister and friends.

    And James is so excited to share his love for Brigsby Bear only to find out that no one has heard of it. This is because his captors produced the episodes in an abandoned warehouse. James makes sure everyone knows about Brigsby Bear. He “preaches” and shares from the Brigsby Bear anthology and gets people to buy into his passion.

    Eventually he decides to finish the Brigsby Bear saga by writing a movie and gets his new friends on board and also his reluctant family to help shoot the movie. What we see is a community coming together to help someone’s artistic passion come to life. His passion infects everyone around him, even the local police department detective ( Greg Kinear) who wants to relive his acting days by being a supporting cast member for the film.

    The film which starts off quirky and strange ends up becoming a touching story of a community helping their new member realize his dreams.

    To what length would we go as a church to fan the flames of passion we see in our members? In particular how would we allow our most marginalized members tell their story? Imagine if we came around these people and lend our ears and our service so that their story could be heard by many. In this way Art is so important in christian Community because it serves as such story telling medium. Perhaps we should encourage the artists in our church to share to our ministries the distinct stories we find in our spiritual family.

    by Kenneth Chang on Feb 14th, 2017 at 3:39 pm
  2. In addition, I see a beautiful parallel with sharing the “gospel” story with our non Christian friends. Sometimes, our gospel story was told within a bubble. But it excites me to think that we can begin to tell the world about the story of jesus and how people can become a part of this story. It takes passion and creativity of the “evangelist”. At first the bible may seem just as weird and crazy as the episodes of Brigsby Bear. They will say we are brainwashed just like James! But upon closer inspection everyone can agree the story of God’s people is an amazing one.

    What if we preached the story of the Bible as if we can help keep writing the next chapters? Its interesting in that James( money) plays brigsby bear in the film. What it be like to play Christ? and get a community together to continue the story of Christ in how we act with one another?

    by Kenneth Chang on Feb 14th, 2017 at 3:47 pm
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