Pollyanna

Yes, Pollyanna.  The movie.  I watched it.  (Short version of why: An agnostic employee said he’d start reading the Bible if I watched it.  Let’s just say that the list of things I’d do to get someone to read the Bible is pretty long.)

It had some interesting religious themes.  I’m not sure if it was what the producers intended or not, but they did a good job of showing the importance of balancing grace and truth.  Karl Malden, the town preacher, originally gave exclusively hellfire-and-brimstone sermons, with only a passing reference to being born again.  They weren’t necessarily untrue, just out of balance.  There is nothing wrong with preaching the bad news — in fact, it is necessary.  But you need to get to the Good News.  In the same way, you can’t just teach about God’s love without people failing to realize that they need his grace.

It also showed the importance of reading the whole Bible.  Just picking your favorite verses is a bad idea.

More importantly, it mocked those who don’t really believe that the Bible has the power to transform lives.  The pastor and Pollyanna’s Aunt, the town leader, agreed on the harsh sermons because that was the best way to scare people in behaving for at least a couple days before the sermon wore off.  That isn’t the theme of the Bible at all.  It shows a distinct lack of faith in the power of God to transform people through his word.

The term “Pollyanna” is typically used to describe someone with an irrational optimism, but I thought the behavior of the character (an orphan of missionaries) was biblically grounded.  She seemed to live out the meaning of turning the other cheek and of Philippians 4:12-13:

Philippians 4:12-13 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

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18 thoughts on “Pollyanna”

  1. You’ve never seen this before!?!?!?!?!

    We read the book and own the movie and have watched it many times, most recently only about a month ago.

    Yes, the term “Pollyanna” developed from someone who obviously never read the book or saw the movie, because Pollyanna has an excellent outlook on life, in that she always looks for the good.

    My wife actually did a post about the story, which you may find interesting:
    http://fromthepiperswife.blogspot.com/2011/03/pollyanna.html

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    1. You’ve never seen this before!?!?!?!?!

      I don’t get out much.

      Thanks for the link to your wife’s post! The more I thought about Pollyanna’s outlook the more authentically Christian it seemed (other than the sneaking out of the 3rd story window and nearly killing herself on the re-entry part). We should be thankful to God if we don’t have to use crutches, for example.

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  2. I’m with Glen. I own it, we’ve read the book, and watched it as recently as a month ago. I had a different take on the preacher, part of my shoot first and ask questions later approach when it comes to producer intent I guess. I saw the preacher as a caricature of how the world sees preachers before they are properly secularized.

    I’m most interested in what insight the fellow hoped you would gain by watching it. Any Ideas?

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      1. Hopefully people don’t misspell Dan too often! I got used to people misspelling my name long ago (Niel, Neal, etc.). I tell them that as long as they don’t spell it with a “k” then I won’t complain.

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      2. Oh My! I looked it up. I spelled it Neil. High five to myself from the worlds worst speller. I can still remember my first grade teacher saying: “i before e except after c and in the name Neil” 🙂

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    1. I’m most interested in what insight the fellow hoped you would gain by watching it. Any Ideas?

      As we talked about various issues on the Bible and Christianity, he mentioned Pollyanna and how the preacher changed his ways when he learned of the “glad” verses. He wanted to know what I thought of the preacher and the transformation.

      I found it odd that he remembered the movie and even owned it. He lent it to me and it had been sitting on my desk at home for months. He has been influenced by a TV show called “Banned from the Bible” (or something like that). To his credit, when I reasoned that no books were lost from the Bible he acknowledged my points (i.e., if it is purely man-made, then the compilers got what they wanted, and if it was inspired by God, then God isn’t in the habit of losing things).

      We’ll be talking more next week. Please pray for him! As I usually do, I answer all the questions people ask then encourage them to read the Bible for themselves (that was what led him to propose that I watch the movie so that he’d read the Bible).

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  3. LOVE that movie! I’ve owned it since I was a kid (of course I have upgraded to DVD lol). My favorite characters in the movie (besides Pollyanna) is Mrs.Snow & the preacher. I love how you can see their thought process as they reflect on the things Pollyanna taught them. My girls were too young to really enjoy the movie when I showed it to them but I hope it becomes a favorite in the years to come 🙂

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  4. I have to smile at this one! My eldest sister, five years my senior, has always looked upon me with disdain. In an effort to insult me throughout my life, she has often referred to me as a “ridiculous Pollyanna.” This shamed me as a child, as I had never read the book nor seen the movie. Seeing the movie definitely took the sting out of her “insult.”

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    1. Oh, Cherry, I wish I had known~~~I would have explained to you long ago about Pollyanna. How sad that your sister has treated you this way, and that she doesn’t understand how God can shine through His people. You can now be proud to have Pollyanna traits. :oD

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