Recently I wrote about news reports which said that Will Ferrell intended to portray President Ronald Reagan’s battle with Alzheimer’s Disease in a comedy. I only learned of his intention after reading a poignant open letter written by Patti Davis, President Reagan’s daughter. My first reaction was one of utter shock; I fail to see how anyone – actor, producer, writer, or “normal person” – could find Alzheimer’s funny. My second reaction was anger; as I wrote in my original article, I have a close family member who is being drawn into the darkness of Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is not funny. Not funny at all.
I’ve read some media reports since it was announced that Ferrell is not doing the movie. Some have said that the Reagan script was simply one of several given to the actor to peruse. Others have suggested that only after the public uproar did Ferrell decide not to do the movie. I’m not sure which report is more accurate, and, honestly, that doesn’t really matter to me – I’m thankful the movie has been canned.
I’ve been thinking long and hard about the Reagan movie, and I believe there are some important lessons for all of us:
- The spotlight on Alzheimer’s Disease. Seeing the effects of Alzheimer’s up close and personal has given me a new appreciation of what the disease does, not only to the patient, but to the entire family. Perhaps bringing Alzheimer’s to the forefront of public discussion will lead to outcries, not because an actor intends to portray an ailing President, but for a cure. May we see that cure soon!
- The power of the word. The written word in this case proved “mightier than the sword.” The script Will Ferrell read had great power to motivate people to action. The outcries of the Reagan family led to an end of the movie. The words you and I use are powerful. I’m thankful when we use those words for good. I tremble when we use those words for ill.
- The power of the spotlight. If I had written a script about President Reagan’s long goodbye, no one would read it. If I planned to make a movie and put it on YouTube, no one would watch it. But, Will Ferrell is in the spotlight. Because he, a well-known comedian, was associated with the movie (whatever that association might have been), people immediately took notice.The point is that people are watching us. We are in someone’s spotlight. How we act and how we live has consequences. Our actions can lead someone to Jesus or further away from him. We must take care how we live.
- The good of public discussion. I get tired of all the noise in the public arena, especially at this time every four years. But, the discussion about Ferrell’s Reagan movie was healthy – the movie was once for all buried.You and I need to raise our voices for good in the public discussion. I honestly don’t believe that debates about gay “marriage” or transgender bathrooms or abortion will be won through the ballot box; I believe those debates can – and will be won – by holding up the cross of Jesus. Laws don’t keep people from acting immorally – e. g., it’s a crime to murder, but people still kill their fellows. What can change the state of this country is the Gospel of Jesus. It’s time that we take that message to the public square!
- The good of anger. President Reagan’s family was outraged by the planned movie, and their anger prompted them to act in – as far as I know – appropriate ways. Anger isn’t always wrong (the Lord cleansed the temple in anger). How we react to that anger makes all the difference. When we have a right to be angry, acting appropriately on that anger can do much good.
- The effect of the media. We hear people sometimes say that what is shown on television or the big screen doesn’t affect one’s behavior. If that’s the case, why do they show commercials on TV – aren’t they intended to affect my behavior? The Reagan movie was going to have a huge public impact, and it was, therefore, canned. Don’t forget that what you watch on TV or listen to on the radio or read on your Kindle can influence your behavior.
My anger of the Reagan movie had nothing to do with Mr. Reagan’s politics; instead, my anger centered around the suffering of a human being. May we always respect the dignity of our fellow man made in the likeness and image of God!