Streaming seems to be the way of the future. I’m reluctant to trust corporations (does anyone remember Ultra Violet?) keeping content I’ve paid for, but the pandemic makes movie theaters scary places. Some of the movies I’m eager to see aren’t even released on DVD or Blu-ray any longer, and your only choice, increasingly, is to subscribe to the death-by-a-thousand-cuts method of “buying” a subscription. You’ve got to go where the content is. All of this is a long way of saying I saw Disney/Pixar’s Soul very nearly on its release day. It underscored a couple things for me. One is that the idea of transmigration of souls is alive and well. Second, and this is a point I make in Holy Horror, movies are often where people get their understanding of religious concepts.
In case, like me, you have to have movies pointed out to you by others more aware, Soul is about a jazz musician who dies the very day he gets his big break. On his way into the great beyond, he tries to escape and ends up where souls are prepared for their embodiment on earth, “The Great Before.” In order to make the leap, they must find their “spark”—the thing that makes them who they are. Pixar may not be a theological seminary, but there are people who find meaning in many of their films, even to the point of using them as coping mechanisms for real life. When the internet didn’t exist and animated films required years of drawing or stop-motion animation to complete, people tended to go to religious/psychological professionals for such issues. Now we have corporations.
The reason I find this of concern is that I have an idea of how content is created. How those who come up with ideas have to pitch them to financial backers or publishers, and how those backers weight concepts in the scales of lucre. In other words, money is frequently the deciding factor. Those doing the pitching are seldom the same people with specialized training in the subject addressed, and yet they reach far larger viewerships than the classroom of such an expert does. The financial implications are troublesome. None of this is to suggest Soul is a flawed film. I know many former seminary professors who’d quibble—or perhaps something stronger—with the way the afterlife/beforelife are presented here. The movie itself is both fun and profound. Don’t ask me, though. I’m still trying to figure out this streaming thing.