|dc.description.abstract||Lars and the Real Girl was first shown at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2007, where it received positive reviews, and upon larger release, this offbeat independent film – the tale of a shy young man with a damaged psyche whose mail-order sex doll girlfriend helps launch him into adulthood, while inspiring the support of his small Midwestern town community -- garnered success with critics and the public alike. While much of this response was due to Nancy Oliver’s engaging, Academy Award-nominated script and Ryan Gosling’s thoughtful portrayal of Lars, there was significant endorsement from a number of interpretive communities not directly targeted by the film, including Christian audiences. In fact, the presence of the Church is not mentioned in the published production notes for the film, though it occupies a significant position in the lives of the protagonist and the members of the community. The response by the Christian-identified interpretive community has gone beyond favorable reviews to further appropriation of the film evidenced by, for example, a sermon based on the film videoed and uploaded to YouTube and the film’s inclusion in a theological studies university course.
My paper begins with a brief overview of the reception of Lars and the Real Girl and examines the process of interpretation and appropriation by Christian audiences. From there, I will interrogate their response, which mostly focuses on the “Christian values” inherent in the film and ignores several competing readings. Finally, I offer an expanded analysis that focuses on the role of the doll itself, whom Lars introduces as a missionary from Brazil on sabbatical “to experience the world,” and her presence as transformative in the film.
(please note that papers not specifically on the conference’s theme will still be considered)||en