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Crystal Downing

The Sheep, the Goats, and Leo DiCaprio

If you have a daughter who's passed through adolescence in recent memory, you've probably seen a bedroom shrine dedicated to Leonardo DiCaprio, he of the delicate features, full lips, and smoldering eyes. Just another Hollywood pretty boy, you say? Take a look at What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1994), in which the heartthrob convincingly portrays a mentally challenged child. And if you never saw William Shakespeare's Romeo +Juliet (1996), you missed the aplomb with which the adolescent icon could handle iambic pentameter. It was Titanic (1997) that nearly sank Leo DiCaprio's career.

But isn't Titanic one of the biggest box-office hits ever? Yes—but DiCaprio's character, Jack Dawson, is so simplistically conceived, so shallow, that it's easy to confuse the actor with the role. Jack can do no wrong; not only does he deftly dance with peasants in steerage, he can also hobnob with the wealthy on their upper decks; he is artistic enough to draw the semi-clothed Rose but tough enough to hold his own in violent confrontations; and, of course, he allows himself to be left behind in freezing waters in order that Rose might live. In contrast, Rose's supercilious fiance seems petty or malevolent in all his actions. Jack, of course, is blond and almost always dressed in white or light-colored clothing, while his swarthy antagonist is always in black. Hi ho, Silver!

But this is what mass-market audiences love: clear signals as to whom to love, whom to hate. And although Jesus blurred such distinctions with stories about blackened Samaritans and whited sepulchres, Christians all too often buy into the binary. What else could explain the outrageous popularity of the Left Behind series, which is filled with cliched phrasing and simplistic characterizations (not to mention dubious eschatology)?

Significantly, repeated several times in Left Behind is the assertion that prophecy appears "in black and white in the Bible." The black and white marks on the Bible page are turned into black ...

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