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The troubling reason “Moon Knight” has gotten mixed reviews

April 7, 2022 - Dr. Ryan Denison

Ethan Hawke, left, May Calamawy and Oscar Isaac, right, pose for photographers upon arrival for the special screening of Moon Knight at the British Museum in central London, Thursday, March 17, 2022. (Photo by Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP)

Ethan Hawke, left, May Calamawy and Oscar Isaac, right, pose for photographers upon arrival for the special screening of Moon Knight at the British Museum in central London, Thursday, March 17, 2022. (Photo by Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP)

Moon Knight, Marvel’s latest offering on Disney+, just aired its second episode and has generally gotten off to a strong start. Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke headline the show.

While Moon Knight is one of the lesser-known characters in Marvel comics, it’s been interesting to watch how Isaac has portrayed some of the titular character’s issues, such as Dissociative Identity Disorder.

However, it is Hawke’s portrayal of the show’s villain—Arthur Harrow—that has generated some of the most surprising headlines.

Why is Moon Knight being review-bombed?

In the show’s first episode, Harrow attempts to justify his work in service of the Egyptian god Ammit by listing a series of atrocities that could have been prevented had the god’s particular brand of justice been utilized. Among those referenced were Hitler, Pol Pot, and the Armenian genocide.

While most people recognize the evils of Hitler’s holocaust and Pol Pot’s genocide in Cambodia, several nations around the world continue to dispute the extent of the atrocities committed by the Ottoman Empire against the Armenian people during WWI. Even the United States only officially recognized the genocide last year.

I wrote about the Armenian genocide more extensively at that time. In short, the Ottoman Empire blamed the Armenians—a Christian minority within their borders—for a series of embarrassing defeats in the First Balkan War (1912–1913) and later to Russia at the outset of the First World War.

As retribution, the government began either killing the Armenians or deporting them to concentration camps. By the end of the war, more than 90 percent of the Armenians within the Ottoman Empire had either fled or died. Those who remained were given the choice of converting to Islam or suffering a similar fate. The homes and property of the deceased were then divided up amongst Muslim refugees and any remaining traces of their existence were erased from the culture.

Given the horrific actions taken against the Armenians, their inclusion alongside the victims of Hitler and Pol Pot is understandable. Yet, to this day, Turkey—the country that rose from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire—refuses to accept a historically accurate account of what occurred. They will admit that some Christians were killed and that mistakes were made but deny that any sort of systematic execution took place. Many even go so far as to argue that the Armenians deserved it because they were rebels and represented a risk to national security, despite the fact that neither allegation has historical merit.

The inclusion of the genocide has generated enough backlash, however, to put an outsized dent in the show’s overall ratings. On IMDb, for example, 43.1 percent of reviewers give the show 10/10, with an additional 24.5 percent rating it as either an 8 or 9 out of 10. Yet 14.3 percent of respondents have given it 1/10 and, as CBR’s Narayan Liu notes, the comments reveal that one of the primary reasons is Harrow’s mention of the genocide in question.

That trend is troubling for several reasons, but one in particular is relevant for us today.

Why the truth is important

Ultimately, Moon Knight is going to do just fine and may actually benefit in the long run from the added publicity generated by this controversy.

The more disconcerting element of this story is that a newsworthy number of people not only continue to deny the realities of the Armenian genocide but are also sufficiently triggered by the mere mention of it to go online and leave negative reviews and comments. That reaction is troubling because it indicates a level of emotional investment in the lie that could lead to further actions down the road.

You see, one reason why it’s so important not only to know the truth but also to then internalize the truth is that it helps guard against the temptation to build our lives and identities around lies.

That doesn’t mean every belief we hold should escalate to the point of being foundational for our worldview. In fact, I would argue that the list of subjects or beliefs which hold that power needs to be relatively short. But the beliefs that motivate us to action must be based in the truth or they can yield dire consequences in our lives and in the lives of others.

That basic reality is why it is so important for us to build our lives around God’s word and our relationship with him. And it’s why it’s so important for us to study Scripture in community with other Christians. When we allow the Holy Spirit to work through us and others around us to help us better know and apply God’s truth, then we are positioned to weather the storm of lies that can so easily come from all directions in our world today.

But, as Jesus warned his listeners in the Sermon on the Mount, God’s word is the only foundation that can provide that kind of protection and stability (Matthew 7:24–27).

So while the controversy around the Armenian genocide and Moon Knight will likely fade across the coming weeks, my hope is that it will cause all of us to take some time today to evaluate what beliefs we allow to motivate us to action.

Will you take time to do that now?

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