Gender Roles – Men
Room for Improvement:
Gender Roles – Women
Self-Esteem and Body Image
Language and Sexual Content
Gender Roles - Men: 4 Stars
Patrick is a remarkable young man who is comfortable and open with his spirituality - but he’s also willing to challenge it. He falls in love with Mary because he believes she has that same sense of independence when it comes to faith. He isn’t bothered by the fact that she’s withdrawing and questioning her beliefs. And in the end, he isn’t even bothered by the fact that she’s pregnant. It’s a little difficult to say whether he has put her on too high a pedestal to truly respect her - or whether he’ll continue to support her if she does come to a decision that he doesn’t understand or agree with. But from what we can see, Patrick is a perfect blend of humility, compassion and strength.
Pastor Skip’s character is a bit more complicated. Because of his religious views, he likely holds certain beliefs about sexuality and women’s bodies - but he’s never overtly discriminatory in the way he practices his faith. To the contrary, he places the same restraints on himself and his own behavior as he does on the women in his congregation.
Plot: 4 Stars
Most of Saved! revolves around Mary’s struggle to keep her baby a secret and the new relationships she forms as her pregnancy progresses. She doesn’t necessarily become a champion for tolerance or equality – but she does give one rousing speech at the very end of the film. She also goes through an incredibly difficult transformation without breaking down or completely losing her sense of self. She doesn’t blame herself too harshly for the situation she finds herself in. She doesn’t wallow in self-pity or regret. She simply makes her decision and moves on, and that alone requires a fair amount of strength and fortitude.
Character Development: 4 Stars
Saved! focuses more on Mary’s struggle with Hillary Faye than it does on her internal struggle with God. The film never explores the reasons Mary choses to keep her baby or how she feels about being a mother. It never mentions whether she’s considered adoption, or at her lowest points, abortion. To a large degree, the most important decision of the film is glossed over. What we do know about Mary, however, is that once she becomes pregnant she has the strength to start asking questions. When she finds that she can’t live up to God’s expectations, she starts questioning God’s expectations rather than questioning herself. Mary has the strength to know that what she did, she did out of love for Dean, and an unfortunate misinterpretation of God’s will. But rather than abusing herself for her sins, Mary chooses to elevate the “sinners.” Although this never really comes across through dialogue with Hillary Faye or Pastor Skip or anyone else, we can see it in her behavior and the choices she makes.
Gender Roles - Women: 2.5 Stars
Mary is an endearing character, even if she isn’t incredibly bold or inspiring. She makes a difficult decision to keep her baby, but she also tries to hide her pregnancy from everyone she knows. She doesn’t have the strength to challenge those around her or to share the reasons she’s experiencing her crisis of faith – aside from an unexpected outburst to defend Dean from Hillary Faye’s prayer circle. Mary is led by God when the film opens, and by the adults and peers in her life for the rest of the film. It takes a lot of dramatic changes for her to finally come clean about her feelings on religion and morality. And when she does speak up, she speaks up for Dean and his friends from Mercy House before she finds the nerve to speak up for herself.
Self-Esteem and Body Image: 2 Stars
Mary is in the midst of an identity crisis that is certainly threatening her sense of self-esteem. As someone who once found pride in living according to Jesus’ teachings and following the word of God, she suddenly finds herself to be just another sinner whose behavior has separated her from her social circle and Jesus’ love. In the midst of all this, Mary struggles to find a new reason to feel pride in herself. She does find some comfort in her new friends, Cassandra and Roland, who are also outcasts at her Christian high school. But it seems to be her relationship with Patrick more than anything else that truly brings Mary back to that strong sense of self she displayed in the beginning. This could’ve been a more powerful transformation if she had spent more time pouring out her soul to Cassandra or Patrick. She could have had a heartwarming talk with her mother, or Jesus, or Dean, or even her unborn baby. But instead, she seems to find forgiveness and salvation in a pretty dress and a date for the prom.
Love: 3 Stars
Patrick gives us one inspiring reason that he’s fallen in love with Mary – she’s not afraid to speak her mind. But even this heartwarming statement doesn’t completely explain his devotion to her, because the simply don't have enough honest dialogue between them. It would’ve been a beautiful addition to Saved! if Mary had found the courage to open up to Patrick about her concerns for Dean’s soul or her concerns for herself and her unborn child. But these jarring obstacles to their happy ending remain hidden until the very end. Patrick does eventually convince Mary that the baby doesn’t change his feelings for her. But this simple moment turns Patrick into a bit of a saint. Without some serious deliberation on what this couple is up against, the happy ending is somewhat idealized and under-developed.
Language and Sexual Content: 3 Stars
The bedroom scene with Mary and Dean is definitely more friendly than it is erotic. It depicts a confused young couple experimenting with sex as a solution to a significant crisis, rather than an expression of passion or hormones. It’s also unfortunate that the scene is so focused on Dean’s reactions and responses, and that little thought or attention is given to the significance of Mary losing her virginity - or to whether or not she experiences any form of pleasure or connection by giving herself to Dean. The scene is more of a joke to move the plot forward and isn’t meant to be a commentary on Mary’s first sexual experience, and the pregnancy quickly eclipses any focus on the emotional turmoil that results from it.
Friendship: 3 Stars
Mary’s friendship with Hillary Faye turns out to be just as superficial as so many other friendships from teen films. Their conversations may be focused on religion, rather than boys and Gucci bags, but their connection clearly isn’t deep enough to survive serious disagreement or challenges.
Mary’s friendship with Cassandra seems to be a bit more substantial. Cassandra is supportive and doesn’t judge Mary for her condition, but their conversations are still a bit empty and their friendship remains untested. They never talk about Mary’s struggle with religion or how Mary intends to take care of herself once the baby is born. They accept each other because they’re both outcasts and appear to be real friends, but it’s unclear whether Mary can completely open up to Cassandra about her struggles and be taken seriously.