John Stonestreet and Maria Baer on “My Octopus Teacher” and the God-Shaped Hole in Every Human Heart

The new Netflix film, “My Octopus Teacher,” is hard to categorize. It’s not exactly a nature documentary, nor is it strictly narrative storytelling, and the title is strange enough by itself. Still, this movie by documentary filmmaker Craig Foster has garnered glowing reviews and has become extremely popular on social media. 

The movie follows Foster, who, in the midst of a personal crisis, decides to snorkel in the kelp forest near his South African home every day for a year. 

I doubt I was the only one whose first thought was, “Wow, it must be nice to have a breathtaking coastal home where personal therapy takes the form of a year of snorkeling.” 

And that’s just the first thing that makes the show’s popularity puzzling–especially in this culture, which analyzes all of our problems, every political issue, and even the identity and value of individual people in terms of who has privilege and who doesn’t. Just last week, Kim Kardashian was widely panned for posting a picture of a beautiful beach with the caption “paradise,” without duly noting how privileged she was to be there. Though it’s difficult to see “My Octopus Teacher” without noting that cultural tension, it’s also refreshing to see a person with clear privilege choosing not to dwell on it. 

Still, “My Octopus Teacher” isn’t a movie about privilege. It’s about, wait for it, an octopus! Foster first comes across the animal in the very early days of his year of snorkeling, and he’s mesmerized. Thanks to the engaging narration and cinematography, it’s hard not to be mesmerized along with him. 

Octopi are incredible. And strange. They have this ability to go from something solid to almost liquid in a matter of seconds. The thousands of suction cups on the outside of their bodies are like a second brain. In fact, two-thirds of their cognition happen there, according to scientists. 

Throughout the film, we see Foster’s octopus friend swim like a fish, walk like a dog, and play games like a kid. She changes colors. When she loses an arm in a shark attack, we watch it grow back. In simpler terms, Craig Foster’s true privilege is one that God uniquely endows on His image bearers: the opportunity to marvel at God’s extravagant creativity and the fact that He lets us live in a world like this.

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SOURCE: Breakpoint, John Stonestreet and Maria Baer

From BreakPoint. Reprinted with the permission of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. “BreakPoint®” and “The Colson Center for Christian Worldview®” are registered trademarks of The Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

John Stonestreet is the President of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and co-host with Eric Metaxas of Breakpoint, the Christian worldview radio program founded by the late Chuck Colson. He is co-author of A Practical Guide to CultureA Student’s Guide to Culture and Restoring All Things.

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