Therein lies the jurisdynamic irony. Movies, made possible by concatenating images and accelerating them beyond the limits of human perception, ultimately freeze the culture of their time. As amber is to natural history, celluloid is to cultural history.
Consider one of my all-time favorite movies, Breakfast at Tiffany's. Mickey Rooney's role as Mr. Yuniochi comes dangerously close to destroying Audrey Hepburn's perfect performance. As much as I cringe at the overt racism of Mr. Yuniochi's part in this otherwise sublime movie, I would not want it edited away. The very process of enjoying Breakfast at Tiffany's, or any other movie, demands engagement with the entire cultural apparatus underlying any film, no matter how obsolete or offensive certain aspects might seem. As moviegoers and as Americans, we reconcile artistic enjoyment with our collective cultural history, in all its glory and its shame, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond our cities, where the dark films of the Republic roll on under the night.
Among the most accessible of art forms in a country committed to a considerable degree of cultural populism, movies express the American civic religion of their time. On the Waterfront, To Kill a Mockingbird, Inherit the Wind -- who needs Technicolor to understand the Old Time Religion of the U.S. of A.? It's not even sporting to ponder the political ramifications of The Revenge of the Sith's climactic line, “Only a Sith speaks in absolutes.”
Moving pictures as art, freeze frame as social commentary -- the movies provide the perfect cultural emblem of American civic religion, especially for those of us who believe that the Constitution evolves with time. Even the most hidebound originalist must concede the ebb and flow inherent in phrases such as “cruel and unusual Punishment,” “unreasonable Searches and Seizures,” and “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” Artistic evaluation, performed on an emergent basis by individual moviegoers, enables the grand laity of America's civic religion to reconcile its older cinematic expressions – as frozen on celluloid – with more contemporary dogmatic demands. Within every religious tradition, and not merely those informed by Colossians 1:26, a prophet must master “the mystery hidden for ages” and make it manifest to the saints of her own generation.