Have you ever really liked a movie or TV show that you felt, as a Christian, perhaps you shouldn’t? I recently felt that way about a 90s musical and a 90s Australian TV show. I wondered, “Why do I like them so much?” Then it hit me, I liked both of them for the same reason: they addressed real issues in a creative, artistic way. They were well written. The characters were relatable, real, had strengths and weaknesses, baggage and things to work through. That’s why I loved it.
I don’t approve of normalizing sinful behavior as many media outlets do. However, occasionally, something is produced that hits people on a deeper level, beyond their sinful behavior. For instance, in the musical RENT, many characters struggle with AIDS and don’t know how long they have to live. While not everyone who sees the musical (or now movie) will relate to having AIDS, many will relate to the themes these characters struggle with. Things like, making the most of their lives, not knowing how long they have to live. Other themes include, how to measure one’s life, from the famous “Seasons of Love” song. People with cancer can relate to not having much time to live. Everyone can relate to how to measure one’s life. In the musical, one of the characters dies. Everyone can relate to losing a loved one. I also find an interesting input into the musical, the parents’ voices of the characters. That little bit makes the characters seem even more real. Only once do we see one of the main characters actually talking to their parents, but we hear from five different concerned parents throughout the show.
Another example would be the Australian TV show, Sea Change. About every Australian alive in the 90s knew of the show. It was the “Friends” of Australia, but only for a short lived three years. During that time, it tackled issues of abuse, adultery, divorce, adoption, countless small town quirks, big business verses small business, following the law or caring for people, relationships, and many more issues. Each episode had a theme that was brilliantly written throughout where nearly every character and/or scene dealt with that theme. Each season had overall things happening that strung all the episodes together.
A more recent example of a TV show I liked would be the Crown. I only watched the first season, but at some point, realized there was just too much inappropriateness for me to be fast forwarding through, so I had to stop watching. I also didn’t want to continue supporting Netflix, for various reasons. However, I liked learning about the monarchy. I liked that I felt I was learning about history in an interesting and creative way. It was real, yet presented in a creative way. It’s too bad they thought they had to sell it by including so many inappropriate scenes.
Again, some people would simply look at these examples and say, “they’re full of sinners! Christians shouldn’t support them!” I understand. I’m not about to say that I’m above being influenced by what I watch or listen to, because that’s far from the truth. We need to be cautious. We need to be filling our minds with truth and dwelling on the truth. I’m not about to encourage anyone out there to go watch whatever you want. But it is good to look at what we like about a show before we dive into it. And there’s nothing wrong with fast forwarding parts that are inappropriate.
No one can tell you where the line is that makes something inappropriate or not. Everyone struggles with different issues and might find triggers in certain things they watch or listen to. Obviously, certain things are always wrong. Porn is always wrong. Anything that causes arousals or takes you away from family and friends, possibly because it’s addicting, is also wrong for you. Excessive violence or idealized romance could become an issue. Witchcraft is wrong. The things I’m talking about are not as controversial as those. Some less extreme things might be OK in minimal doses. For instance, I like the musical RENT for various reasons, but it’s not a good idea for me to dwell on it or see it more than once a year. I actually just watched it for the first time in maybe five years, but I don’t need to see it again for at least a year. I just don’t need to be dwelling on it any more than that. Les Miserables is similar. I love the creative way that it presents real life struggles, but I do not need to watch it more than once a year. Both musicals have a scene in which I always fast forward.
One last note on children’s shows. In general, I think its easier to simply limit kids’ screen time than it is to pick and choose so much of what’s out there. It’s the same with adult stuff. My kids and I watch a lot of children’s movies and a few cartoon TV shows. I definitely have a goal to know what they’re watching, but I can’t control what they watch all the time (at friends’, relatives’, daycare, etc.). But my overall goal is to know what they’re watching over and over again. Those are the things I need to be especially mindful of. The themes from those shows or movies are what will be sinking deep into their souls. While no show is perfect and TV is not a necessity, we all need to be weighing the costs and benefits to the things our kids see.
I do wonder, and I hope, Christians will produce real drama presented in a creative way. The Chosen is a great example of this! It’s a real story, and talks about real issues that could have happened at the time of Christ. It’s presented in a very creative way. We need more of this! We need Christians producing creative content that deals with real life and then, points people to Christ as the answer, but in a real, not a cheesy way. Can you do it? Without those scenes that require people to fast forward? Can you do it clean? Jerry Seinfeld and Jim Gaffigan both agree, that clean comedy is more difficult. It requires greater skill. Again I ask, can you do it? With God’s help? I’m trying to with one book I’m writing. Stay tuned!