Give Yourself Permission to Turn It Off

There’s always a new TV show. We get a lot of media recommendations from friends, family, coworkers, TV itself. “Try this! You’ll love it!”

So what happens when we don’t love it?

Sometimes we keep watching because our friend is super-excited about a show and wants someone to watch with. Other times we keep watching because we don’t want to be judgmental or legalistic. Maybe it’s the cool new thing.

I’m definitely guilty. I have a lot of friends who are in love with Supernatural, a TV show where two brothers hunt all kinds of supernatural monsters. It sounded interesting, so I watched the first four seasons.

And Supernatural was fun. The brothers’ love for each other is compelling. The side characters are hilarious. But I felt dirty whenever I finished an episode. There was too much darkness for me to handle. I felt like a wimp for giving up so far into, but it wasn’t healthy to keep watching.

So I turned it off.

We talk a lot about not discounting media choices out of reflex. We’ve also had a few posts on being careful about what we chose to watch (here and here.)

Sometimes that moment doesn’t come until a few episodes or seasons in. It’s easy to think, “I’ve already invested sixteen hours into this show. I can’t turn it off now.” But you are the one who has to live with what you watch or listen to, and some of it can be hard to forget. If you ask me which Supernatural episode bothered me the most, I can recount the whole thing in excruciating detail.

Knowing and accepting our own tolerance makes seeing beauty in media easier. It’s easier to see hope and love if I’m not completely distracted and disgusted by other content.

So try that new show or movie. Enjoy media, but don’t feel obligated to keep watching even if you’re in season eight. Give yourself permission to turn it off.

-Josie K.

Daredevil, Flannery O’Connor, and Violence in Media

Marvel recently released a trailer for Daredevil’s second season, introducing the new anti-heroes Punisher and Elektra. (Warning: Trailer briefly shows a crime scene and fighting throughout.)

Matt Murdock is a blind lawyer who moonlights as a vigilante. In the courtroom or on the streets, he protects innocents who can’t protect themselves. Matt is also one of the most religious characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With the help of Father Lantom, a Catholic priest, Matt grapples with his motives and his own soul.

The peace of the church is a sharp contrast to the dirt and chaos on the streets. The strongest-stomached viewer will flinch at the gritty picture of Hell’s Kitchen slums. Is the violence justified? Is the harsh picture of evil necessary?

Flannery O’Connor says absolutely. Evil belongs in movies and TV because it’s already in real life. It’s tempting to gloss over the bad, but refusing to acknowledge evil is like pretending it doesn’t exist or will fix itself, which ultimately helps no one. Sin and pain are an inescapable part of reality; the honest writer must confront it with wisdom and careful consideration.

“For the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost blind you draw large and startling figures.”- O’Connor, “The Fiction Writer and His Country”

Daredevil is absolutely a loud and startling figure. It paints humanity with all its rottenness and hope and reminds us that redemption is not cheap.

O’Connor is right. Evil, in media and in life, is inescapable. Without some cause of conflict, story is impossible. Or at least very untrue. But how much of that evil we see, or can stomach, is something each of us must weigh for ourselves.

-Josie K.

 

Television, the Nightly News, and Fear: How Christians Should Respond

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I recently heard a sermon titled “The Kingdom of God and the Culture of Fear” (check it out here). In this sermon, the preacher talks about “peddlers of fear,” people and organizations that actually make a profit on producing fear. This is not the type of fear that a haunted house sells. This fear is the type that we might feel when we hear of natural disasters, violent protests, or random shooting rampages. In fact, just this weekend in Kalamazoo, MI six people were killed by an Uber driver who went on a random shooting rampage. See the news footage – Kalamazoo Shooting Suspect Charged. It is a tragedy that should have never happened. It should break our hearts that these things happen in the world, but it does not mean that we should lock ourselves inside for fear of something like this happening to us.

It is a good thing to be informed. We need to know about what is happening in the world and to be aware of the social issues going on around us. As Christians, however, we are free from being paralyzed by fear when watching the nightly news. As emphasized in the sermon, we have a hope to cling to that conquers all fear – Jesus Christ. Isaiah 41:10 tells us that we are not to be afraid because God is with us. Romans 8:38-39 says that nothing can separate us from the love of God – even random shootings cannot break God’s love for us.

The first ten minutes of most newscasts focus on the stories that elicit fear. I want to challenge you to actively combat this culture of fear. Here are three key points to keep in mind when engaging with current news media:

  1. Pray for protection from fear.
  2. Pray for those dealing with the tragedy or suffering.
  3. Trust and believe that God is sovereign and that will never leave us nor forsake us.

5 Ways To Beat Post-Series Finale Blues

Gravity Falls ended this Monday. After two seasons of monsters, twins, and a fight against a demonic triangle, I’ve got the post-series finale blues. No more Mabel jokes, no more mysteries. Now what?

Even if we enjoy television in moderation, it’s easy to get attached to characters or storylines. If we fall into binging five or six episodes a night, it’s worse. We don’t like endings, even happy ones. So here are five ways to bid the finale blues goodbye.

  1. Read a Book

This is my go-to for recovering from a great TV show. The change distracts my brain from wishing Gravity Falls had three more seasons. Check out our tips on finding an engaging book. Even better, try a new genre.

  1. Find a New Show

If no books catch your eye, another option is a different show. Again, a genre switch can be most effective. Just pick one still airing so you aren’t tempted to binge all five seasons on Netflix.

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    In Theaters November 18

    Wait for the Reboot

Reboots/remakes take a long time, but hope tides many fans through finale syndrome. Harry Potter fans rejoice! Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child are reviving the magic.

  1. Fanfiction

Fanfiction explores all the favorite moments and missed opportunities. The best ones will recapture the themes, characters, and atmosphere that made the series so amazing. Fanfiction can also be really hit or miss in quality and content, so be cautious if you pick this route.

  1. Share the Love

popcornTV is better with a friend. Whether it’s another post-series finale sufferer or the uninitiated, find a buddy, pop some popcorn, and replay episode one. Enjoy the beauty that hooked you in the first place. Celebrate the best moments together and start conversations about what you see.

Tell us about your experience with post-series finale blues. Is feeling sad after a finale a natural part of enjoying media, or is it a sign we’re too invested in a fictional world?

-Josie K.

 

What Can Christians Learn from ‘Friends’?

Friends can be a controversial television show for Christians. The show contains many sexual references and inappropriate situations.

Still, the show is a 90s classic and many can admit to it being their guilty pleasure. The characters are funny and endearing, and the story lines are ridiculous and entertaining.

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Should we be ashamed of liking this show?

There are things we need to be careful of when we watch Friends. Talking casually about sex is not okay, and we shouldn’t become too comfortable with what the show and culture tells us is normal. We need to be on guard that these things do not influence our lives and hearts.

However, Friends carries some timeless lessons that Christians can appreciate.

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The premise of the show is six friends trying to manage life and adulthood. Nothing ever seems to go as planned, and the characters are set face to face with reality in every episode. But in the midst of reality, they stay loyal to their friends no matter what.

The characters in Friends are fictional, but they show us friendships that the Christian community can learn from.

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They all just chose each other. They don’t all have a lot in common, and they don’t even like each other in every episode, but they never abandon each other. They don’t glorify their friendships, but they go through the mundaneness and the craziness of life together, always there to lean on if someone needs it.

Imagine if we could model Christian friendships this way. What would it look like for Christians to choose each other and stick around through every season of life we face?

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– Megan R.

The Innocence of Father Brown and An Evangelical Cynic

My professor called me a cynic yesterday. We were talking about Christian books and movies and how disappointing I and my classmates often find them. They mean well but often feel trite.

I’m often cynical about secular media too. To wonder which of these beloved characters’ sudden but inevitable betrayal I’ll be cursing. To predict how many episodes it will take before it’s just too dirty.

Even when you’re looking for beauty, it can be hard to find. Christian media is too easy. Secular media is too dark. If you don’t expect anything from media, it can’t disappoint you.

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Alec Guinness in The Detective (1954)

Good thing Father Brown is as uncynical as they come.

He’s a Catholic priest/Sherlock Holmes who finds mysteries everywhere he goes. The Innocence of Father Brown is a short story about him, but Father Brown isn’t innocent. Not really.

“I assure you, my ‘innocent’ ears encounter every day stories of a horror that would make your sophisticated hair stand on end. Although I wear funny clothes, and have taken certain vows, I live far more in the world than you do.”

But he isn’t jaded. He hasn’t written humanity off.

His experience makes him an ace detective, but he’s more worried about the souls of the criminals than what they steal. His “innocence” is really a heart attentive to good. It makes me a little less jaded.

Father Brown began in a short story collection by G.K. Chesterton. Now it’s several movies, a miniseries, and a BBC TV show. The earnest, sleuthing priest that keeps people coming back.

For me, it’s the reminder that faith and skill don’t have to be separated. Cynicism might protect me from disappointment, but it makes me less kind and less sensitive to beauty and truth.

I want to be more like Father Brown, who sees goodness even the worst of life.

-Josie K.

Watch Commercials like a Christian

You may not think of commercials as media. They are on TV and we watch them, but we don’t consider them traditional entertainment.

But they are entertaining!

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Doritos showed a baby in an ultrasound reaching for a Doritos chip.

When we celebrated the Super Bowl a few days ago, we watched primarily for the football game, but secondarily for the excellent commercials that were produced especially for the occasion. The advertising was able to draw us in just as much as the game did.

The commercials were trying to sell us something, but they were also giving us something. Usually, they offer us an emotional fulfillment of some kind, which they do by appealing to one of our desires.

Humans have a lot of desires—some good, some bad. Some of our desires were given to us as image bearers of God, like the desires for love, community, and beauty. But these God-given desires are skewed by the fall. Our desire for love becomes a desire for inappropriate sexual satisfaction. Our desire for community becomes a desire for prestige and popularity. Our desire for beauty becomes a desire for exciting spectacle through all means.

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Comedian Kevin Hart lends his Hyundai Genesis with Blue Link Car Finder to his daughter’s date and tracks the couple’s whereabouts throughout the date.

Advertisers take different approaches as to which desires they will appeal to make us emotionally hooked. Our job as Christians is to discern whether they are appealing to our good desires or sinful desires.

Think about your favorite Super Bowl commercial. What did you like about it? Was it funny? Sweet? Weird? Crude?  Try to understand your emotional response to the presentation and content.

-Megan R.

Let us know in the comments what your favorite Super Bowl commercial was and why!