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.


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.

  1. fantasticbig
    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.


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!

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.

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!

What The Middle Teaches Us About The Mundane

  The Hecks aren’t superheroes. They aren’t spies or wealthy 20th-century aristocrats. They’re just a regular suburban family facing the warts and worries of everyday life.

Most of their problems are normal. Help Sue make friends. Keep the laundry mountain under control. Balance that checkbook. Make sure Brick goes outside.

brick updates his blog

Life is chaotic. Sometimes it’s stressful just getting out the door with everything you need for the day. Add a job, cooking, homework, family, friends, and everything else and life is overwhelming. It’s hard to appreciate little victories like matching socks.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed. One of the best ways to deal with it is slowing down. Make the mundane moments count.

At the end of each episode, Frankie and her family have duct taped the crisis back together. Whether it’s a second to breathe or Sue surviving her cheerleading tryouts, there’s something to be grateful for. They grow more from the everyday disasters than they do in the calm.

According to The Middle, the most joy comes in the middle of chaos. Appreciate the forced pauses of the grocery line. Thank the Starbucks barista. Match your socks (or don’t.) Text your parents.

Life is crazy. Take a cue from the Hecks and make the most of ordinary moments.

-Josie K.

What Super Bowl Halftime Legacy Will Coldplay Make?

Over 100 million people will tune into the Super Bowl tomorrow. The contest between the Panthers and the Broncos will draw in sports fans, but media fans also pay attention to the Super Bowl for the spectacular halftime show. This year, Coldplay will carry the pressure to deliver a memorable performance.

Artists typically try to build their 12-minute performance around a theme. U2 played “a set that felt proud and dignified, but never maudlin or mawkish” for the post-9/11 world, and last year, Katy Perry showed that nothing is too big or too glamorous for the Super Bowl. Some performers have resorted to offensive tactics to get publicity, like Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” in 2004. What will Coldplay’s legacy be?

Martin and Jonny Buckland, lead guitarist for Coldplay, formed the band in 1996.

Coldplay has traditionally well-liked by Christians because of the spiritual questions they bring up in their songs. Their themes of “incompleteness, fixing souls, and leaps of faith” (Christianity Today) relate well to Christians. Chris Martin, the lead singer and songwriter for Coldplay, grew up in an Episcopal family, but turned from this faith as an adult. He remains theistic, but his searching faith does not correspond with any one religion.

Coldplay’s lyrics build on themes that Christians should be thinking about. Can the band carry over these messages to the halftime performance? I look forward to watching tomorrow and finding the beauty in their message and performance. I have no doubts that Coldplay will give us something new to think about during the second half of the game—while we’re not counting touchdowns, of course.

Binge-Watching and the Soul

After a long day, I just want to sit in front of my computer and watch Grey’s Anatomy. I’ve watched as the doctors of Seattle Grace grow up, die off, move away, fall in love, fall apart, and practice medicine every now and then. I feel like the characters are my best friends and I could tell you each one’s life story.TV_highquality

But binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy is very unhealthy for me.

Binge-Watching: Watching multiple episodes of a television program in rapid succession.

There is nothing wrong with having a favorite show. We all have one or two that we are invested in, but binge-watching is not always healthy, for two reasons.

  1. Motivated by an escapist mentality

Fiction is not escapist, unless it is consumed in excess. Often when I decide to watch a show for an extended period of time, it’s because something went wrong in my personal life. Binge-watching is effective for forgetting our problems for a few hours, but it doesn’t make anything disappear. We need to learn to face our problems, instead of sweeping them under the rug while we indulge in television.

  1. Unfruitful emotional commitment

I throw my heart and soul into shows. I worry about the character’s problems during the day. Maybe I am just an overly empathetic weirdo, but I think everyone does this to some extent. We invest in the lives of the characters, forgetting they are fictional. However, this emotional commitment doesn’t bear fruit because the recipients of our empathy are not real. We should engage in these fictional stories, but pull back periodically to remember reality and spend time empathizing with real people.images (2)I love TV shows, but I have found a fault in my binge-watching. Fictional stories open our eyes to help us live better, but they should not let us avoid real life. Enjoy the story, characters, and connection in television, but do so in moderation. We cannot love a TV show more than we love the life and people around us.

-Megan R.