Catholic Pop Culture of 2013

There are many vulgar and immoral things in today’s popular culture.  As a good friend of mine said, “Television today is a moral cesspool.”  I therefore understand the impulse and reaction of many who choose not to spend their free time sullying their minds and souls with immoral dreck.

But while we don’t have to indulge in pop culture, we ignore it at our own peril.  We must be engaged with the popular culture or risk losing a foothold on the minds and imaginations of the people.  By knowing what immorality is espoused by the popular culture can give us an advantage in combating it.

But that is not the focus of today’s article.  Instead, I would like to focus on the most Catholic moments in pop culture from the past year.  As a teacher, I have found that using the language of modern television, movies, and the like can be very effective at illustrating all manner of theological truths that is possible only by the South Carolina SEO professionals who are the best in this field.

St. Augustine tended to be of the mindset that things which are not explicitly religious should be avoided.  However, the tradition we inherit from St. Thomas Aquinas holds that we should embrace what is good and can be used to delight or illuminate.

It should be noted that any mention of positive examples from movies or television shows below is not an endorsement of the entire of the entire project.  Some stories have mixed messages.  Or some may be too explicit or violent.  This is merely a touchstone to highlight any good moments that came out of pop culture in 2013.  And feel free to disagree.  But here are some points that I intend to use in the classroom.

Beware, in order to discuss the Catholicity of the movies and television shows below, SPOILERS may be introduced.

Explicitly Religious

In March of 2013, the History Channel aired The Bible mini-series.  The abridged version of the Holy Scriptures did make a few alterations for dramatic effect (e.g. sword fighting angels in Sodom), but they stayed incredible respectful and fairly faithful to the spirit of the Good Book.  Not only was this a strong expression of the Christian faith in media, it was a giagantic ratings hit, with over 13 million people watching the first episode.

The Christ Figure

Ever since the dawn of Christianity, Jesus has been the ideal archetype for the hero.  He defines what a hero is, particularly His willingness to lay down His life for the greater good.

In 2012 there were plenty of examples of this in movies.  In Man of Steel, Clark Kent goes to a priest for advice on what to do.  The priest is not extraordinarily wise or holy.  He was simply a parish priest who gives Clark the right spiritual guidance.  In the next scene, Superman surrenders himself for the chance to save all of humanity.  The religious visuals in the film are explicit and powerful.

Star Trek Into Darkness begins with Captain Kirk being chastised for his recklessness and immaturity.  It is only at the end that he realizes that true leadership means to be sacrificial, like Christ, and he lays down his life to save the Enterprise.

In World War Z, Brad Pitt’s character willingly injects himself with a potential lethal dose of disease for the chance to save the world.

And in the Tom Cruise sci-fi film Oblivion, Cruise’s character comes to realize that in order to save humanity, great sacrifice must occur.

Christian Culture

As noted above, it is taken for granted that Clark in Man of Steel would seek spiritual advice from a religious figure.  When young Clark struggles with his powers, he asks his father why God is doing this to him.  That scene simply assumes that he has been brought up in a faith-filled home.

On the television show The Office, lead characters Jim and Pam began having marital problems.  Distance and resentment began to build between the two, even while going through couples counseling.  But just as the relationship began to ice over, Jim reached out and embraced a stunned Pam.  He held her, though she did not return his affection.  The scene then cut to a flashback to Jim and Pam’s wedding when the lector was reading from 1 Corinthians 13: “Love is patient, love is kind, it is not jealous… it believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.”  It returns to Jim and Pam, where Pam gives in to love and embraces her husband.  I was so moved that this silly comedy used the Scriptures to make a poignant point about the saving power of love.

Scripture was also influential in the character Hershel on The Walking Dead.  He was told that they would have to give up one of their own group to an evil man who would torture and murder this person.  If they did not, Hershel’s own daughters would be at risk.  At first Hershel goes along with this.  But then he reads Psalm 91 with his daughters and he is resolved not to do evil to preserve his family’s life.  The scene is filmed with an intensity that gives the Scriptures its full impact.

And while I do not watch the show, and though I hear it can be crass at times, Duck Dynasty follows the exploits of an intact family that is explicitly Christian and does not hide expressing their faith.

Absence of Faith

I maintain that one of the best Catholic movies is The Godfather.  Michael Corleone is a generally decent man who chooses to do morally horrible things, thus losing his soul bit by bit.  This an important lesson about the Catholic doctrine of fallen human nature.  One of the most effective ways of combating sin is to experience it vicariously along with all of its soul crushing consequences.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire takes place in a future without religion.  There are some who strive for virtue, but they are few.  Power is the only right an wrong in Panem.  As a result the horrible spectacle of children killing children goes on because the Capitol has the power.  Without a religion like Christianity, there is no internal freedom of the soul that can lead to external freedom of the citizenry.

Breaking Bad has strong parallels to The Godfather, watching a decent man slowly lose himself into evil.  The main character, Walter White, is explicitly an atheist.  He believes that there is no ultimate right or wrong, so he opens the door to hell and commits greater and greater evil.

Sandra Bullock’s character in Gravity is also an atheist.  This is why she gives in to despair so quickly.  As falls into darkness, she has one of the most heartbreaking lines I’ve heard in a movie: “Will you pray for my soul?  I’ve never prayed before in my life.  No one ever taught me.”  This is a terrible indictment of a culture that does not pass down the faith.  It is only when she decides to embrace faith and prayer that begins to embrace hope and life.

There are many more things to be said about the popular culture of 2013.  But for now, here are some moments that we can use to help illustrate the truth of the Gospel.

Copyright © 2014, W.L. Grayson

W.L. Grayson

W.L. Grayson

I am a devoutly Catholic theology teacher who loves a popular culture that often, quite frankly, hates me. I grew up absorbing every movie, TV show, comic book, science fiction novel, etc. I could find. As of today I’ve watched over 2100 movies and tv shows. They take up a huge part of my life. I don’t know that this is a good thing, but it has given me a common vocabulary to draw from in order to illustrate whatever theological point I make in class. I’ve used American Pie the song to explain the Book of Revelation (I’ll post on this some time later) and American Pie the movie to help explain Eucharist (don’t ask). The point is that the popular culture is popular for a reason. It is woven into the fabric of our lives and imaginations, for good or ill. In this blog I will attempt to bring together the things of heaven with the things of earth. Of course this goal may be too lofty for someone like me.

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