Television is so much crap these days, and that’s by design. In the last few years I haven’t watched much TV aside from a few programs on premium cable and AMC. I tuned out during the years that reality TV was in vogue; it was just not even remotely entertaining to me. Mostly, if I watched anything at all outside of Showtime shows or Mad Men and the Walking Dead, I’ve done it on Netflix in recent years. My intolerance of stupidity and time-wasting has grown as I’ve aged, and Netflix allows for the elimination of both. There are no commercials and you can streamline your viewing to your particular tastes. For me, that’s been a lot of documentaries, foreign flicks, and old-school shows.
The problem with that is that I’ve lost touch with cultural trends that reveal themselves through the medium of TV. When my daughter brought a Smart TV into our home earlier this month, I got to see what I’d been missing. In addition to streaming Netflix directly through the TV’s wi-fi, we decided to try the free trial of Hulu. I wouldn’t recommend it because the service is very commercial heavy and the content is hugely progressively oriented. But reviewing the drawbacks of Hulu is not the point of this post.
The point of this post is to begin to dissect what the masses are being exposed to, the culture that’s being stitched into their lives via what’s popular on television. Somewhere along the way while I was tuned out, a sort of cultural Bible-thumpin’ has developed on TV and is being beamed directly into the living rooms, dens, and bedrooms of America. I have no idea when or where it started (though I suspect it may have begun with the popular show X Files), but supernatural and conspiratorial narratives have dominated dramas in recent years. Medium, Lost, Heroes, Vampire Diaries, Supernatural, and the new 666 Park Avenue are some examples.
I remember in the 1980s and 1990s, and even into the early 2000s we often discussed the effects that Biblical inerrancy had on the fundamentalist Christian population. It wasn’t just the belief that the Bible was the inerrant word of God, of course; it was also the lifestyle that came with it, the weekly subjection of fiery sermons, and the closed nature of a group that eschewed outsiders. It had some strange effects. After a while, you began to read creepy stories about sects in some rural areas that believed in things like demon possession and lots of talk of the end times. That stuff still goes on today, as we recently saw with the microchip story out of San Antonio, TX, but it doesn’t get as much press as it used to.
Nutty, supernatural stories like we find in the Bible have similar effects, no matter the medium. The cultural narratives we develop and consume are going to affect how we think. And it’s not just television; these kinds of supernatural, conspiratorial, and science fiction based narratives are popping up all over, in film and fiction as with TV. Take Magical Realism, for example. The fictional genre was developed in Spanish-speaking countries and made popular by Gabriel García Márquez. It’s currently all the rage in university Creative Writing programs across the land. When I took a creative writing class at a local university three years ago, almost every student in the class (except me) attempted it at least once, and many of the graduate students were building their graduate submissions around such narratives.
Remember when top liberal bloggers like Crooks & Liars and AmericaBlog used to fling around terms like “Christianist” to describe the set of fundamentalists who believed in the absolute truth of the Bible and who were suspected of supporting policies that they believed would manifest the end times in the present day? I wonder what we would call the consumers of these secular narratives that are just as consumed with the absolute concept of good versus evil? That’s what these narratives are designed to promote. Because they are dressed up stylistically and feature beautiful actors and characters that are hipness personified, they appeal to the same demographic groups that Democrats have targeted and captured. And I don’t just mean identity-based groups like the young, gay, or unmarried, either, though they certainly appeal to those groups. They are easily sold across the secular left because the intelligence level has dropped across the board. Just as Biblical inerrancy was the result of a dumbing down of religious folks, so too are these narratives the result of a dumbing down of the now largely secular masses. It’s the same shallow, spoon-fed value system being sold in both worlds.
Don’t mistake this for an argument in favor of a revival of religious values. I’m not religious in the least and find little value in a return to an older set of morals, especially if they are directed by religious books that were written before the advent of science and have long ago ceased to have value in modern life. My point is merely that this is part of the web of deceit that I am now being awakened to. For the last few years I’ve been subject to a great political awakening, and had to question just about every assumption or belief I’ve held with regard to that area of life. Apparently the next few years are going to bring a whole new awakening about the effects of cultural and the employment of it in the continuing massive corruption of our modern lives. Personally, I’m not looking forward to it.