Sunday, February 24, 2013

Hollywood's Church Slamming Obsession

I'm sick of television at the moment.  At night, when the babies go to sleep and Paul goes to study, I set up my sewing machine and turn on the TV, usually to Hulu or Netflix to try to find something that will distract me from being very, very sleepy after the first few hours of sewing, without making me feel like my brain is melting from the stupidity flickering before it.

This past week I tried two programs that looked promising and both managed to disappoint in a twenty four hour period.  I'll start with the newest program (since it was the first to disappoint): Zero Hour (spoiler alert, if you don't want to know any part of what happens in this stupid new show, or in Touch, which I'll be talking about in 6-ish paragraphs stop reading now).

I watched the pilot of Zero Hour and thought it looked promising.  It begins, I told Paul when he got home, with priests who seem to be trying to save the world as the Nazi's bear down upon them, ultimately giving their lives as they rush around talking about how it's the end of the world.  One of them says something stupid along the lines of "even God can't help now..." but in the realm of current tv stupidity I thought that ranged on the low side.

Part of the premise of the show that becomes apparent is that in order to stop Nazi Germany from destroying the world the Church picked out twelve "new apostles" to protect some secret.  In the first episode you see that the first apostle we're to meet is "New Bartholomew" and he walks across the screen, dressed as a Nazi officer with a rosary barely showing in the palm of his hand.

"Do you think they'll do the bait and switch approach?"  Paul asked me after I told him about the show.  This is the typical tactic where a show lures you in by being entertaining and inoffensive during the first season and then, once they have you hooked (or hope they do) becomes extremely political in the subsequent seasons, determined to cram every bit of moral relativism in that can fit in a hour long program.  "I hope not!"  I responded.

I watched the second episode on Hulu shortly after it was released this weekend.  We quickly discover that the second "new apostle" is a Hindi holy woman ("Doubting Thomas"), with characters exclaiming that there are powerful forces (obviously within the Church) that would be determined to keep an apostle from being both Hindi and a woman.

Dun dun duh duh...

I wasn't upset when it became clear that the second "apostle" was a woman.  What can I say... it's Hollywood and my expectations are pretty low.  They lost me, however, with the comment that followed when it became clear that they were going with the, "there are two forces within the Church and one is good and loving and trying to save the world with their female apostle and the other will stop at nothing, even world destruction, to make sure that women are downtrodden for all time" approach.  Yawn.  Hollywood portraying the Church as villainous... how original...  click.

Last night Hulu told me that there was a new episode of Touch on.  Touch is based on the premise that there are 30-something holy people in the world and as long as those holy-people exist, God will stay his wrath and not destroy the world.  A Rabbi explains this to the father on the show, who's tween genius son is the main character and apparently one of the "holy."  The plot had ambled along through the first season with the boy giving his father numbers which ultimately lead to people being saved all around the world through chain reactions.

Of course bad people who would use the boy and the others like him for their own means are chasing after them by the second season... and in the last episode we find out who's been brutally murdering these people...  Prepare to be not-surprised... it's the... Catholic Church.  Or at least a Catholic priest who explains that he's been tasked with this mission.  Eye roll.

Again the originality is astounding.  Creative genius and all that (sorry, I just can't seem to overcome the sarcasm this morning).  The Church is Hollywood's go to villain these days, which is hardly surprising, but does have me wondering if they ever get bored with writing the same story line over. and over. and over again.

I know I'm bored being not-surprised by the lack of creative thought that keeps pumping out Church-as-evil scenarios and I've only been Catholic for six years this Easter.  I guess it's back to searching Netflix for classics that harken back to the days when portraying the Church as the bad guy wasn't quite so cool.


  1. I want to start watching "Send the midwife" but I need to get my hands on the 1st season 1st but the library has 40 requests before me. Looks like I'll never find it before the 2nd season starts. I have high hopes for that one because I've heard good things from some of the women at church.

    Yes the Catholic Church being the whipping boy always got on my nerves. But what can you expect from Hollywood. They haven't really made anything good in years and if they did it seems to have been an accident.

  2. Cam, let me run a plot by you and see if it annoys. I participate on a forum that plays a loosely-set version of White Wolf Entertainment's "World of Darkness" series of tabletop roleplaying games. One of the characters I play is a priest - a Benedictine, as it happens.

    The game's setting contains a secret holy order called the Society of Leopold which consists of the usual nearly-crazy monster hunters and are pretty indiscriminate in their mission. For the earlier part of his life, my character belonged to the SOL and was awarded some of their highest titles. In his fifties he has a change of heart, retires, and sets up shop in Santa Monica doing charitable work and trying to bring the Word of God to the various supernaturals he once used to hunt(Vampires, Magi, Werewolves, Fey, etcetra).

    This basically sets him up as three characters at once, depending on who the other player is:

    1. A dottering, slightly eccentric man prematurely aged by a hard life but otherwise chipper, friendly, and charitable. (If you're an ordinary human or a friendly enough super)
    2. An offensively preachy, dangerously aloof, and potentially threatening man with no ability to make moral compromises... if you're "something else" but not yourself evil.
    3. To the evil, and impossibly dangerous, over-powered, unhelpfully determined thorn-in-the-side who will stop at nothing to destroy you and everything you stand for. (If you happen to be evil, completely unrepentant, and in his way all at the same time).
    4. A dangerous heretic who could potentially expose the Church's killing machinery at any point in time and bring ruin upon the faith (if you're still an active member of the Society of Leopold).

    I dunno if this falls under the standard schema of "Church is Bad" or not. I didn't write the Society of Leopold and they were originally inserted into the game to give the squeemish something to play besides Vampires and Werewolves. Esteban, as he's called, is more fun in his current role, which is largely the offering of "Aw Dad" wisdom and getting new characters into the swing of things on the board.

  3. I don't think it would fall into that category Zach, mostly because I don't think it falls under the same agenda I feel like we see in Hollywood, which is systematically portraying the Church as corrupt and evil, to an audience that has an unfortunate tendency of believing what they're seeing to have some basis in reality (when I say that I'm thinking of how many people seemed to think the ideas in the DaVinci code were actually true).

  4. I think I recently heard of the title Baroness! I wonder if it's online anywhere?

  5. I read the book Send the Midwife. It's really good, but again the Roman Catholic Church is vilified. See, I went through most of the book assuming that the nuns and priests were Roman Catholic, but I forgot that the Anglican Church also has the same basic structure. There's a point where the one minor character is unmarried and pregnant and the Roman Catholic Church is called upon to help her. In this era, you can imagine where this is going...

    Although it's just a minor plot thing and those of us who know Church history know that they did what they thought was best, thought I'd warn you...

  6. That second show sounds like a shoddy rip-off of Sam Bourne's trilogy. Course, he did it with Jews and some kind of secret uber-Jewish church doing the killing, but they were wicked books.

  7. It seems to me that more and more the Church is becoming a victim of confirmation bias. News runs stories referring to actual corruption in the Church, viewers go "What else are they hiding", and Hollywood plays on that view.

    It's just marketing and economics - the ruination of any creative endeavour but also the greatest possible aid to its success.

    The DaVinci code had an excellent narrative that did what narratives always did - take mysterious, half-understood group and make it antagonistic.

    As it happens, the Catholic Church was pretty much routed during World War II and might have been at its least powerful point in the modern era during that time - point of fact, it looks to me that the Church is only now starting to recover a modicum of the influence it once had. The fact that they weren't completely exterminated by the Third Reich after initial anti-Nazi, anti-Fascist statements is as much a testament to God's Grace as to the resilient nature of Faith in general.

    Really, I don't find these programs any more damaging to my faith (fragile and tenuous as it admittedly is) than I would have found the series about the Borgia Papacy or the story-lines of Assassin's Creed II (and its spin-offs). A fiction is a fiction regardless of how many people believe it to be true.

  8. Episode One of Call the Midwife, courtesy of the BBC and via PBS:

    I'm not sure if that video works, because it's region-blocked to me and I'm too lazy to bypass security by giving myself a fake US IP address.

  9. I've watched "Call the Midwife" and found it excellent and uplifting; I don't recall anything anti-Catholic, though I seem to remember a Catholic priest being called upon to help an unwed mother (there may have been Catholic home for unwed mothers involved...)

    You're right that there is plenty of anti-Catholic bias in the media to go around. The Church has long been the targets of those who hate Her for her steadfastness with regard to Natural Law, and anti-Catholicism is the only remaining acceptable bias for the "elites."

    However, these Church-haters were handed carte blanche by the clerical abuse scandals and subsequent coverups. The Church appeared to have lost the moral high ground, and many of Her bishops lost their credibility. Thus, the plethora of unflattering portrayals in movies and TV.

    Hollywood is, indeed, to blame for the portrayals, but some in the Church gave them the ammunition and will have plenty to answer for.

  10. If you are looking for stuff to watch on Netflix, try Star Trek, I like Next Generation or Voyager, my Dh likes Deep Space Nine.

    I also like "Avatar the Last Airbender," it is an animated cartoon. But be warned there is a lot of new aggey stuff in there. (but it is completely fictional so no Church references).

  11. I second the "Call the Midwife" recommendation. It looks like PBS's website isn't offering season 1 online anymore, but sometimes PBS stations will air re-runs of the first season of a popular drama in the run-up to the second season. (But then you have to watch it on their schedule...probably not so useful to you.)

    A friend of mine who is studying to be a midwife watched season 1 and said it appears to be pretty authentic. I thought the way the Church handled the incident with the unwed teen mother was okay - sad, but they had to stay within the law (i.e., I got the impression that the Church's/priest's hands were tied). I don't want to say any more, though, so as not to give anything away. But it's a good drama.

    I also enjoyed Mad Men. I'm a season behind. There is a role of the Church in the first season, but it seemed okay (refreshingly so, I thought, considering this is mainstream TV). I can't remember exactly, though - maybe others might have a better memory than me...

    I love the dress you whipped up for your older daughter for the ball, by the way - really lovely! (But then, it's your daughter who's the really lovely one, after all...!)

  12. I have mostly given up TV. I enjoyed a few episodes of Midwife and have enjoyed Downton Abbey, but those are rare pleasures.

    I collect favorite series on DVD for the family.

    This year I picked up the old series Have Gun, Will Travel that my husband loved as a child. I have Deep Space Nine and want to add Star Trek and Next Generation soon. We also picked up Babylon 5 which is hands down my FAVORITE EVER!! And we have FarScape and Firefly.

    I also pick up miniseries like the BBC Pride and Prejudice. My goal is to have a wonderful collection of marvelously GOOD viewing.

    And eventually, I think we will simply ditch the TV except for the DVD's.

    I also stopped going to the theatre, saving that money and simply buying movies as they hit the market. This way I get to see them, re-watch and evaluate them, and already own them. I especially like it when the movies include good commentaries and extra features, like specials on how animation was done for some scene or another.

    But the regular TV is a wash IMO. The people doing that work seem to be so steeped in anti-Christian relativism and so deeply committed to philosophies abhorrent to any Catholic that they are incapable of making good movies except by accident.

  13. Oh yes, I agree with Ann, Firefly is good.
    Oh and Psych, and Burn Notice, which also might be on Netflix! So much to watch. Both are pseudo cop dramas/comedies. Psych is the cleaner and funnier of the two, but Burn Notice is sarcastic funny.

  14. Hey Zach - If you want a possible better clarification on your original question, contact my husband. He used to play Werewolf with a bunch of his high school friends (I think the game ended sometime when we were in college). He might know more about the Society of Leopold and better be able to clarify your question.

    You can find him at He blogs about catechesis mainly, though he's had a couple of posts reviewing board games, I'm sure he would appreciate somebody who has a familiarity with that RPG system.

    Cam - If you're looking for a show or two to watch I would suggest, NCIS:LA (which unfortunately doesn't appear on netflix (not sure about hulu) but you can get the past few episodes by simply going to CBS's website. I love me some Chris O'Donnell and while he has never been an outspoken Hollywood Catholic, being the youngest of 7 from a devout Catholic family and he himself having 5 children - along with the fact that he has never said anything, too my knowledge or admittedly minimal research contrary to the Faith) he's a better role model than most, and I really enjoy the show as well.

    You could also check out Blue Bloods; I've never watched the show before but Mark Wahlberg (sp?) is a faithful Catholic who I believe attends daily mass (conscientiously) and may even attend the TLM (though that maybe someone else I'm thinking of). It's supposed to be a decent show, I just only alot myself one night of dedicated t.v. viewing and I chose Tuesdays to watch NCIS and NCIS:LA.

    I will occasionally watch Bones which has a Catholic main character, granted he's a more secular, confused Catholic, given his propensity for pre-marital sex and other issues. However, the show does often bring up his faith in a non-Hollywood-esque light. Which I'll admit is usually superficial and banal, but at least better than always making the Church, the bad-guy.
    Bones is on Netflix - BTW.

    Just some suggestions, if you're looking for something.


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