Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

Watching Netflix

October 13, 2021

I’ve watched very little Dave Chappelle. A few YouTube clips at most. I don’t have a feel for his comedic style or where he might be coming from in life. The little I know about him is just that – little. So I don’t have opinions or perspectives on the controversial material that has thrust him into the spotlight again. Opinions and perspectives expressed in comedic observations, but which directly conflict with or challenge the prevailing championing of transgender issues.

This has earned him the ire of those who once felt he was on their side. A small group of Netflix employees have demanded Netflix remove the show. Netflix has thus far refused to do so, claiming it supports the creative license of content producers, and noting that Chappelle’s work as a whole has been some of the most widely viewed material Netflix has produced. No official word on whether this latest offering from Chappelle, entitled The Closer, follows in that lucrative and widely viewed path.

Personally, I wonder what Chappelle is up to. Either he’s boldly taking a stance contrary to the currently dominant vocal minority, or he’s orchestrating a larger-scale comedic event, where he’ll reveal at some point down the line how he was trolling those folks who cheered his countercultural stance. In the long run, I’d argue that it doesn’t matter.

What does matter, and what we should all be watching for carefully, is whether Netflix caves to that strident but very, very small minority of voices within the company insisting Chappelle’s show should be removed because it conflicts with their personal opinions and ideologies. The rest of Hollywood appears to have mostly caved to such voices long ago, and set about dutifully creating content that supports and encourages the sorts of lifestyles and world views championed by this minority. Upcoming new releases include a son-of-Superman comic line where the titular character is bisexual. Another includes a reboot of the awful 80’s horror franchise Child’s Play, this time serialized on cable channels and involving the main character (other than Chucky) just figuring out he’s gay.

Certainly there are a few voices like Chappelle’s willing to challenge this tidal wave of gender confusing material aimed squarely at children and adolescents ill-equipped to make healthy sense of it. But those voices are few and far between, or at least sparsely covered. When they are covered countering opinions overwhelm the actual material the article is allegedly about.

How ironic that those who champion inclusivity and diversity are adamant that any voice out of step with their own ideologies should be silenced. That was one of their complaints when other voices were reflecting or directing our cultural opinions.

What’s at stake here is creative license, to be certain. The reality is that approval and assent to gender and sex redefinitions is nowhere near unanimous. The minority of liberal voices seeks to create the appearance that their views and ideas (which are always in flux) are the majority view. If contrary material is made available to the public and is commercially successful it will demonstrate this is not the case, threatening the control these voices now exercise.

I commend Netflix. Not for their ideology necessarily, but for being a company instead of an ideological power. Their job is to create content and earn money for doing so. The market determines whether they continue to produce certain kinds of content. I don’t personally like slasher films like Child’s Play, nor am I much of a fan of most comedians today, Chappelle included. The question is whether people should determine what is produced by spending their money on it, or whether companies should determine what people like by only producing a certain kind of material.

So far the latter approach is holding sway, and I believe history will judge that trend harshly – both as a business model as well as a sociological movement. In the meantime, be aware of what your kids and grand-kids are watching, and don’t be surprised if they come to some conclusions about the world and right and wrong that are starkly different from your understandings and beliefs.

Reading Ramblings – November 8, 2020

November 1, 2020

Date: 23rd Sunday after Pentecost – November 8, 2020

Texts: Amos 5:18-24; Psalm 70; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13

Context: The final three Sundays of the Church year are all part of Ordinary Time, but traditionally they make up their own mini-liturgical season, culminating on the last Sunday of the Church year, known as Christ the King Sunday. These three Sundays focus on Jesus’ return, and provide a transitional period into Advent, which is an anticipation of Jesus’ return based on his Incarnation. God the Father fulfilled his promise to send the Messiah, therefore we trust his promise this Messiah will return. This dual focus on what all Christians are called to actively wait and look for and anticipate is particularly helpful and necessary when we are so easily distracted both by the mundanities of everyday life and the long elapsed period of time since Christ’s ascension.

Amos 5:18-24 – For those in Christ, we await our Lord’s return in joyful expectation. But for evil, the return of our Lord holds dark promise. Is there anywhere evil will be able to hide on that day? Any place where sin will not be pulled into the light and judged? God’s judgment will be final and absolute. And in light of this, his people here and now should be sources of justice and righteousness, an imperfect foretaste of the perfect justice and righteousness of God. Those in Christ need not fear that justice and righteousness for we have the mercy of Christ in faith, the forgiveness of God the Father in the propitiation of his Son, as St. Paul asserts in Romans 3:21-25. There is no place for fear in Christ, but rather an opportunity to reflect his grace and glory to those around us, allowing the Holy Spirit to create opportunities thereby for sharing our hope and peace in Christ, despite the uncertainty and disquiet of the rest of the world around us.

Psalm 70 – Our hope is in God the Father at all times and in all circumstances. We seek his continued sustenance and favor each day, while also keeping our eyes fixed on the horizon in anticipation of the glorious return of his Son and our Lord. We pray for his protection against those who would prey on us or take advantage of us, even as we affirm our God as a source of joy and comfort for those who trust in him. And we can and should pray for the return of our Lord. The refrain of the Church for centuries, Come Lord Jesus, Come! remains true today. We should pray for that return, trusting in the grace and mercy and peace of God to execute his righteous judgment perfectly and without error.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 – We didn’t get much of 1 Thessalonians because of the intervening celebrations of Reformation Sunday and All Saints Day, which is unfortunate as Paul has some very wise counsel on how to deal with people who seek to take advantage of the Body of Christ for their personal ease and comfort. But this passage is one of the most detailed we have about the events of the Last Day, the Day of our Lord’s return, and the condition of those who die before that Day. This is apparently an area of concern for the Thessalonians, prompting Paul (guided by the Holy Spirit) to provide this response.

Paul provides comfort for those who have already lost loved ones. Grief is natural but for the Christian grief is tempered with hope. Just as Jesus was raised from the dead, so all people will be raised from the dead, and those who died with faith in Jesus Christ will be raised to join him. Paul reiterates this is not speculation, but divine inspiration. Perhaps Paul also means to say that Jesus himself taught this – either to his disciples or directly to Paul as part of his conversion, but this is speculative. Paul speaks God’s Word not his own. The faithful dead will not miss out on Christ’s return. The Thessalonians undoubtedly understood the dead would be raised, but were perhaps worried this would occur after Christ’s return and they would miss out on his glorious arrival. Not the case. The dead in Christ will be brought to meet him in the air, just as the faithful living will be caught up with him as well. Our communion in Christ – which we remembered last Sunday on All Saints Day – will be experienced directly not first in judgment but in reunion with our Lord and one another. Nobody will miss out on anything! The celebration will begin in earnest with everyone at the party right on time – nobody will be late because of missed directions or even death itself! This should be our encouragement. Death is a hard thing – whether we are the one dying or whether we are burying a loved one. But death is only a temporary separation. It is not a final condition or state.

Matthew 25:1-13 – Our Lord is returning, and his instructions to us are to wait and be prepared. We could be foolish, assuming He is returning very soon and so no thought needs to be made for tomorrow or next week or next year. We might also be foolish to assume He won’t come in our lifetime, so we have time to live our lives the way we’d prefer to (or the way the world tellls us to) presuming we’ll have time to come to Jesus before we die. Both are foolish assumptions. Both are actually not waiting at all, an assumption there is no need to wait because either Jesus will return quickly or not at all.

The Christian life is properly one of waiting, and this means making provision for today and tomorrow without losing sight of the approaching horizon. Making our decisions today in light of what we believe could happen tomorrow. This parable leads us towards this understanding while itself being full of perplexities without explanation – there’s no bride in this parable and no clear understanding of what the oil in the lamps is supposed to stand for.

It likely might vary from person to person. The point of the parable is to be ready, and the fact that when Jesus does return, not everyone will be, including those we presume to be Christian and part of his Church. If the ten virgins represent God’s people, it’s a rather stunning assertion that half of them might not be ready when Christ returns, and therefore will miss out on an eternity of joy and bliss! It should serve as a call to self-examination for every member of the Church. Do I really believe all of this? Does my life reflect it? Am I indeed waiting for my Lord’s return, and is there a difference in how I live my life if I am? What tangible steps would indicate I am waiting for him?

The goal of such examination should not be despair and doubt, but rather a more confident clinging to the promises of Christ rather than the conventions of the world.

Copaganda and History

August 28, 2020

In light of yesterday’s post and the issues swirling in our country at the moment around police, this article detailing copaganda in the United States was very interesting. For those unaware (like myself, about an hour ago), copaganda is a term used to describe a perceived whitewashing of police and their work in our communities. It is a derogatory term, presuming that bucolic and benign depictions of police through programs such as Officer Friendly are patently false, deliberate efforts to brainwash the population (children in particular) into trusting police officers who, in reality, are an implied danger and threat to the population.

Copaganda of course belies a particular point of view. Whether it’s a full on distrust or disavowal of any form of authority or something more particular to the police force is a matter of degree. The underlying assumption is that the police are not there to benefit the population but rather to control and, by extension, fleece it in some way, although the article above doesn’t make clear at all what such whitewashing efforts actually accomplish and how they are dishonest. The fact that sometimes police officers do their jobs poorly – either because they are sinful humans who are prone to error or because they are sinful humans who sometimes deliberately do bad things – is taken as evidence that any positive understanding of police officers in general is false.

While I can’t remember any specific Officer Friendly presentations in school I no doubt had them. The name Officer Friendly is familiar even if the specifics of who might have talked to us and when are lost in the haze of aging memory.

What this and other articles fail to take into account is the rising level of violence in our society over the last century and particularly over the last 60-some years. I can understand why police officers and other law enforcement officials are a bit more reserved and cautious these days, especially in certain areas of town. They face threats that were likely impossible to even conceive of 60 years ago. While perhaps law enforcement has always been described as a field of service where you put your life on the line, it would appear in our country that has only grown more and more true over the passing decades.

But I’ll point out that depictions of police officers as friendly and well-intentioned is not simply a public relations move from the 60’s to 80’s, but rather how our culture as a whole viewed the police and, I would argue, everyone.

I’m philosophically opposed to the practice of binge-watching that seems all the rage these days. But the one series I am working my way through systematically (though slowly) is the original The Twilight Zone series. As a kid I loved when I could find this on Saturday afternoon reruns, and my fondness for the slightly tilted surreal reality hasn’t faded with time or with subsequent, disappointing efforts to revive the series. Combined with this is my sheer amazement at the output of Rod Serling and others associated with the show. Truly impressive from a creative standpoint!

The show is also a fascinating time capsule. It captures the sort of Everyman nuances from mid-century America, nuances that ideas like copaganda directly contradict and claim were false. What I see in those shows is a culture vastly different from today. It doesn’t shirk from portraying bad people, but it’s well-understood that they are bad and wrong and also atypical. The underlying assumption is that most people are honest and well-intentioned, trying to get through life. The trouble-makers and problems invariably end up being those who see themselves as somehow above such mundane matters, as exceptions to the rule, as smarter or better than everyone else. Their assumptions are invariably proven to be wrong, and not just wrong but dangerously wrong. Usually for themselves but also sometimes for many other people or all other people. If there’s a myth that needs dispelling, it might well be the myths of copaganda and exceptionalism that is so prevalent today rather than the boring assumptions of averageness 60 years ago.

In shows like The Twilight Zone, or Andy Griffith or any number of other successful mid-century shows, police are invariably depicted as basically good. Not perfect. Sometimes bumbling. Sometimes bad but in that case it’s clear the badness is their personal issue rather than a systemic problem with police as a concept. These might be futuristic, interstellar police such as in the first season episode The Lonely. They might be more ‘typical’ figures such as in the episode The Night of the Meek, where the policeman functions both as an Everyman kind of figure, a person just like you and I rather than a dark and sinister agent of nefarious groups and ideologies, but also as a protector, as the one charged with being objective when having to determine the truth in a given situation. We’re reminded that left to our own devices we are very capable of misreading others and accusing them of false things based on our preconceptions, and the local police officer who knows his beat and the people on it can serve as a protection for the marginalized. This is a theme also prevalent in Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?

It’s not that the series ignores the dangers of abused authority, as in The Obsolete Man. But perhaps closer to the horrors of Hitler and Mussolini, there’s an awareness of a profound difference between human frailty and flawed judgment in a moment of crisis, and a deliberate misuse of power to systematically oppress people. The series as a whole is far more prone to prowl and probe the dark corners of our souls and hearts as common citizens rather than to seek to pin blame on an external person or authority. After all, the abuses (perceived or otherwise) of a group in power are only possible because of the sinfulness and brokenness (as well as the ignorance) in our individual hearts and minds.

Just as telling in these shows is the relatively rare presence of police and other officials. People more often than not have to figure things out for themselves rather than rely on the opinions of anonymous experts or authority figures, whether that involves an interdimensional rescue or a group of neighbors coming to grips with imminent atomic holocaust. If the implication of copaganda is that we are victims of a police state, there’s very little presence of police in these shows. That overall absence also belies the fundamental assumptions that people are essentially trying to be decent and can often, if imperfectly, deal with situations on their own.

It will no doubt be claimed that shows such as The Twilight Zone represent only one slice of human experience, and that however accurate they might be in that one slice they don’t cover every possible experience. That’s true. As it’s true of everything, including copaganda. The fact that some people have negative experiences with the police does not in and of itself prove that all police or the concept of a police force is evil and wrong. Recent events in Seattle where the police were forced out in favor of a presumably better and more benevolent self-rule are good reminders this is true, and that without the restraint provided by an authority presence, we quickly revert, Lord of the Flies style, to a basic system of rule by force and the abuse of the weak and marginalized (even if that category now becomes made up of those who were formerly not marginalized).

It might also be argued that shows like these are less depictions of what is and more wishful thinking about what could or should be, or even of what once was. But I’d argue the depiction of law enforcement in such shows is not attempting to be exceptional or in any way mythic or imaginative. What makes the shows work is that police officers – whether supporting characters or the main character – are believable. The law enforcement characters are not the fantastical ones, and that even if Andy Griffith is a bit stylized, it’s not a character beyond the realm of reality for the viewers. He doesn’t completely contradict reality and experience, even if his even-keeled temperament never gets ruffled in the course of a typical 20-minute episode.

We’re sinful and broken. For some that sinfulness and brokenness is going to be more severe and pose a greater risk to others. In an industrialized and urban society (another factor copaganda doesn’t deal with) where most often neighbors don’t know each other very well and extended family bonds are often non-existent we apparently require a group of people to help maintain order and provide assistance in emergencies. Recent events have shown that though police officers are not perfect (as nobody is!) their presence is far better, ultimately, than an absence of their presence.

This doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. This doesn’t mean there isn’t reason to question certain aspects of law enforcement. And it certainly doesn’t mean than when bad apples are discovered we don’t deal with them. It just means that the presence of bad apples doesn’t necessarily prove a theory of an entire system and everyone in it being corrupt and a threat to the people they claim to serve. And if some police officers have to deal with inner city violence and drug and human trafficking, it doesn’t mean that some others have far more docile beats where they are indeed able to assist in visiting schools and being a proactive positive influence in young people’s lives.

Highly Illogical

March 27, 2020

Sometimes it’s the little things that are inspiring and surprising.

As a casual Trekkie and somewhat more than casual admirer of J.R.R. Tolkien, I found a curious blending of the two a few years ago after the Star Trek movie reboot.  Namely, a very delightful if slightly corny Audi commercial starring the original Spock, Leonard Nimoy, and his reboot alter-ego, Zachary Quinto.  It’s a cute commercial but I never understood the song Nimoy was singing.  I thought it was just a nonsensical sort of thing to compare his outdatedness with Quinto’s more with-it persona and car.

Now I find out  there’s a history to what Nimoy is singing about Bilbo Baggins.  A history that goes all the way back to 1967 when Nimoy, in addition to starring in a new series called Star Trek, was releasing musical albums.  Two at this point.  And he sang this original song called The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins on one of his albums, and then lip-synced it for a campy TV show during the summer of 1967.

Mind blown.  I respect the Audi commercial even more now for their attention to detail – even a detail many would miss!


Twilight Zone

March 13, 2017

I grew up watching reruns of The Twilight Zone and loved it.  Recently when Netflix was streaming them we watched a few of them as a family.  I was surprised at how they held my kids’ interest, and how they actually enjoyed them.  I had expected the shows to be too old-fashioned compared to the rapidity of video games and modern movies.

But the shows are still good.  They engage at a deep level, resonating on themes that never really go away – loneliness, paranoia and fear, love.  And yes, we can learn a lot about ourselves and how we are and how we should be from these shows.  The lessons aren’t original for certain, but viewing them in a more modern context can be very helpful.

Visiting History

January 9, 2017

It’s kind of a strange thing, to think that people (or at least me) would be drawn to visit a location for a fantasy, an imagining, as opposed to a location where something historical happened.  What is the nature of history, in the first place?  What is worth commemorating and remembering and visiting?

While digging around for a friend on things to do in the Los Angeles area, I stumbled upon this.  It is the site where the television series M*A*S*H was filmed.  I loved this series when I was a kid, despite not understanding probably 70% of the cultural commentary.  It looks like a fun afternoon jaunt!

Wednesday Musings

December 16, 2015

Some miscellaneous sharings this morning.

First, check out this poetic meditation on baptism from Chad Bird.  Very beautiful indeed.

Because I grew up with the A Charlie Brown Christmas, I get kinda sentimental about it.  I thought that this little observation was interesting.  I don’t think I’ve ever noticed this particular aspect of the show, and it is poetic as well.

Twilight Zoney

August 29, 2015

While not exactly the same, this article reminded me of the very first Twilight Zone episode.  Which would be a spoiler I suppose, if the episode wasn’t 56 years old already.


June 14, 2015

That’s the first time I can ever remember spelling that word – awkward.  It looks so…awkward.  Curious.


I haven’t watched Game of Thrones, (or Seth Meyers, for that matter) but this little clip seems so appropriate for the Church in so many ways.  This is how Church seems these days.  Awkward.  Dealing with a reality that is much larger and harsher and at the same time more mind-numbingly beautiful than what our culture is willing and able to recognize.  Culture wants to prattle on about Bruce/Caitlyn or global warming or who Taylor Swift is dating, blissfully ignorant or ignoring the nightmare that haunts our steps and seeks our souls; rejecting the gift of life and love and joy in the God who created us and redeemed us and promises to make us holy.

Being awkward is no fun.  The Church, being comprised of broken, sinful human beings such as myself, often would just rather fit in.  Would rather try to forget for a few moments the dark howls beyond that parapets, would like to focus on itself a bit more, maybe meet a pretty girl and chat a bit.  The Church is constantly being counseled to change the tone, water down the rhetoric a bit, go easy on the whole sin and death business, emphasize love and acceptance and hope and joy a bit more, muddying all of them together until we have the appeal – and usefulness – of, at best, a motivational speaker.

I don’t like feeling awkward.  It hurts to watch faithful members of my congregation struggle with that same awkwardness, that same growing cultural irrelevance.  It’s hard to know that these people grieve spouses and children and grandchildren who are physically alive but spiritually dead.  It’s hard to know that, like me, there are relationships where the Gospel can’t be brought up without people rolling their eyes, without long pauses at the dinner table.  Without awkwardness.

Truth and reality are awkward.  Evil is real but God is more real.  Forge ahead.  Watch.  Wait.  Pray.  Don’t lose heart.  Don’t sacrifice the importance of the Gift that has been given for a few fleeting moments of relevance or the allure of a pretty set of eyes.  Winter is here, but spring has come and summer is coming.

Theology & Scooby Doo

April 26, 2014

Growing up with these cartoons, and now watching my children devour the originals as well as all of the subsequent spin-offs and modified shows, this essay hit a soft spot in me.

I’ve often mused (because I have nothing better to do, obviously) that Scooby Doo is a snapshot of our culture.  The series began with the kids stumbling into events well out of their league.  But tenacious curiosity triumphed over fear and terror, allowing the gang to unravel mysteries time and time again.  In later iterations of the show, there isn’t even a pretense of belief that any of the odd creatures and events they encounter might be real.  The assumption has become that it’s a cover up for something and someone else.  Initial fear is still there -we can’t control that primal response to the unexpected – but the entire premise is that in overcoming fear and applying our minds, logic and reason will show without a doubt that the supernatural doesn’t exist.  
We can explain everything, given enough time and clues.
I like this essay a lot, though I don’t agree with his conclusions.  Yes, greed and power are traditionally behind the occult, the desire to personally be like God (or more accurately, to displace God and be God) that has been at the heart of sin since Eden.  But Scooby Doo is alleging that these ‘demons’ are nothing more than the playing out of our own issues.  The demons aren’t real, because all of these motivations come from within.  I believe that Scooby Doo really does mirror our cultural insistence that we can explain and control everything.  Our human frailties set us up to do wrong, but that wrong will be conquered by application of the intellect.  
If we just think properly, we can expunge the ‘demons’ from within us, even the age-old demons of desiring to be God.
In which case, Scooby Doo is wrong, just as modernism and the scientific mindset that is both it’s ancestor and offspring is ultimately flawed in this assumption.  We can and should explain a great deal.  But that doesn’t necessitate that there is nothing inexplicable, nothing beyond our ability to understand, nothing supernatural, whether angelic or demonic.  
But that would wreck the model that has made Scooby Doo a success for over 40 years, so I can’t really expect them to change!