Friday, April 11, 2008

Television: Serious Thinkage



J.R.R. Tolkien sat down one night and wrote, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit,” and a whole genre was born. On a four-hour train delay, J.K. Rowling suddenly envisioned a boy in a wizard’s school, and publishing history was made. Joss Whedon took a well-known horror story cliché and turned it on its head. What if a little blonde girl walked into a dark alley at night and ended up killing the monster that attacked her?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the best examples in the history of television of using a “genre show” to address serous issues ranging from politics to philosophy and theology. It has become a popular show in the academic world, used for studying everything from sociology to language. It was truly one of the best-written shows on television.

There are a lot of issues that many will find objectionable to be sure, so viewer discretion is advised. That being said, episodes range from comic genius to disturbingly scary to both at the same time. The true value of the series lies in the thought provoking episodes. Early in the second season Buffy revealed its decidedly moral take on life. In a two-part episode, Buffy decides she loves her boyfriend enough to lose her virginity and all hell breaks loose, literally, for the rest of the season. In the Buffy universe, decisions have serious consequences that sometimes haunt the characters for the rest of the series.

This is not a Christian show, and it takes stands on some issues that are decidedly non-Christian. It is, however, a serious and searching show and as such is helpful for understanding and engaging today’s culture when it come to important and sometimes touchy topics.

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