Sunday, March 9, 2014
UPDATED -True Detective: The Most Anti-Christian Show on Television?
UPDATE AT THE BOTTOM--
I just caught up with every episode of HBO's True Detective in preparation for the finale tonight. This show has been talked about quite a bit on the inter-webs.
The acting is great. McConaughey is fantastic and Harrelson does a very good job. The directing and cinematography are superb. There is a much-mentioned single take sequence in episode 4 that is mind-boggling good.
It's mostly boring. This is a series from the same guy who made AMC's The Killing, a show that took a 5-episode story arc and turned into 13. The same applies to True Detective. The show meanders and lingers in ways that strain the patience.
The sexual content is explicit. In an upcoming essay, I'm going to tackle this topic in more detail, but suffice to say that it is unnecessary and distracting.
Also, the characters are completely unlikable. I struggle to care about what happens to our leads because they are such jerks.
But what I want to focus on for this article is the anti-Christian sentiment on display on the show.
Unlike channels that take on sponsors, HBO has less to worry about regarding offending viewers. So they can make a full court press on Christians.
Below are examples of the anti-Christian point of view the show has.
1. The main villains appear to be Christian leaders. A Billy Graham character is a participant in child sexual abuse and murder ring that includes satanic rituals. I am not saying that a Christian character shouldn't be a villain. We have plenty of those in history. But the show goes out of its way to tie the hypocritical evangelist to horrible crimes.
2. Christian schools are scams. The Billy Graham preacher started a number of religious schools. They were places to collect and victimize children. Also, he was making money off of the state by using a voucher system to fund his house of horrors. The implication is that school vouchers help to sponsor child abuse.
3. Christians are hypocrites. While no one will deny that all of us are sinners, anyone who espouses Christian beliefs on the show appears to be horribly two-faced. The only person with integrity appears to be the nihilistic atheist, Rust Cohle (McConnaughey). This brings us to the next point.
4. Christians are idiots. At a tent revival, Cohle muses about the collective IQ of the Christians gathered. The show goes so far as to make one of the main helpers at the revival a mentally retarded man, just to emphasize that Christian preachers prey on the weak minded. This could have been a nice moment that showed the Christian faith is for all people, and even those with mental handicaps are treated with love and dignity. Instead, it is clear that the producers are implying that all Christians lack brains.
5. The show ignorant of Christian faiths. It is clear that the Billy Graham character is some kind of Protestant minister. And yet all of his Christian schools are filled statues of the Virgin Mary. Seeing as how most Protestants believe that Catholics honor Mary too much, it is very unlikely that the schools would be decorated in that manner. This is a common problem in television and movies. Producers don't know how actual devout Christians live in their various denominations, so they grab an religious iconography that they think is evocative.
I could go into more detail, but I think that this will suffice.
Now, there is one more episode left. It is possible that I have misunderstood the producers' intentions. Maybe the character will come to some kind of epiphany and that the earlier parts will be seen in a new light.
But I'm not holding my breath.
So I watched last night's finale. And most of what I've said about the show holds up. But there are 2 very interesting, redeeming things in the end.
MORE SPOILERS AHEAD
After Cohle and Hart track down the killer, both are wounded, possibly mortally. Hart wakes up, but Cohle is in a coma. After Hart wakes, his ex-wife and daughters come to his side. He is then overwhelmed with tears. I took this to mean a real acknowledgement of the goodness of family life that he rejected by his infidelity.
But Cohle eventually wakes from his coma. There is a moment where he is lying there all in white that he looks quite Christ-like. Cohle's nihilism stemmed from the loss of his little daughter years earlier from a drunk driver. After that, he was convinced life was purposeless and void of meaning. But in the final scene of the show, Cohle confesses that while he was in his coma he could feel his daughter in the afterlife. He wasn't critical of the feeling, he accepted with ontological certainty. He finishes the show with certainty that there is life and love after this world.
The last line of the show is about the stars. It reminds Cohle of the battle between good and evil, and while there is a whole lot of dark, the light is breaking through. Cohle ends by saying that the light is winning.
That is a huge turnaround for the characters. So it turns out that the characters did come to some kind of epiphany. Whether this is redemptive enough, I will leave that up to you.