Have you ever read a book or watched a movie where the interaction between two lovers became graphic? Or been absorbed in an adventure story and suddenly had to skim unnecessarily steamy scenes? I have, and I hate it. Not only does the sensuality rip me out of the story and make me roll my eyes, it taints the characters (and prevents me from recommending an otherwise great novel).
Few events showcase the power of redemption as beautifully as the repentance of a hardened villain. But few events undercut the nature of redemption as starkly as a villain who forsakes evil without self-reproach or fallout. Unfortunately, today’s media culture slants toward the latter. At Lorehaven, I’ve pointed out how various Marvel TV shows misrepresent redemption. But those aren’t the only offenders. Pixar’s Toy Story 4, as popular as it may be, never deals with Gabby Gabby’s manipulative tactics. And in the recent Star Wars trilogy, Kylo Ren chooses the light side during the climax without acknowledging the magnitude of his crimes.
Have you ever loved a book or TV series as a child, re-watched it as an adult, and realized how terrible it actually is? Several stories fall into this category for me—many of which are Christian and contain heavy-handed messages. But Adventures in Odyssey is one of those rare Christian stories that stands up to the test of time. Here’s why.
Shortly after I graduated from high school, I decided to watch a horror film for the first time. I wasn’t sure I wanted to, because I’d never been a fan of scenes designed to startle the audience, and the prospect of demonic activity layered onto suspense intimidated me. My gut urged me to discount the horror genre as unfit for conscientious Christians, but I knew I needed to experience it at least once to evaluate it fairly. So I went to see The Conjuring 2 with my best friend.
Since time began, spiritual beings have played a role in literature, ranging from stereotypical devils with horns and pitchforks to angels with halos and wings. These invisible, mystical creatures can raise the stakes and tension, rescue or endanger their human counterparts, and embody the conflict between good and evil, but since most of us have never laid eyes on one, how can we both accurately and artistically develop them as characters?
Christian writers who want to involve God as a character in their stories face an ongoing struggle. We’re acutely aware of how monumental the endeavor is, so we hesitate. If we’re too bold and dive in without forethought, we may make mistakes that mislead readers. But if we’re too timid, we risk tiptoeing around the real source of story, beauty, and truth—God Himself.
The divine is an elusive subject to capture, yet humans have been fascinated with it since the beginning of time, exploring it through poetry, stories, music, art, and various other mediums. Whether God shows up in a burning bush, as a thunderous voice accompanied by fire and lightning on a mountain, or in the humble person of Jesus Christ, incredible wonders are guaranteed to happen. Any moment that He steps into the story of humanity is powerful and purposeful.
Despite being the most prevalent health condition in the United States, mental illness causes a devastating sense of isolation in the victim. That’s why those readers need characters they can empathize with—to remind them that they’re not alone and inspire them to push through dark moments. However, misrepresenting mental illness can be far more harmful than avoiding the topic altogether, as Netflix’s adaptation of 13 Reasons Why demonstrates. The month after the show’s premiere, youth suicides increased by 28.9 percent.
When writers work hard and pursue publication, at some point their words will be on a shelf or webpage for the public to consume. But the downside of our Internet age is that readers can instantaneously share negative opinions with thousands of viewers. We’ve all encountered posts about an author who got “cancelled” because of something their book included or excluded, and that can fill us with anxiety about how our own stories will be received.
All of us are experts at sad stories. We’ve read novels that schooled us in death scenes, betrayals, fractured relationships, and harrowing pasts. These examples taught us that tormenting the protagonist is easy: just thwart his deepest longings. Then we can type “the end” and congratulate ourselves for accurately reflecting our fallen world. But the real sad story is how untrained we are in the art of weaving meaning into tragedy.