The TV Christian: Out of Whack
Popular media has distorting qualities in that it exaggerates topics and bases them more on their stereotypes than perhaps the group would like to be portrayed. Exaggeration in popular culture is important because it shapes the opinions of those consuming them and creates ideas and standards that they then look for in others without being prompted to. A group that often gets exaggerated and stereotyped is that of modern Christians, specifically females. In movies and television shows, they are portrayed as either extremely evangelical and judgmental of all who don’t live by the same rules, or they are portrayed as naïve and silly, with all the subtleties of modern life flying right over their heads. They are also portrayed sometimes as hypocrites, so fervent in the aspects of their faith that benefit their goals that they conveniently forget their actions which break the rules of Christianity.
In Scandal, a popular drama centered around the American political system, the Vice President and future presidential hopeful, Sally Langston, is a Republican Christian woman. Although passionate about American politics, she is first and foremost a Christian, seen by her inclusion of many Christian buzzwords in her speeches, such as “promised land,” “snake into our garden” and other phrases drawing from the Bible. Although there is no problem with this, her character is also a horrible hypocrite in that she refuses to admit that her drive comes from self-interest and has its flaws, unlike all the other characters, who are not religious and very self-aware of their motivations for their actions. While their motivations have different reasons and change over time, she is the constant antagonist to the rest of the characters and the purpose for all her actions is simple — Her religion. She is shown to have little depth aside from her religion, and it creates the notion that Christians are religious fanatics rather than regular people who live, inspired by a religion.
A motive portraying hypocrisy in Christians is Easy A. In this movie, a virgin who lies about her virginity end up having her fib snowballed and gets thrown into a whole world of gossip and drama with other students in her school. Although she herself is not Christian, she faces off with a stereotypical sanctimonious Christian, who embodies none of the qualities of a true Christian. While condemning behaviors such as premarital sex, they completely glossed over their own sins, such as lying, hatred, and gossiping. This is another example of Christians who fail to take their own actions into account while being quick to judge others for their own.
In the show Awkward, the stereotypical popular girl, and in TV shows the popular girl also has a clueless best friend. This ditzy sidekick and head cheerleader, Lissa, is also portrayed as a devout Christian, and goes by the nickname of “Good Christian Girl” occasionally. She is notorious for stretching religion to fit the smallest of things as fits her needs, and is also well-known for being the stereotypical blond ditz. But her lack of intelligence and her religious nature are not kept separate — she is shown to have allowed her boyfriend to have anal sex with her because it technically circumvented the issue of virginity. This character not only comes off as a “convenient Christian,” who is devout to the extent of which it benefits her, it also solidifies the stereotype of Christians as naïve. Media continues to promote these stereotypes, as well as other stereotypes such as the ditzy and dumb blonde.
In Jane the Virgin, Christianity is a huge shaping factor of the protagonist, Jane Villanueva, but her deep-rooted belief has made her naïve, goofy as compared to others that she meets, and timid. Although she is well-intentioned and driven by much more than just religion, at the end of the day, a lot of the show comes back to her feelings about religion and how it’s shaped her life. Nothing is wrong with this, although it does make her look less knowledgeable than other people who are willing to bend the rules a little in order to get ahead. Not only that, but the show itself seems to almost mock the Christian belief of determinism in their use of a narrator who foresees and reveals these plot twists in her life. Out of all depictions of Christianity in media, this is one of the most accurate, revealing struggles of being a modern Christian and living with the decisions you’ve made for yourself as a person.
Media serves as a platform with which to share ideas and influence social opinion. Although it has done many good things and spread many good messages, stereotypes tend to snowball and become the main representation of groups, which can often lead to misrepresentation and discontent. The female Christian, in popular media, has been stereotyped to the point that the characters that portray the Christian belief almost seem like caricatures rather than accurate descriptions. They have two forms, the devout individual, sometimes so set on some aspects that they become hypocrites, or the guileless and innocent little flower. Society has come to view them in certain ways because of the tropes that these stereotypes carry out, and popular media has had a huge effect in making this image stick. As media carries out that image, however, it also has the potential of expanding the message of more modern Christianity, which will benefit in reducing unnecessary bias and creating an more accurate portrayal.