I don’t know why, but one of my all-time favorite t.v. shows is the Haunted Destination show on the Travel Channel. It isn’t one of those “reality t.v.” shows in which people go into spooky places and get the mess scared out of them by the producers. It’s a good old fashioned show about haunted houses, mansions, prisons, etc. that includes stories of what happens there, and the theories about why.
However, as much as I love watching these shows, I have to be careful. If I watch them too late at night or when I’m home by myself, I start to get so creeped out that I have to turn the t.v. off or change it to the Disney Channel. I just can’t handle it.
(The same goes for news stories about serial killers)
The reason I’m bringing this up today is to demonstrate how powerful the imagination is, and how profoundly our imaginations are affected by the television we watch and the movies we see. This is something I’ve been reflecting on a lot lately.
Like every “good little Christian girl,” I tend to avoid movies that have sex and excessive violence in them (although my reasons have less to do with holiness and more to do with me being a wimp and/or not wanting my fiancé to be looking at naked women). But I’m starting to wonder if there should be more to the discernment process than that. Just because a movie doesn’t involve cannibalism or orgies, does that mean it’s beneficial to watch?
I started to wonder about this when I learned that my fiancé has trouble watching movies in which women are attacked. He said that it causes him to become unrealistically fearful about my safety–he starts worrying about me, wondering if the deadbolt on my door is locked, and being paranoid about my security. I have heard of a similar tendency in parents–some parents can’t watch movies in which children are attacked because it causes them to become irrationally fearful about their own kids.
That leads me back to my love/hate relationship with the Haunted Destination shows. Before watching those shows, I was perfectly fine–I wasn’t afraid of a ghost popping out from around the corner, and little noises in the house didn’t scare me. I could rest in my home in peace. But after having my mind fed with those irrational fears, I wasn’t quite as sure about the world around me. My peace had been taken away.
While this may not seem like that big of a deal, I think it demonstrates the way in which media can compete with a Christian world view. While our faith may tell us that God is in control and we have no need to fear, television and movies flood our brains with worries about terrorism and crime. It’s hard to walk in total peace when you’re bombarded with story lines based on worst-case scenarios.
And this influence isn’t limited to the realm of fear. Media affects our imaginations in other ways as well. I was talking with a student the other day who described her struggle with singleness, and how she had unintentionally filled that void in her life with romantic movies and shows. She would get so swept up in the story that she would later find herself fantasizing about it, wishing the same thing would happen to her.
The only problem was that it ultimately left her feeling even emptier than before. While she enjoyed fantasizing about romance, her actual life seemed boring and empty in comparison. There was no Noah Calhoun building a house for her, waiting for her throughout the years. There was no Prince Charming.
The result was that she found herself even less satisfied and more lonely than before.
Now I am not writing all of this as some sort of manifesto against watching movies or television. To do so would be Pharisaical. BUT, it’s important that we think through what we’re watching and how it’s influencing our mindset. For some women, this is a crucial key to guarding their hearts. For other individuals, it is a matter of viewing the world through the lens of Christ’s truth and security. The media can threaten both, so while we don’t need to be legalists, we do need to be wise.