Two weeks ago, on the generally excellent Fox show Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, a paramedic who was about to go on the run was given a bible by an FBI agent. “For the road,” the agent said, as the camera zoomed in on “Holy Bible” in gold letters on black leather.
This week, that same paramedic’s wife was killed and, at the funeral, he threw the bible away in disgust. The FBI agent looked on, with an expression of sorrow and pity for this man who had rejected God out of grief.
It was another of those Hollywood moments meant to reinforce the misguided idea that atheists would be theists if they didn’t have something to be angry at God about.
Note that this attitude assumes God’s existence: it’s awfully difficult to be angry at another person’s imaginary friend.
Terminator’s use of religion has been heavy handed from launch. This is perhaps to be expected in a story so overtly messianic, and for the unbeliever, the symbolism grows tiresome.
The new season of NBC’s Heroes looks to be off to a similar start. Characters babble empty headed spiritualism, with much talk of God’s plan and the idea that maybe, just maybe, all these super heroes running around are, in fact, angles of the Lord.
On the topic of angles, the CW’s Supernatural, probably the best outright horror show not currently in reruns, upped the religious ante considerably in its premier episode of the new season. A character killed at the end of last season found himself inexplicably resurrected. In the final few minutes, we learn that his benefactor is an angle sent by God to bring the character back to fight in the end times.
Again, this grows tiresome. Most believers will see no problem with the cliched plotting on display. But for those of us who don’t buy into the religious world view, Hollywood’s predilection for Christian themes can be a substantial determent.
Imagine if every show on television was about the Force. Imagine if characters were constantly quoting Yoda or talking about the need to fight back against the Dark Side. Even for Star Wars fans, such constant references would wear thin. Speculative fiction is supposed to be about coming up with new ideas and presenting them in an entertaining fashion.
Religion is important in western culture and references to it are inescapable. But the present overabundance is not a sign of respect for common heritage. It’s lazy writing.