“All things begin and end with stories,” ~ Ragnar Lothbrok, The Vikings
I am currently watching three very different cable TV series: "The Walking Dead," "The Vikings" and "The Bible". All of them contain plenty of similar themes: the dead coming to life, bloody, unmerciful violence, scandalous sex and record breaking ratings that will drive entertainment producer's choices for years.
But the one series that troubles me the most is "The Bible." I'm two episodes into it and I'm already watching more out of duty than pleasure. I've been uninspired by the characters, the cinematography is average and most of all, the message is distracting. I anticipate, or hope, the producers of "The Bible" series will redeem themselves as the show moves towards Jesus Christ, we will see.
Because of revolving around the dark side of redemption in the biblical story, I fear many people will become more skittish of the Bible through this series. I am particularly disturbed by the genocidal, blood thirsty God being portrayed. The focus upon the 'terror texts' in this series seems irresponsible in light of many people suffering from sectarian and religious violence in this world. If all they focus upon is a group of religious zealots killing people in the name of God or for Israel, I think sincere and curious people will be turned off, be they Christian or not. If the producers are banking on viewers sticking with the show until the 'real' message comes through, I think they will have done more harm than good by the time they get there. As far as story telling goes, up to this point, I think the series falls flat, even though the material should be providing them with some of the best human and divine tragedies and glories ever penned.
I find myself divided between the content in "The Walking Dead" and "The Vikings" and "The Bible" series. The first two show's blood, sex and power themes are connected to human stories that are full of recognizable human yearnings, fears and dilemmas. The same content in "The Bible" is jarring to the human soul when commanded by God and unfolds without meaningful context. One is shocking in its visceral horror, but the other is horrifying in its moral and spiritual implications. One leaves me hoping for better people and places ahead like a dusk but with promise of morning, the other seems to darken the already fragile dawn.
In contrast to "The Bible," "The Viking"s episode the other night introduced a young monk named Athelstan, who in a few short scenes captured my heart and stirred my faith. To me, one quote from this character held more identifiable faith in the midst of fear than the four hours of the religious program's many characters.
"Without the word of God there is only darkness," ~ Athelstan, an Anglo-Saxon monk speaking to the pillaging viking, Ragnar
I am not sure where all these series will end up and I don't endorse every aspect of any of them, I am just giving my thoughts as I travel along through these stories. I am glad that we are able to discuss these matters due to the gift of these shows and hope meaningful dialogue will result.
My critiques are not meant to just cast a negative light on "The Bible" series, but are intended to voice honest feedback from the very people producers are trying to capture. If we don't weigh in on these matters, we may not be part of shaping emerging entertainment quality and message.