I came across this article via Brooks and it pained me because it came so agonizingly close to *getting* why Breaking Bad matters and why Christians shy away from doing similar kinds of work in the arts.
“Unfortunately, (and for a reason beyond my comprehension) Christians have decided that all movies and stories must have happy endings. Perhaps the Christian retail market helped promote that. The Joel Osteen, Oprah, and Chicken Soup books have only helped to perpetuate this false cliché.
The home team doesn’t always win. The husband doesn’t always return to his wife. The person with cancer doesn’t always get healed and sometimes the bad guy gets away. But you wouldn’t know this by watching Christian films, who appear to tell stories which lie about reality and present a world that is just as untrue as it is corny.”
Wow. Dead on. This is why so many Christians have zero interest in Christian fiction, television, movies and so on. Christians are missing the boat, especially now that television seems set to become a new sort of literary canon to replace what poems (ahem, Ozymandias), novels and plays were for the 18th, 19th and early-20th Centuries. But why would Christians tell such bad, unrealistic stories about life? I think the author of the article, Marcus Pittman gives us a substantial clue in the very second paragraph of his own text:
“Walter White, your average Government school Chemistry teacher has a good job, an intact family, and a happy life. Until that is, he finds out that he has cancer.
Desperate for a way to provide for his family and pay the medical bills, Walter White seeks out the help of a former student— now drug dealer and addict Jesse Pinkman—and together they develop a drug empire.”
Did you catch it? Government school. Heh. Posting on a site that is clearly appealing to conservative evangelicals Pittman somehow decides it’s necessary to make it clear that Walter White is not teaching a private Christian institution or homeschooling or whatever The American Vision thinks is better than “government” schools (and let’s be clear, the word “government” is lingering as a slur here). So here’s the subtle little moralizing message, don’t worry, this might happen in those depraved government schools, but it could never happen in a private Christian setting.
Working at a Christian school is not a way to guarantee someone’s faith or their good behaviour or that tragic life events might lead them down a terrible path where they are consumed by their own monstrosity. To be fair I reckon that Marcus Pittman realizes this, yet he still needs to differentiate Walter White and make him other from those who are held up as the ideal educators for The American Vision’s readership. This is the thin edge of the wedge for sentimentality and so I propose that Marcus Pittman has done some young Christian author or screenwriter a favour and unwittingly given them a great idea for a story. Let’s badly break a Christian school teacher. Here’s your story young Christian writer: Respected, oh let’s say… religion teacher at reputable classical Christian school loses faith after a personal tragedy and starts becoming a rising luminary in the New Atheist movement. How do his former students and colleagues react? Let’s not make his former colleagues saintly either, let them get jealous of him, try for petty vengeances. Go.
Don’t chicken out.