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And They're the Good Guys?

A look at television's elevation of the antihero

Take a moment to consider the television characters that currently populate the world of police and courtroom dramas: Vic Mackey (The Shield); Jack Bauer (24); Dexter Morgan (Dexter); Grace Anadarko (Saving Grace); Patty Hewes (Damages). This list includes, respectively, a corrupt cop, a wild government agent, a bloodthirsty crime scene analyst, a self-indulgent detective, and a devastatingly cutthroat lawyer. Many of you probably remember when television used to have heroes. Now it seems only to have room for antiheroes—people willing to serve as the story's protagonist, but without all the positive character traits of a traditional hero.

The antihero's elevation in television programming is a cultural text that demands exegesis for purposes of meaningful preaching. In my own exegesis of this phenomenon, I've discovered three possible entry points for the gospel. I will only tackle the first in this article, and will share the remaining two in a more abbreviated fashion on the Preaching ...

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Displaying 1–2 of 2 comments

Bruce Kolasch

September 22, 2008  10:41am

Thanks for your thoughts on "exegeting" and engaging/confronting culture. It seems to me that the characters and plots of these well liked TV shows reflect the political right and even "the Christian right's" way of responding to evil in our world today. Taking justice into our own hands presumes we are objective and just. It is always easier to see the evil in the other, and neglect to look in the mirror (& mirror of the Word) seeing our own need for humility and repentance. The 9/11 connection seems unavoidable as so many of us agree with escalating violence by responding with more violence. God took on evil not with guns and bombs, but with the cross. This is a huge cultural issue uncritically embraced on a personal/family/community/national/international level. It is political. It is personal.

Marshall Shelley

September 22, 2008  12:00am

Well expressed, Brian. I noticed that in almost every episode of 24 (and yes, I've seen them all), Jack Bauer tells one of the other characters, "You're gonna have to trust me." And that, it seems to me, is the crux of this issue. Do we place our trust in a human being, desperately scrambling to prevent one more catastrophe? Or do we place our trust in the One who may allow catastrophes but redeems them for an eternal purpose? These dramas really do clarify Jesus' question: What does it benefit a man to save the world but lose his soul?

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