I remember taking an American Literature class my senior year of high school. I really enjoyed it, and not just because I love reading and I love history (especially American history). I found it fascinating, because it showed me how entertainment not only reflects culture, but also influences it. When I looked at the various time periods, I saw how the books, poems, and short stories written expressed how people felt at that time. I witnessed how society viewed God, morality, science, technology, government, etc.
We oftentimes dismiss entertainment as just that. Entertainment. Movies, books, and songs make us laugh, stir our emotions, and provide a brief respite from the reality of life.
But there is something deeper to entertainment that we often fail to realize.
Books, movies, and songs reveal something about their creator’s worldview. They reveal what the creator thinks about God, morality, science, technology, government…and ultimately, what our society thinks about those things.
When almost everything these days promotes homosexuality, pre-marital sex, abortion, evolution, and relativism–yeah, I think that shows something startling about our culture.
It shows that sin is now the norm.
One of the scariest things I’ve seen is that our society is expressing a serious disinterest in the sanctity of human life. Violence is a harsh reality when we turn on the news. Learning about events where dozens of people lost their lives is becoming…commonplace. I think it says a lot when a ranger at a national park freaks out because you might be stepping on the crypto-biotic crust (true story), but abortion, the destruction of innocent human life, isn’t treated with such seriousness.
I think this is the result of how our American culture is turning away from God and toward a relativistic view (which is a result of the widespread belief in evolution, by the way. Another thing I learned in American Lit). We believe human life has no purpose. But the Bible makes it clear that we’re special to God.
A lack of respect for human life is so obvious in our entertainment these days. We watch movies and read books where the main characters shoot and slash at enemies without thought. We crave for the moment where the villain finally gets what he deserves. The violence is just normal. It’s exciting. We wish we were like the character whose main attribute is his/her fighting abilities.
People die, and no thought is given to this.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I’m working on my current novel (the second book in a dystopian trilogy). As I’ve been writing, this topic has developed into one of the main themes: what happens in a society that treats human life as expendable? This has also manifested as my protagonist asks herself questions like Is it okay to sacrifice a few lives if it’s for the greater good?
The question “do the ends justify the means” comes up in a lot of YA novels, especially in dystopian and fantasy. Is it right to assassinate a cruel leader if it means keeping him from harming innocent lives? Should the hero/heroine determine who lives and dies based on how useful they are to the cause (I’ve seriously seen this in books)? Sadly, oftentimes, the novel does actually seem to promote the view that the ends do justify the means.
We were made in God’s image, a concept I’ve been really learning a lot about in some of my Bible college classes. This phrase comes from Genesis 1:26-27, where it specifically says that man and woman were made in His image. How cool is that? God made us in His image and breathed life into us. We’re pretty special to Him. Do you think He views the death of one of His “image-bearers” lightly? I don’t think so. And neither should we. We should see everyone in this light, as one of God’s children.
I’m not saying books and movies should never portray a character death or that anytime a character does die the story must take on a depressing tone. Not at all. But I do think these scenes are glossed over too often and not given enough thought. I want to see characters wrestle with this issue. Not to make every story heavy or anything like that, but to show that human life has value.
We are all made in the image of our Creator, after all.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you think books, movies, and TV shows treat character deaths too casually? As a society, do you think we’ve become so used to seeing violence in our entertainment that we’ve become desensitized to it?