Although I’m a little apprehensive to admit, my newest Netflix addiction is ‘Shameless’; I wanted to mention an episode of ‘Shameless’ in my Bible study discussion last week, and went through an internal struggle as to if it were appropriate to mention such a show in a holy place. The question to be deliberated: Is ‘Shameless’ Anti-Christian?
No. It’s not.
First of all, I think there is a difference between something being un-Christian, and something being anti-Christian. I would agree that ‘Shameless’ is un-Christian; for it to be Christian, I think there has to be some explicit morals of grace and forgiveness and faith and obedience present that are cast in positive and appealing ways. Toy Story, for example, is ultimately a story about two characters (Woody and Buzz) who have to sacrifice their own egos for the betterment of humanity/Andy; the “You Got a Friend in Me” song at the end is heartwarming, and the “two is better than one” theme is enticing. “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” has subtle Christian ideals–that we should learn to trust the ‘bigger picture’ because God/Willy Wonka is in control and has something better in mind for us. And, the look on Charlie’s face at the end of the movie–when everything works out because he was faithful–is appealing. It can even be argued that stories, such as Harry Potter, fall under the ‘Christian’ category; even though the stories utilize witches and magic, the lessons are still: trust in the bigger picture, two is better than one, believe that you were made for a specific purpose.
Anti-Christian, however, suggests an intentional promotion of un-Christian ideals–a story in which displays things such as, “it is always a good idea to cheat on your spouse”, and “it is OK to steal things if you feel like it”, and “it is our responsibility to punish people for their mistakes” as positive and appealing ways to live. I might put shows, like “The Bachelor” under this category; hopefully we are all smart enough to know that this doesn’t happen in real life, but the show definitely suggests that it is OK to be in love with more than one person at a time, and definitely promotes materialism and vanity (right, the prettier you are, the more followers you have–definitely anti-Christian). Movies that make fun of a Christian character (like Mandy Moore in ‘Saved’, or a few episodes in ‘South Park’) could potentially be anti-Christian because these types of movies allow the Christian lifestyle to be laughed at and ridiculed. Or, any story that solely exists to display violence (‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’), infidelity (et um, ’50 Shades of Grey), or promotes the supernatural as triumphing over Christ (‘The Conjuring’, Paranormal Activity) would certainly present themselves as anti-Christian movies, because they solely exist to promote anti-Christian ideology.
…to which I can’t necessarily say ‘Shameless’ paints the Gallagher lifestyle in a positive and appealing manner. While there certainly are instances of offensive language, sex, drugs, lying, stealing, cheating, and other immoral actions (everytime I think they’ve thought of it all, something even worse happens), I can’t say that the show makes those choices seem ideal (like, I might want to be the violent character in ‘Grand Theft Auto’ because I supposedly will raise to fame and fortune–the music in the background, the amount of points I score, the adreneline rush I experience all makes that lifestyle seem ideal). I really like Fiona as a character–she is strong, selfless, and obviously the matriarch of the family, but I can’t necessarily say that I envy or want to live her life. Thinking about working all night at the club and sleeping for a couple hours while Debbie runs a daycare downstairs seems awful. Lip’s desire to take care of what he thought was his child is admirable, but I can’t say that I would want to be in his (or Karen’s) position–watching Lip undergo his downhill spiral, quit high school, and move out of the Gallagher household is painful and disappointing to watch. Sheila is definitely an entertaining character with a soft heart (sometimes), but I can’t say I’d ever want to suffer from agoraphobia–the show does a really great job of showing how limited Sheila’s life is, how sheltered she is, and how taxing even thinking about the outdoors is on her emotional state (especially when the airplane tire randomly falls from the sky and almost hits her).
…and Frank is just deplorable. Nothing about Frank’s lifestyle is appealing whatsoever–he is always stressed about money, sleeping under semi-trucks in the middle of winter can’t be good on your back, and having to bend to Sheila’s desires….nope, no thank you (this is, until of course, Frank’s mom, Peggy shows up, and I think you kind of start liking Frank more–because in contrast to Peggy, he is more moral–and Peggy suddenly becomes the most rotten character in the show). Unlike the sweet, melodic music in ‘Toy Story’, or the charming smile on Charlie’s face when he finds out he will inherit the chocolate factory, ‘Shameless’ in no ways presents these situations as ideals in which we should strive for–the music is always a cacophony–loud, rattling, unsettling; the camera often shakes and quickly flips from frame to frame, inducing anxiety, and there are rarely any of those euphoric moments when you think, “good is finally overcoming evil; everything is going to be alright, Fiona will finally be rewarded for her selfless actions”, because there is always some kind of major crisis that interrupts the Gallagher family.
Despite the fact that ‘Shameless’ is definitely X Rated (like, I’m sometimes uncomfortable watching it with my boyfriend), I’m not sure that it is necessarily anti-Christian, because the show does not present this dysfunctional lifestyle as ideal.