I learned a valuable lesson about the internet as a junior in high school:
Your tweets will find you out.
Essentially, I rattled off several tweets that came back and knocked me upside the head less than a day later. What I thought was reaching a very limited, private audience didn't; there are no secrets on Twitter.
Frankly, there are no secrets on the internet and this is a lesson that is being increasingly taught amidst the technological boom. As a result, young people are warned to be careful about the digital footprint they leave.
With all this in mind, I've been haunted by my last post.
Of all the many, many controversies surrounding South Park, one subject that seems entirely settled is whether or not Christians should watch it. The glaringly obvious answer is no. Yet, I suggested that it was television's most informative cartoon and that I'm something of a fan. In this one post I made myself a pariah and I fear that I've ousted myself from the community of good standing for my unorthodox taste like I'm a leper.
I've been itching to write a follow-up post.
I can only imagine some time down the road a prospective employer coming upon this blog, gasping in horror, and scratching a big red "x" across my resume. See, I hope to be a pastor, but an open endorsement of South Park seems like a sure-fire way of never finding a job---or at least complicating the process. So as an attempt at protecting my digital footprint, I hope to follow up with a few more blogs that will clarify my position on South Park and entertainment in general.
Within the past year my wife and I have seen Guardians of the Galaxy, Interstellar, and the Martian. As someone who does not generally enjoy movies, I will gladly say that each of these movies was very entertaining. However, if I am up for trying a new movie or show, I prefer watching something animated.
My preference for cartoons is real, but it has nothing to do with aesthetics. I don’t prefer Bob’s Burgers, Phineas & Ferb, and South Park for their “superior” visuals. I prefer them because they are inherently safer to my mind by virtue of being animated.
Every show and every movie tells a story. However, we often get so wrapped up in the story that we don’t discern that every narrative is a framed by a grand-narrative, a meta-narrative. It is the bigger story that the smaller story fits into. It is the story of good and evil, beauty, justice, hope, and human nature. Every story comes with certain presuppositions concerning these big questions and more.
The safety in cartoons is that no matter how realistic the animation appears, part of the meta-narrative is that it is not real. As the brain interprets the various images animated across the screen, it must first run them through a filter that recognizes them as something other than human. Sure, the cartoons are voiced by humans, are roughly human shaped, and are intended to depict human life, but they are distinctly other. They are intrinsically a step-removed from reality.
When Wile E. Coyote runs off a cliff, only plummeting to his certain non-death when he looks down, I'm not tempted to think this accurately depicts something in reality. It plainly does not (for starters, he's an anthropomorphic coyote). When the South Park boys are aided by a talking towel or capture a leprechaun, I'm acutely aware that the show is presented from a world of imagination. When it comes to cartoons, I'm left to find what is real amongst the otherwise absurd. If I miss it, I will probably still laugh and enjoy myself. However, when someone sees characters portrayed by actual humans, such a barrier does not exist. We are led to believe that what we watch in live-action is grounded in reality---this is typically part of the appeal. Missing the absurd amongst what is otherwise real is significantly more dangerous than its counterpart.
Falling For It
I'm currently reading a book titled "Lit!". It is about reading as a Christian. In it, author Tony Reinke lays out the foundation of reading well as a Christian: knowing the truth of Scripture. Knowing the Truth allows us to easily discern what is false. With this in mind, he argues that it would be foolish to ignore the world's books because they are not Christian. He goes on further to say, "...books that are obviously non-Christian in orientation are far less likely to deceive us because we hold these books at a distance, we approach them with a guarded detachment, and we open the cover fully expecting to disagree with the author."
This sentiment translates to other forms of media as well.