Bad Christians Make Good TV

March 9, 2012

Maybe you’ve seen the promos…

This month, ABC debuted the confusingly titled “GCB.”  It’s a show about a bunch of women who apparently have personal vendettas against all the other women.  To avoid offending any viewers’ delicate sensibilities, the show is called by it’s acronym, instead of its full title, Good Christian Bitches.  Yes, I’m not putting asterisks or anything in place of the vowels.  We’re all adults here.

Of course, the Christian forums are heating up with the usual righteous indignation.  Everyone always asks why Christians can’t be depicted in a positive light.

I did some thinking on this over the last couple of days, and I’ve come to the conclusion that every Christian who is probably offended by the show’s title, (myself included) has pretty much missed the entire point.  And I’ll tell you why Christians will never, never be portrayed positively in TV or movies, and why that’s a good thing.

G.C.B. = C.R.A.P.

First of all, if IMDB is to be believed, GCB is a pretty awful show.  It has a mediocre rating.  It’ll be dead and gone before we know it.  I’m pretty sure it’s Desperate Housewives Go to Church.  Second, this show knows it’s bad.  You don’t title a show an acronym…unless it’s “CSI.”  Naming a show a string of letters is the height of pomposity, asking an audience to follow a show that does not even have a name.

Which is Worse: the ‘C’ or the ‘B?’

Second, you may not know this, because no one watches ABC, except for Modern Family, but this the second show that they are currently airing with the word “bitch” implied in the title.  (The other being Don’t Trust the B_____ is Apartment 23.  Yes, the asinine blanks after the capital ‘B’ is the actual title.)  I don’t get it.  I thought that word was supposed to be insulting and degrading to women.  I don’t give a crap that GCB is set in a “Christian” backdrop.  Where are the feminists decrying the use of the ‘B’ word?  Forget Christians whining on behalf of themselves.  They ought to be standing up for women in general, since the feminists are no longer interested in such things.

Think about this: the ‘B’ is the only letter in the title that is actually sincere.  The characters are not at all “good.”  They go to church, but aren’t really “Christian.”  But they do act like, well…

Why No One Wants a Christian Movie

Finally, Christians, this is why we will never be portrayed in a positive light on TV or in movies:

Good Christians make terrible entertainment.

That is the rule.  Good Christians make great eulogies, but bad movies.

That’s why the vast majority of Christian movies totally suck.  On the flipside, it’s the reason the Corleones were not good Catholics, but they had a fantastic movie.  It’s why Alec is more entertaining than Steven.  Good Christians are not entertaining.  They don’t cause conflict.  Bad Christians provide lots of conflict and entertainment.

See, the problem with most Christians is they think this constitutes “persecution.”  We whine and complain about why TV and movies won’t depict us in positive ways.  We get our undies in a twist because we think this means there is a “war” on Christianity.  Why can’t Hollywood give Christianity a positive portrayal?

Forget it.  Quit whining.  You be Christianity’s positive portrayal.

What say you?  Is the use of “Christian” or the ‘B’ more offensive?  Why do you think Hollywood is so averse to depicting us positively?

33 responses to Bad Christians Make Good TV

  1. Meh. After I got Netflix I don’t really keep up with what’s on TV (not when I can watch Dr. Who reruns every night!)

    Personally, I wasn’t really offended by the “Christian” or the “B-word” part of the show.

    As far as the “Christian” bit–it’s pretty obvious from watching the promos that the show isn’t meant to portray “real” Christians and that the use of the term is supposed to be toungue-in-cheek. That, and Kristin Chenowith (who’s starring in it) has been on the record as being a Christian, and she doesn’t seem to have a problem with it.

    As far as the “b-word” aspect–it’s probably a little more complicated, which might explain why there hasn’t been much of a “feminist” outcry over it.

    My beef with it is the manner in which the word is used–“bitch” tends to be the go-to word that gets used to demean a woman for being assertive and actually standing up for herself (basically, doing to the sorts of stuff a man could get away with without being criticized.) THAT’S why it’s offensive when Rush uses that word to talk about Hillary Clinton (or Bill Maher uses it to talk about Sara Palin.)

    It’s used in this show (and the book that inspired it) to describe fictional characters that are, well, bitchy. Big difference.

    And, as for your last paragraph, I wish I could forward it to all the religious radio stations in my area. Between Rob Bell and this show you’d think that it was the end of the freaking world.

  2. Preach it Matt!!!!

    Maybe the “christians” that our outraged is because they just saw themselves on TV…and according to Behavior Modification…that’s a bad thing…DANG IT!

    just my opinion..

    i watched it…it was stupid..and I moved on…I got better things to do like…Dahhhh…One Tree Hill Finale!!!!

  3. I think you hit the nail on the head with this one. Now I just wanna check out the show to get a good laugh!

  4. I read about the uproar last year regarding the title of the show. I haven’t watched the show because 1.) I watch TV almost exclusively online, and 2.) nothing from ABC. I haven’t been a fan since TGIF and Urkel.

    I think the biggest problem is that too many of us Christians act bitchy. Just like everyone else, really, but too many of us want to front like we’re not.

    “YOU be Christianity’s positive portrayal.” Awesome.

  5. I was thinking that there wasn’t as much of a feminist outcry over the “B” word because, a. They use the acronym rather than full word, which somehow makes it okay (like believing that saying OMG when the G stands for God is okay because you aren’t “actually” using His name in vain(?).) b. The word has become normalized as standard use, like Kleenex or Band-Aid. It could be a combination of the two.

    I don’t have a problem with the word “bitchy” because sometimes I act that way, although there are probably better words to use. As an adjective, it implies a temporary situation rather than a permanent characteristic. As a noun, however, it becomes a label, something more permanent, which is why I think anyone working on the project should have to go to “sensitivity training” classes like we mere mortals would have to attend if we called someone that word in the workplace.

    As far as the Christian aspect, Jesus told us that the world would “persecute us” (the quotes are for you, Matt) because it persecuted Him first. Maybe we should stop sticking up for our rights and demanding that people think we are great or even not evil. I have to keep reminding myself of this fact when my natural inclination to defend myself rises.

    I also don’t think Hollywood or the news media is picking on just us Christians. They like to tear down anyone who they set up as a “god” because it is entertaining (for them). Tiger Woods can attest to that as well as many dead celebrities, if they could talk.

  6. I was offended as much as a Christian as I was as a Texan. It’s just another stereotypical show about Hollywood’s view of what Texas is like.

    The reason Christian movies are boring is because nobody does anything particularly bad. Not even the “bad guys”. The conflicts are usually pretty trivial, which sets the stakes low. A good story has a good conflict, which typically means people doing some fairly bad stuff.

    Here’s a great idea for a story: The leader of a nation cheats on his wife after he sees a maiden bathing naked. He fathers a child with the woman, and then has her husband killed so he can be with her.

    Pretty raunchy, eh? Took that one straight out of the Bible. Try getting a PG rating for that.

    • It has been said that if you made an accurate movie out if the Bible, Christians wouldn’t go because it would be too dirty and non-Christians wouldn’t go because it would be too convicting.

  7. You make a good point. Good TV requires conflict and unless you are writing a movie from a Christian point of view, it is tough to depict that with “good” Christians. I think my biggest issue with the depiction of Christians on TV are in crime dramas. It always seems like the pastor is the murderer or the child molester. I know it is a societal schema for pastors to be untrustworthy and thee have been high profile cases of pastoral failure, but “Pastor with a Dark Side” is almost a standard character depiction on TV.

    I wouldn’t call it persecution, though. They are picking the low-hanging fruit to make money. It does hurt the credibility of the Church, especially considering that the majority of pastors are nothing like the typical TV portrayal.

  8. The show probably won’t last, but not because it is stupid. Stupid seems to be the norm in tv entertainment.

    Anyway, back to the discussion. I believe you have dealt with the core of the matter, which is simply that “good” Christians or “good” anything else is not good entertainment. Hence, bad behavior gets the nod no matter what label the participants wear.

  9. I disagree. Controversy surrounded Jesus. He was threatened, sought after to kill, and eventually killed. He cast out devils, calmed storms, multiplied five loaves and two fishes to feed 5000. He healed the blind and the lame. He raised a dead man.

    Sounds like good TV to me.

    If we lived and acted like Jesus, if we stood for true Biblical principles AND lifestyle instead of watering it down to make the world like us, we would be good TV. Not that I want us to be portrayed on TV. Non believers cannot portray righteousness…

    But we’d sure make good TV. :) Raise one dead man and the ratings are through the roof!

    Rachel

  10. I don’t really know even the most basic premise of the show, so I can’t comment on it specifically, but in general I think there is at least one more reason why Hollywood doesn’t get the Christian characterization right. They don’t necessarily know what Christianity is and what it isn’t; I think this is mostly our fault. They see the crazies who call for the end of the world, or the bitter in-fighting among us over petty denominational differences, and most of all the self-righteous posturing, that it is no wonder that the worship of and living like Jesus gets lost in the fray.

    There will be no room for indignation at these shows when we care more about making Jesus famous and less about how the world sees us. “Not to us, oh Lord…”

  11. I see a scary parallel between how Christians want to to be seen on TV/movies and also in real life. Go into any church on Sunday morning and you will see a happy group of people, but the reality is, they all put on their Sunday best and pretend that their life doesn’t suck. I remember going to church with my family as a teen. We would all get in a huge fight on the way to church and by the time we got there, none of us were talking to each other, but as soon as we walked in the front doors at the church, we seemed to be the perfect model Christian family who had it all together.

    Christians are good at pretending, myself included, and that’s why we don’t want to world to see what we are really like.

  12. Hollywood just hates us. Not sure why… Maybe because we hate them? I wonder who hated who first.

    My idea is, Christians can just model themselves after the real Jesus, not these nasty depictions. Then Hollywood will just look like a posse of bullies making fun of those poor nice Jesus people.

  13. I wrote a couple of posts on the Burnside Writers blog (burnsidewriters.net) about how good television is depicting Christian characters better because it’s depicting characters in general better. (“Faith and the Small Screen”.) I get tired of hearing how stupid and trashy TV is, as if GCB were the norm, when there are a lot of good shows out there that have the decency to pretend their characters are actual people with more than one or two dimensions. Support The Middle, Community, or Parks and Recreation, for starters. But if all you see is the dumb stuff, that’s because that’s what the consumer (you) is choosing to support.

  14. The culture ALWAYS gets God wrong, and is in active rebellion to God, in Christ Jesus.

    We need to dospel the myth of the “good Christian”. There are no “good Christians”, as there are ‘no good people’.

    There are only forgiven sinners, and those who don’t know Him, yet.

    Thanks, Matt. Great post.

    • So I had to respond to your comment. I agree completely that we need to drop this idea of the “Good Christian” As I was reading your comment the words, “and they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

      But I think you also gave us another step that we need to take too. At the start you said, “The culture ALWAYS…” We like to put this separation between us and the rest of the world. I think we have to realize that we are just as responsible for this as the “culture” is. I’ve had lots of “good” Christians tell me about how they like watching Desperate Housewives and other similar shows. Through our actions, or inactions, we’re just as much a part of our culture as anyone else.

  15. I think that Hollywood _has_ shown at least one example of a “good” Christian in the movie “Chariots of Fire.” It worked because it was an awesome story. It worked because one almost has to suspend disbelief completely in order to believe that someone would actually give up the chance for a medal just because a race _heat_ was on Sunday – it’s such a foreign concept to us nowadays and yet it’s a true story of a real person whose life was even MORE amazing after the Olympics.

    I think the problem is that so few Christians have had that kind of radical faith. And maybe the ones that do aren’t the ones who get the limelight. So the media has NO IDEA what an actual Christian is like. And when a Tebow appears, a Trevor Bayne, a Lin the basketball player dude….well….they’re flummoxed. They’re not used to someone minding their own business and just _being_ a Christian. They’re used to people beating them with Bibles or ‘whited sepulchurs’ – i.e., the stereotypical “Christians” on TV. It’s all they know.

    Some are combating it with “christian” media (like “Fireproof” and “Courageous”). But I think you’re right. We just need to _be_ Christians. Real ones. Radical ones.

    I don’t see GCB as “persecution” of Christians as much as I see it as a sad commentary on the state of Christianity in America today.

  16. GCB, funny name. I won’t watch the show. I don’t watch too much tv, but I have seen Modern Family (Baby cheeses). I have met a few gcb’s in my day. I just call them “church ladies.”

  17. I personally find the “Good Christian” part of the title most offensive. Are we supposed to believe that’s how Good Christians act? It should have been call B.C.B.

  18. Interesting. I have not yet seen any episodes of this show. But just from some of the descriptions I’ve read, it seems like the show might base its “comedy” on what happens when people, in this case a group of catty women, use church as more of a social club than a place of worship. One review I read said that a character was talking to another church member on the phone, apparently some gossip had come up regarding another individual, and the character said, “We can’t discuss this over the phone… So I’ll tell you in CHURCH. Hahahahaaha.”

    Even though the show might use this scenario as “comedy,” too often however it does happen in real life churches. When people see church as a social hangout and a place to parade and prance around, make fun of other people, and play social games… church loses its true meaning. It becomes less of the sacred, humble and solemn environment that church “should” be.

  19. Exactly why you said, Matt.

    Good Christians are poor entertainment.

    Which also explains why none of the good Christians get ANY press…just the controversial ones.

  20. As the old journalism maxim goes; if it bleeds, it leads. Bitchy characters in any context are gonna be more appealing than genuinely pleasant people. Why else are the longest-continuing TV shows soap operas?
    “YOU be Christianity’s positive portrayal.” – this, sir, is the key to the kingdom.

  21. I find the B more offensive. Why is it if someone was to produce a show about good Christians: a)no one would watch it and b) it would be labeled as intolerant, but they can get away with this garbage?

    And I disagree with you about movies with a definitive Christian message – they are getting better. Steven’s not that good of an actor anyway.

  22. As for why “bitch” is ok for ABC to use, but “slut,” for instance, is a travesty for Rush Limbsugh to use, is that the world is consistently confused about morals and values.
    Want evidence? (other than most of the history of the world) Look at the MPAA ratings of any 10 films. You’ll find mild films rated R, and raunchy and/or gory/violent films rated PG or PG13.
    Love your conclusion. Be The Portrayal. Could be the next churchofnopeople.com t-shirt! 😉