Why Can’t Britta Perry Be More Skeptical?

I experienced grave disappointment while watching Community recently. In the third episode of the current season, Britta Perry (played by Gillian Jacobs) reacts to a a photo of a child eating a cupcake by saying, “Do you know sugar is like baby meth? That’s what my homeopath says.”

Britta had been one of my favorite atheist characters on TV up to that point.

 

 

There have been several prominent TV atheists in the past decade, but their lack of faith is not always seen as an admirable trait. Dr. Cox of Scrubs and House, M.D. are often driven to rage and bitterness by their rationality; Firefly’s Mal Reynolds is a former Christian who ceased believing after a shattering war experience and seems to take no comfort in his newfound doubt; Bones is a victim of her own skepticism, often overanalyzing things to the exasperation of her friends and colleagues.

Britta, however, seems content. Of her peers, only Shirley, a devout Christian, seems perturbed by Britta’s unbelief. In the early episodes of the show, she was allowed to be a voice of both reason and empathy. The Christmas episode in which she acknowledges her atheism, also shows her mocking fisticuffs as a homoerotic pastime and giving a stirring, climactic (and funny) speech about the bonds of friendship.

Now in its third season, Community has taken Britta down a few notches, portraying her as more of a credulous buffoon. In the second episode of the season, she becomes jealous (rather than concerned) upon learning that an old friend from her political activist days has been arrested in Syria and dubbed one of the “Damascus Three.” Feeling inadequate by comparison, she stages a rather pathetic demonstration at her school’s Model UN conference. A running joke has formed about her weak grasp of her new major, Psychology (she thinks that one of her study buddies suffers from an “edible complex”). And she apparently pays someone to dispense health advice along with magical water.

To a religious person, complaining about how atheists are portrayed in American popular culture might seem silly. After all, Hollywood is a very secular place, and devout characters are hard to find in mainstream shows as well. But these two problems go hand in hand. For a while, it seemed like some of the central debates of our culture were being almost completely ignored by scripted television. Evangelicals got condescendingly targeted shows like Touched By An Angel, while the rest of us got series that were largely sanitized of the topic of religion. It is impossible to discuss non-belief without also discussing belief. More honest depictions of faith and unbelief have arisen in the current TV climate, but it’s still not the norm for highly rated shows. Does anybody know what the characters in How I Met Your Mother or Modern Family believe? Not really: secularists and non-culture warrior churchgoers can project as they please.

 

 

It’s for this reason that I probably treasured the fact of Britta’s atheism too much. The truth is that the creative team behind Community didn’t do anything wrong by revealing that she retained some superstitions. The show has always avoided setting members of its ensemble on pedestals and Britta often practiced less-than-skeptical thinking prior to the homeopathy comment. If more shows dealt with the topic of religion, there would be more positive portrayals of outspoken atheists, and the loss of a character like Britta to woo and bunk wouldn’t seem like a personal affront. Britta is still one of my favorite sitcom characters, for the simple reason that her exploits are funny. Holding her up as an atheist role model never really made much sense. But it does make sense to wish that more shows would would acknowledge the role of religion in our society and in individual lives, and more characters who decisively reject it.

About Bentley Owen

Bentley Owen reads books and lives in Tulsa, OK. He's on twitter.

  • Ian Bushfield

    Welcome to Friendly Atheist Bentley. I look forward to more of your work if this sets the bar.

    I like Kurt on Glee as a strong atheist character. He may have found atheism through his homosexuality, but he’s smarter for it and not bitter.

    • Anonymous

      While I do love Kurt, especially the “Grilled Cheezus” episode, his atheism appears to be situational and that kinda bugged us.  The same with Sue’s atheism.  I would love to see an organic atheist on TV, not one who decided god was an asshole due to XXX, and thus, he can’t be real.

    • Anonymous

      I haven’t watched much Glee since the first season, but thanks for pointing that out.

  • Hazor

    I have a rather different feeling about the majority of television series being sanitized of religion. How can it be a bad thing? Which is the better goal: a world where religion does not exist, or a world where everyone is a rabid atheist activist? The problem of religion (and any beliefs not reached through reason) is its irrationality and its blocking of useful goals (e.g., science education). If religion isn’t a concern at all then there is no problem there. Personally, I would rather see the very thought of religion fade into obscurity or be thought of as archaic than to see it become the topic (or major part) of every other television show – the latter would make watching television wholly unenjoyable to me.

    I think you have not made your feelings on each of your points wholly clear in your attempt to convey your distaste for the character’s credulity. I personally would enjoy some elaboration.

    • Anonymous

      Regarding the lack of discussion of faith on popular American TV, I feel it is dishonest. The best example of addressing religion, faith and doubt honestly in a TV series is Six Feet Under (which I’ll probably write about here at some point.) I won’t write an essay in the comments section about it, but among its main characters are an atheist, an agnostic, a gay Christian trying to reconcile his faith and his sexuality, a devout Christian woman who initially struggles with her son’s coming out, and a “seeker” who flirts with Judaism, Quakerism, and wishy-washy “Eastern” nonsense. It sometimes went soft on its characters’ superstitions, but it often revealed the faults of religion in pretty brutal detail. I don’t think every show should be doing this, but I don’t want to see a consensus form around a toothless form of secularism.

      As for Britta’s credulity, I think they’ve made out to be more of a ditz, and the butt of more jokes.  My distaste for it is a misguided reaction, though, as I tried to express in the last paragraph. All of the characters on the show are deeply flawed and do stupid things; it only bothered me with Britta because I thought she was an exception to a rule about TV atheists. My point is that if more shows that dealt with these issues, maybe there would be more Brittas and I wouldn’t have felt an irrational disappointment when they trotted out some of her character flaws.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5Q5YZG6MVFM234ICQ3JRFWMZ44 Nah

    I don’t know if you guys have been watching The Walking Dead this season, but there’s been a lot about characters grappling with an all-loving god in a world overrun with the horrors of zombies. The season isn’t over, but I think the stark reality of the glaring problem of evil is “winning” out. Truth be told, the problem of evil is no less of a problem in the real world.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

      I found that funny because they live in a world with clear evidence of the supernatural! I mean the dead are walking.

      • Anonymous

        But they were presented with a scientific explanation for it

  • Christian von Kietzell

    Are you mad? Malcolm Reynolds being comfortable? That would make the series not half as much fun! :D

    • Anonymous

      I agree that Mal needed to be cynical and a little bitter. But did he need to be seen kissing a cross at the beginning of the pilot episode, then telling the Shephard Brook to keep his prayer to himself? He was happy when he was religious, unhappy afterwards. It’s a relatively minor gripe. I love almost everything else about the show, and Joss Whedon’s work in general.

      • Anonymous

        He didn’t just lose his faith in Serenity Valley, but his whole attitude about life and people changed as a result of the defeat. The religious aspect is only a part of that. It’s simplistic to say that his unhappiness is only the result of his loss of religion.

        • Anonymous

          It would be simplistic to say that, and I didn’t. His loss of religious faith is used as shorthand for the “whole attitude” shift you mentioned. Why is that? It’s a question worth asking, I think.

  • http://www.bricewgilbert.blogspot.com Brice Gilbert

    It’s one of those things I’ve just learned to accept. Writers are trying to create conflict and entertain. Having a character who has no flaws is boring. Sure it would be great if these flaws weren’t unskeptical thinking, but at some point you have to put a character down a peg. Daniel Harmon the creator of the show talks a little about this in his interview at the AV Club for season 2. He originally made Britta the voice of reason and a surrogate for himself. However, after a while he didn’t want to just put himself up on a pedestal so they made Britta a little crazy. Pretty much everyone in the show is like that. At least she’s not the tired old angry atheist stereotype.

  • http://dbcooper.livejournal.com P.F. Bruns

    To be fair, I’ve long held the opinion that characters of nearly every social, ethnic, cultural, or religious (or in the case of atheism, non-religious) group are made into caricatures by TV.

  • http://twitter.com/TortugaSkeptic A secret red slider

    Kurt on Glee is pretty great.  I also like Dexter, but he’s not a great example.

    • Anonymous

      There was a great scene in Dexter when he is in the hospital and his son is being operated on. The doctor comes to inform him and Dexter goes “Thank God…” then catches himself and says “No. Thank you“. Nice, subtle commentary on Christians attributing everything good to their god and not the people who are responsible

    • ACN

      Although I don’t think this season of Dexter has been particularly strong (1 and 4 ftw!), Dexter has had a number of very funny amusing internal remarks on religion.

  • http://sunombreenvano.blogspot.com/ Diego, El Mapache

    I didn’t expect much from Britta, even though she’s one of my favorite characters. She is there to be the personification of liberalism and oppose everything traditional, like Christianity  but embracing new age beliefs would be pretty attractive to someone like that. 

    I don’t see many atheists in TV (not that I watch a lot) but as far as I can remember, Admiral Adama from BSG was an atheist and he was awesome. From more actual shows, in The Walking Dead, the guy that worked in The Boondock Saints and shoots a crossbow seems pretty atheist to me, even going as far as mocking some religious expressions.

    From Modern Family, I think most of them have to be pretty secular since having a gay couple adopting a kid isn’t something many Christian families would be ok with. Well, Gloria is Colombian and I don’t mind her traditions because she’s hot. But now that I think about it, if Alex, the intelligent girl, were not to be an atheist, I would be pretty sad.

    On the other hand, Christians are not always portrayed in a very good light, especially in comedy. You already talked about Shirley, then there is also Angela in The Office, who is certainly not very nice.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lindsay-McLellan-Smith/551535902 Lindsay McLellan Smith

      On a recent episode, Alex was wearing the T-shirt that says:

      “And God said [huge equation here]
      And there was light.”

      I see that as an atheist’s shirt, but that could just be me.

      • Matthew Armstrong

        I loved that.  My high school chemistry teacher wore that, and would often reduce the fundies who tried to take offense to tears through sheer force of personality.

      • http://sunombreenvano.blogspot.com/ Diego, El Mapache

        I haven’t seen that episode, or at least I don’t remember her wearing such t-shirt. I remember her though on her “Queen of the nerds” episode. Hopefully the writers will keep taking her to the rational side.

        Another group for the TV heathens collection might be Malcolm and his family, from Malcolm in the Middle. A couple of nights ago I saw an episode in which his brother tells a couple of priests who are giving them trouble, “What are you going to do to us? We are a bunch of godless heathens”, which was really cool. 

  • Matthew Armstrong

    I enjoy Community, and while I do like Britta’s character, I was never surprised or particularly perturbed by her acceptance of things such as homeopathy, or her often un-thought-out political attitudes.

    Perhaps it’s a result of where I have lived.  I spent many years in Santa Cruz, California, where there are a relatively large number of people who doubt the existence of gods, and yet retain a political worldview in which corporations (including the dreaded “big pharma”) are pure evil, anything that Ralph Nader or Noam Chomsky says is taken as gospel, and every form of nonsense is okay as long as it is held to be someone who could be considered “anti-establishment.”  So, long before she started openly spouting her preference for quackery, I had pegged the character for a caricature of the type of person I knew only too well (a view reinforced in the first season, when she allows Troy’s grandmother to “whoop” her).

    Yeah, she’s a caricature, but not too much of an exaggeration of a particular type of ideological motivated person that I know only too well, and she always has been.

    • Brian Macker

      Yes, atheist is Not equivalent to skeptic, scientific, or rationalist. I’ve seen this type too. There are all types of loopy atheists.

  • Anonymous

    We felt exactly the same way, Bentley… as soon as she uttered “homeopath,” we felt betrayed.  Yes, she’s just a TV character, but it felt to us like there was actually a voice for us on that show.  She was the “us” observer added to the quirkiness of the other characters, the anti-Shirley (whom we do not always find funny because she mirrors too many people we know IRL).

    Like you, we still love her because, well, she’s hot and still quite funny.  But she has become another quirky voice rather than our stand-in.  And that really bummed us out.

    Looking forward to hearing more from you!  :-)

  • GregFromCos

    How about Sheldon on “The Big Bang Theory”? Granted he is a pretty unique character, but his atheism never really seems to be a hangup. The closest he comes to a hangup is in the childhood experiences he had with regard to religion.

    • JaymeH

      In a recent episode Howard Wolowitz seemed to be portrayed as
      a secular Jew. They were in a church and he declined to pray, instead saying he
      was just trying not to burst into flames.

    • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

      I’m not sure that Sheldon is an atheist. He’s never explicitly said he doesn’t believe in a god, and he will participate in prayers when his mother tells him to. He also has an agreement with her that he will attend church once a year. In The Zarnecki Incursion, he cries out “Why hast thou forsaken me, oh deity whose existence I doubt?!” after his computer has been hacked, and once after making a strike in bowling, he exclaims “Thank you, Jesus!” He’s clearly not religious, but I wouldn’t classify him as an out-and-proud atheist.

      • Anonymous

        He is just trying to make his mother happy. And those exclamations are hardly unusual. I say “Oh my god” rather frequently and I didn’t even grow up with fundie parents. The Jesus thing may even be deliberate sarcasm. He is way too analytical to believe in gods

      • GregFromCos

        Your memory is impressive. I’m not sure why I have this distinct impression he was an Atheist character. I guess leave it to Lorre to not create anything to specific.

    • Lola

       Yeah, shame that Big Bang Theory IS FUCKING PAINFULLY UNFUNNY.

  • Anonymous

    I think you’re probably right. I said in the piece that  “Britta often practiced less-than-skeptical thinking prior to the homeopathy comment” but I usually discarded them. The homeopathy thing should not have caught me by surprise, but it did.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve only seen one episode of that show, unfortunately, though I plan on watching more of it at some point. You’ve made it sound more enticing.

  • http://profiles.google.com/conticreative Marco Conti

    I guess I am glad I don’t watch TV comedy, at least in sitcoms. As another poster said, there are indeed plenty of non theist that believe bunk. I suspect there are even more in the social circles TV writers hang around. 
    But I wish that these writers at least tried not to legitimize things like Homeopathy. That stuff is dangerous. I grew up in a family that used it almost exclusively (I even run my own tests by not taking the medicine as a teenager. My mother was very happy of how well it worked with me and how quickly I recovered. It’s what convinced me that it’s bunk).
    Fortunately, my mom was not completely crazy and when serious stuff happened we saw real doctors.
    I guess I am afraid that people that grow to like a TV character would then think Homeopathy is an actual branch of medicine and end up using it. 
    I don;t believe TV writers have a responsibility to educate viewers, but I think they should at least try not to “uneducate” them.

    • Jonathan Schlossberg

      If you haven’t seen the show then don’t comment.  The writers never legitimised homeopathy, if anything they made fun of it.  The point is that Britta is a credulous new age liberal hippy who is willing to believe anything.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5Q5YZG6MVFM234ICQ3JRFWMZ44 Nah

    Also, Dexter this season. Dexter is an atheist and the villain of the
    season is a devout religious nut. This is balanced by a benevolent
    reformed murderer. I have my fingers crossed that the season doesn’t
    devolve into yet another atheist finding that what he needs is Jesus,
    and I’m not too worried because the show has been smartly written for
    the previous 5 seasons.

    • Anonymous

      It would also be out of character for Dexter. Like with most other things, Dexter seems to be just going through the motions and does what he thinks people expect from him. His exploration of religion is more about finding out what other people see in it

    • Wasd

      While I agree Dexter has been smartly written I have been worried by how Dexter has changed over previous seasons.

      I love how my dear psychopathic and nearly emotionless Dexter sole problem with killing people as a boy was that he didn`t want the hassle of having an argument with his parents about it. Thats why I disliked how he became such a loving (?) father. I was also bothered by how the show kept kept asking  “how could someone as ruthless as Dexter be a loving father” while pouring out one bit of painfully cliche evidence after the other that Dexter loves his wife and kids. If the guy loves his family then he loves his family then I might not like it but if that the way it is then there isn`t much mystery about it, its just the way it is.

      But I also vividly remember episode 1.01 When Dexter is trying to force the boys choir leader/rapist/murderer to face the decomposing bodies of his victims (“It took me forever to dig up their bodies piece by piece”, “look at them or I will cut your eyelids right of your face”) and the guy starts to pray. Dexter sighs, slightly boringly, slaps the guy in the face and wearily says (“stop.. that never helped anybody”)

      Could such a guy really become a believer? I mean, the guy is a professional analyst of evidence in his day-job and much of his, uh… extracurricular hobby. I think Dexter has a long way of becoming an ever more caring unrealistically nice guy before he would even consider becoming religious.

      • Gregg

        It’s also worth noting that Dexter has been a pretty different character in Seasons 5 & 6 than he was in the first 4. That’s because of a change in head writers. I don’t think they’re going to have him turn religious, but they’re clearly writing about unbelief from the perspective of believers. The rather unsympathetic portrayal of a Richard Dawkins type guy in the most recent episode confirmed that for me, and Dexter’s confusion in the face of Brother Sam’s juvenile arguments show they aren’t actually interested in portraying the debate. I predict he’s going to decide that religion is a good thing for normal people, and bring up his son with religion so hopefully his son can have some sort of moral system – without religion, who KNOWS what could happen!

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    if we’re talking about TV shows, I feel the need to bring up the latest episode of Dexter. This season had a great first episode, and then spent the rest of the season contrasting good, caring, compassionate and accepting Christians from the crazy psychotic ones. Then finally in episode 9 they show the first portrayal of an atheist character… a perpetually pissed off writer/professor who preaches his anti-theist ideology in the classroom and is so skeptical he won’t take death threats or warnings of danger seriously.

  • Anonymous

    The show itself seems to be a caricature of a sitcom, and the characters themselves are then similarly caricatures of the way people are portrayed on sitcoms.  None of the characters on Community seem like remotely real people (on purpose), and so to complain that they don’t accurately portray their narrow characterizations completely misses the point.

    • Anonymous

      Hey, that kind of sounds like what I tried to say in the last paragraph! 

  • nobody

    community never dwells too much on religion, except on shirly, and as they issued briliantly without breaking the fourth wall, she has almost no personality, and they fear people might think of her as:”that black women who cooks”, and nothing else, britta is, as you said, made purely for comical purposes, shes not “the atheist”, shes the closest thing after von to”hippie”, her atheism only came as an issue thrice, and not even a real “issue”, shes not our representitive in the U.N. of tv shows, as they show on the christmas episodes, they truly dont want to raise the topic of each characters religion, they just have a really hard time defining shirley as anything but a mom, and to anyone but pierce, they wouldnt dare making her as “the black women”, so they dont really have a choice with her… anyway, welcome to the friendly atheist bently, i like your style

  • Roguefirefist

    Annie’s boobs.

  • cornelius

    I highly recommend The Mentalist. It even received an award for its scientific and critical thinking content. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_mentalist#Awards_and_nominations

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

      I love that Jayne just tells people all psychics are either deluded or frauds.

      • Anonymous

        And then proves it by using “psychic powers.”  Pretty good slam on scientology last last as well.

  • Michael Appleman

    It seems like some people out there who write tv shows get atheist/skeptic confused with the kind of person who believes in conspiracy theories and other woowoo stuff. Another example is Abby on NCIS. She has gone on about how she loves science and logic and reason, etc. But turns around and gets all excited about a crop circles or stupid shit like that.

    Its kind of infuriating.

  • http://philosophicalzombie.net/ Carl

    To be fair, there was a great scene in a more recent episode where Britta gave a textbook justification of secular ethics to the bigoted, religious Shirley, which I thought was one of the most positive portrayals of atheism I’ve seen on mainstream TV. 

    And being Community, it was also hilarious.

    • http://philosophicalzombie.net/ Carl

      Oh look, here you go: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYwkKxDhckc

  • CMJ

    I can’t say that I’m really upset by this… They’re not trying to make a show about how great atheists are, they’re making a sitcom on TV.
    They show the hardcore Christian woman having serious mental hurdles to try to overcome and they show the same bad side of their atheist character.
    We’re all people and we all have flaws. Atheists are no more “perfect” than Christians are.
    I think they’re showing quite accurately that we all have things to overcome no matter what religion (or lack of religion) we may identify with.

    The fact that there is yet another atheist character on TV is pretty cool, to me. The fact that they are not portraying her as being a completely logical person just because she doesn’t believe in a god is even more accurate to me.

    • Rieux

      Yeah, I agree. Britta’s kind of a doofus, but then all of the main characters on the show are: it’s a silly comedy. In the context of that kind of show, I think she’s an admirable representative of atheists—especially given that the things Bentley (understandably) dislikes about Britta don’t exactly play into common hateful stereotypes about atheists.

  • Sarah

    Say what you will about the show, but the lead character in Bones is an atheist and it is displayed prominently in her character, always.  She may be occasionally laughed at for her utter lack of understanding social cues or taking logic “too far”, but she’s rarely wrong. I can’t think of a plot where something “unexplainable” shows that her logic can’t explain everything, as happens in other shows with highly rational characters. I haven’t seen all the episodes, though. 

  • Rondos

    Britta rocks, you didnt mention the sequence in the #anniesmove episode, but it is one of the best jokes the show’s ever done, and the high point of atheism related humor on the show. Britta gives Shirley a ride, and along the way Britta picks up a hitchhiker, and it gets funnier from there. Its a great gag, the best since the show just dumped all over Britta in the Xmas episode.

    For other TV atheists, Dano just came out on Hawaii 5-0 a couple weeks ago, and the main character trashed him about it.

  • BrandonUB

    I’ve never watched the show, but I’ve got to say, I know some pretty gullible, wooish atheists in real life. While we might do better than average, as a group, having a fool here and there isn’t exactly unrealistic.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com miller

    Wait, when did Bentley Owen get introduced as a new writer for FA?  Is he staying?

    So far, thumbs up for Bentley!  I look forward to more articles.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      Right now. I hope so. And I agree :)

  • http://twitter.com/butterflyfish_ Heidi McClure

    “Scotty doesn’t believe in gods.” -Dr. McCoy to Apollo

    • TheFaege

      That was my first thought.  As far as I can tell, Scotty is the original positively displayed atheist on TV.

      • Geeforson

        Star Trek (and TNG) was often pointedly secular, and it was awesome for it.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com miller

    I think I am okay with flawed characters.  The alternative is an atheist Mary Sue, and that would be no good.  But I don’t think I’m okay with atheist characters who are into homeopathy.  That just cancels out whatever I may have liked about them.

    What’s a good analogy for this situation?  It’s like finding a rare example of a possibly bi male character, but instead of giving him other flaws, the writers decide bisexuality is the flaw.  Didn’t that happen on Glee or something?  I don’t watch the show.

    • Revyloution

      Bizarre,  I just learned what a ‘Mary Sue’ was this morning, now I see it again.

  • Brian Macker

    Of there’s the issue of her being blonde and female, so of course the stereotype of being dumb needs to be played out.

    • Brian Macker

      Missing the “course” of “of course”. iPad hard to use as I am new to it.

  • Diane

    I totally understand – I feel the same way about childfree characters on TV.  I’m still pissed off that Grey’s Anatomy had Arizona change her mind. 

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

    Does anybody know what the characters in How I Met Your Mother or Modern Family believe? Not really: secularists and non-culture warrior churchgoers can project as they please.

    Modern Family actually did have a religious episode last season. We learned that Gloria and Manny go to church every week, while Jay doesn’t. Manny decides to skip church because Jay does, but after having some theological discussions on the golf course, he becomes worried about hell and joins his mother at church.  Jay was portrayed as the “doubter,” albeit, not a doubter of the god-concept. He says he believes in God and that God is found in nature, so he never gets to the point of expressing doubt in the basic foundations of religious faith. He does, however, cast some doubt on heaven and hell, and he’s not forced to go to church at the end, so I guess he’s more “rebellious” than characters on television are usually allowed to be. However, faith is always portrayed as good and normal, and the idea that scaring children into believing in hell might be a disgusting concept isn’t even entertained. Manny ends up going to church with his mom, and their last conversation is all about what heaven will be like.

  • Greg

    Notably in the Star Trek: Enterprise in I believe the 3rd season has one of the most decidedly atheist messages I’ve ever seen.  The episode is ” Chosen Realm” and Scott Bakula delivers at the end of the episode.

    I really like Community for at least having the gall to address religion in humor, when its generally been too taboo for sit coms. All the characters have been poked fun of for their beliefs. But really, what other show has the two main characters Atheist and agnostic, the most lovable characters are autistic muslim and brainless jock? It really helps the show is actually funny.

  • http://rosalarian.com Rosalarian

    I like that Britta has a bunch of weird, erroneous beliefs in addition to being an atheist. Despite being a cartoonishly hyperbolic caricature, I recognize her from my college days. There was always that girl who had rejected what she grew up with (family’s religion, family’s traditions, family’s politics) but was floundering for a substitute. She thinks hanging out with hippies and smoking lots of pot and getting arrested makes you more worldly, but the way she goes about it is always so forced and inorganic. And this girl ALWAYS goes into psychology for a while. That’s what cinched Britta’s character for me, and really made her character make sense to me.

    Besides that, I think it’s a good thing to keep in mind that atheist doesn’t always mean skeptic. When meeting other atheists, we shouldn’t assume they’ll be more logical or discerning or smart. Brittas exist. I’ve met them. They’re more hilarious when they’re safely on a screen than in my face.

  • Tenley

    I’m sure I might get mocked a bit, but my guilty pleasure show is Glee. Kurt, a homosexual student, is a main character and also an atheist. They confronted this in an episode about religion, to which I still have mixed feelings about. When the other students react negatively to Kurt’s lack of belief, a friend of his invites him to her baptist (I’m guessing) church. After a musical number, the friend tells him, “You don’t have to believe in God, I get it, but you gotta believe in SOMETHING”. I almost turned it off. Then, in a tender moment, Kurt goes to see his widowed father, whom is in a coma, and tells him he doesn’t believe in God, but he believes “in us”. Still not entirely sure what was meant by that, but I liked it.

    Then they ruined the episode by ending the episode with, “What if God was one of us?” and their Glee instructed asking the villian (and atheist, we find out) of the show if she’s going to turn them in for, you know, breaking the law by having the kids sing about spirituality in public school. She replied, “no…” because she found faith or something. I don’t know. The whole think kinda pissed me off, but I still watch.

  • Fitz

    “The Good Wife” is a show that treats religious belief in an interesting way. The main character, Alicia, is very skeptical and disapproving of religious belief. They’ve never made her an explicit atheist, but she really dislikes church.

    • Anonymous

      And visibly annoyed that her daughter is taking an interest in religion

  • Gregg

    Well, I’ve always understood Britta to be a caricature of the college liberal. Thus, of course she’s an atheist who’s into woo (I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual) and attaches herself to any given movement she sees. Pierce is a caricature of the old conservative, being rich, but also selfish to the point of evil and pretty racist. Shirley’s a caricature of a Christian; she just can’t stop passing judgment on her supposed friends. Annie’s a naive good girl who freaks out if things spin out of her control, Troy’s a child, Abed’s a nerd, and Jeff is shallow. Everyone’s a caricature.

    I think the problem here is that you grabbed on to the atheism part of Britta’s character before seeing what she’s really intended to be. The homeopathy, or pathetic attempts at protests, never surprised me. They, and the atheism, are ways to illustrate the caricature she’s meant to portray.

  • Jolly Banker

    Your complaint that there aren’t enough figures or
    characters in pop culture that espouse an atheistic worldview is unfounded.
    Every Christian charcter from popular TV shows in the past only stuck out like
    a sore thumb because they are obviously in the minority.

    Just because there
    aren’t more outright skeptics (you could say the reciprocal equivalent would be the
    blatant Christian characters on a show like “Touched by an Angel”) does not
    mean that Christians get more coverage or athiests get unfair treatment. The
    views of an atheist, or those that are at least ‘unchristian’ dominate the pop
    culture (specifically TV and movies.) The institution is all but a joke on most
    TV shows with males and females completely rejecting the idea altogether and
    often having promiscuous sex, or in other cases the vows of a marriage aren’t
    honored. Other shows often promote homosexual relationships as completely
    acceptable and normal, and any rejection to such (including this post) will be
    hammered as bigotry or homophobia (neither of which I am).

    I could list a
    plethora of examples, but pop culture media is a much friendlier place to an atheistic
    or ‘unchristian’ worldview than it is accepting or promoting the reciprocal Christian
    version.

    (edited to clean up, though not completely, formatting.)

    • Anonymous

      Your complaint that there aren’t enough figures or
      characters in pop culture that espouse an atheistic worldview is unfounded.
      I didn’t really say that though. I’m talking about outright, admitted atheists. The fact that Christian characters stick out like sore thumbs goes hand in hand: religion is avoided as a topic too often. You seem to suggest that Christianity is portrayed as “the other”- I agree with you up to a point. It’s portrayed as exotic and weird. I was raised in a Christian household and I see portrayals of Christians that annoy the shit out of me on a regular basis. If the taboo on faith was lifted, religious and secular viewers alike would benefit. I do agree that, rather than splitting the difference between believers and atheist, the characters lean towards a non-descript secularism in Hollywood productions.

      And I don’t see why anyone would call you a bigot for views you haven’t even bothered to express.

  • Risza

    I’ve been watching a show on hulu called ReGenesis, a Canadian TV program a few years back.  There are strong atheist characters on that show and it was nice to see it so blatant and unapologetic.  See season 3, episode 3, 36:10.

  • Reyjacobs

    The fact is that atheists may start off somewhat intellectual, but they gradually do become credulous buffoons.  Maybe at first they find a few contradictions in the Bible, resolve to follow the evidence, not believe everything they read in the Bible anymore.  Then thy take it too far and deny the existence of God, and their troubles begin, because now having nothing to believe in, they will believe in any idiotic liberal orthodoxy that comes along.  Global warming, homeopathy, whatever.  Its sad.  Everyone should feel sorry for them.

    • Rieux

      Poe?


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