Media Matrimony for Better for Worse, Part 2

In yesterday’s post, I began to explore the questions posed to me by W. David O. Taylor about why marriage is often treated in such an unseemly light in much of current TV and film.

Having addressed the divide between what is being pitched or written in Hollywood and what is being made there, a divide whose numbers alone would likely assure Taylor that more redeeming efforts of the kind he describes are being made than meet the screen, I now come to the heart of his inquiry.

Is there any reason why the complexities and tensions as well as pleasures and inherent “goods” of traditional marriage no longer capture the imaginations of producers and writers? Is it a dramatically uninteresting subject matter? Is the fact that over 50% of today’s marriages end in divorce a reason why writers cannot imagine it any other way? Is it a matter of a “trend”?

It’s hard not to hear each successive question for its rhetorical effect. My first response was to add one of my own to the list: is a generally disenchanted picture of marriage in our entertainment climate an unconscious, cultural form of collective self-amelioration, by which we come away feeling better about our own marriages in comparison?

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Media Matrimony for Better for Worse, Part 1

Recently a friend put me in touch with Christian author, W. David O. Taylor (editor of a book of essays titled For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts), who is writing an article about a two-pronged question pertaining to my profession: Why is there such an overall dearth of healthy onscreen marriages in television and film? And where might we find some exceptions?

Taylor was hoping to reach someone in the industry who might have some insight. Truth be told, though, despite the fact that I’m Christian, a screenwriter, and married, to boot, I often feel as vexed by the question as he does.

Thus what better place to ponder it than here at “Good Letters,” whose incisive readership might shed light upon the matter thanks to the comments box below.

With Taylor’s permission, I share his query in full:

Do you know of any Christians who are writing for TV or film, who happen to have written storylines about marriage, specifically about traditional sorts of marriages, in the “Friday Night Lights” or “Before Midnight” or even “The Incredibles” and “Downtown Abbey” vein?

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This Great Hunger

“Right there is where it started,” he says, pointing out the window to emerald pastures several headlands away. Here, where the forty shades of green meet surprisingly blue seas on the southern coast of Ireland in West Cork, a breathtaking tableau dappled with dairy cows in any direction, blight is not a word that comes to mind.

But right there is where the Great Famine began.

We’re standing in late August at what will be my desk until Christmas, on a quick tour of the house whose owner should be packing for America. But with his Irish sense of time, one quite different and more expansive than my American variety, he has already taken us on a boat ride and is about to lead the way to a digging lesson up in the potato garden.

Minutes later, pitchfork in hand, I unearth a healthy bunch of spuds from rocky soil and am no less delighted than my children by the sight. The dirty yellow skins make a fine addition to the jeweled picture stretching out before us from Union Hall to Skibbereen—the finest of all, no doubt, if we were a family of five facing starvation in the mid-1800s.

That was three months ago, when we arrived for a family sabbatical now about to end. Given the somewhat last-minute nature of the plan put together over the summer, I had no idea that we would be living so close to the origin of Ireland’s defining watershed.

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In a Thin Place

“What is a thin place?” the friendly female voice asks in the YouTube video that I watch before departure for a family sabbatical to Ireland. At the moment I’m between a rock and a hard place on a hot day in Brooklyn, trying to get ready. But on this break, the misty montage and soothing harp get me as ready for thin places as I am for thick stouts.

“In simple terms,” she continues, “a thin place is a place where the veil between this world and the eternal world is thin.”

Then here I come.

First stop, Scotland—not short on thin places in its own right.

Standing at the prow of a car ferry between the mainland and the Isle of Mull, I feel such a charge of heritage in my blood, such an ancient sense of potential for roots ancestral as well as etymological vis-à-vis power, that I fancy St. Columba might have felt something similar at the prow of a carragh on his voyages to evangelize the heathen.

Columba and me: blood brothers, to be sure.

Mindie Burgoyne, the voice of that video and indispensible guide to Ireland’s thin places via her website, would dispute even the slightest suggestion that a car ferry has any right to be called a thin place:

“Thin places should not be confused with thin moments, those being times when that mysterious power is felt during a particular experience or synchronistic course of events… A thin place is simply that—a PLACE where the veil is thin.”

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Breaking Up with Breaking Bad

“It’s over, bitch.”

That’s how she put it in no uncertain terms as the credits rolled at the end of the series finale.

It was the voice of Jesse Pinkman that she chose, the show’s outlaw Robin to Walter White’s cancer-clad Batman on a self-destructive mission to save his family from financial ruin at the cost of such greater ruin.

She being the bitch, of course—or, rather, the son of one in the best sense of that term.

After six long years of our on-again, off-again, you-ain’t-seen-nothing-yet-again seasonal trysts, Breaking Bad is done with me.

But I’m not done with it. Un-uh. Not so fast. Not before I get to say a few words myself, thank you very much. So get back here like the trophy show that you are and hear me out—lest you forget that you needed me way before I needed you.

Truth be told, it wasn’t a six-year affair in my case, as it was for hundreds and hundreds of thousands of other viewers; no, I was among the greater number who only caught up on back seasons of the series in time to watch this last one live.

She and I, we made up for lost time in a serious way.

The thing is, this wasn’t like me: I may work in television, but I sure as hell don’t get hooked on it like…a meth addict.

Hell, yeah, I did, this time around. Are you kidding me? Don’t make me start talking like Pinkman’s sidekick, Skinny Pete, after sampling a fresh batch of crank.

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