There are two weeks left of the current season of The Bachelor. Up until a few weeks ago I had never watched a single episode of this reality television franchise. I have now watched four whole episodes and I have to admit that I have become rather invested in the love life of Sam Wood. Who will he take on homevisits? Who will be in the final three? I may have been heard shouting on more than one occasion ‘If he doesn’t pick Heather this whole thing is rigged.’
I would never have started watching The Bachelor if one of my housemates hadn’t introduced me. It has now become a habit in our house that on Thursday night if we are all home to sit down and watch the bachelor together. I can honestly say watching it together has been heaps of fun. In a new household I think the Bachelor has really helped us spend time together and given us a shared experience. We have also discovered that we are all really witty.
Keeping in mind that we need to be discerning about what we watch and sometimes we shouldn’t watch certain shows as they won’t be good or helpful or could potentially be sinful, this whole Bachelor experience has made me think about television and community.* It feels weird to ask this question but in some contexts, can watching television together create community? We have book clubs, can we have television viewing clubs? From this community is there potential for evangelism?
All the way through university my housemates and I use to watch TV shows together. Our friendships were never based on television; we had solid friendships without television. But we use to have so much fun. On some nights there could be up to 15 people. Someone would bring waffles, another ice cream and another ice magic. I don’t actually remember how much television was watched but I do remember we had a great time. It is six years since the majority of us who use to gather on a Sunday night have finished university but on most Sunday nights some of us still gather to watch a show together. I can honestly say that I look forward to these evenings when I can make it along. I don’t really care about the show being watched, I just want to hang out with my friends. There is a real sense of community when we gather together.
Watching television together has not only built a little community but we have also learnt a lot about each other. You can learn a lot about someone by their viewing habits. You can learn how they unwind, what they like and don’t like. But you can also learn something deeper. You can learn about how they view the world and what they value. I am sure that some of my comments while I have been watching television have on more than one occasion revealed what I truly think.
We live in a time when some great television is being written about humanity and exploring what it means to be human. An unbelievable amount of ethical questions are being raised by television. These stories can provide Christians with opportunities to discuss issues that may never naturally come up in conversation. Frank Underwood’s behavior in House of Cards surely makes us question ethics in politics, adultery on The Good Wife must force us to think about marriage and commitment. The issues raised in Glee are too numerous to number. These shows are testing and pushing societal norms. Christians can use these shows to push back but also share the gospel. I remember someone asking me many years ago why I watched The Wire. My response was it reminds me how sinful and broken we are has humans and spurs me on to share the gospel. It is really hard to deny the total depravity of man when one watches some television shows.
If the rise of Netflix in Australia is anything to go by there are lots of Australians who are watching a far amount of television. Is there a way to engage with the world around us through what they are watching? How cool would it be if you could turn what you have been watching and you know your colleagues have been watching into a gospel opportunity. I don’t quite know how to do it but it is possible to take the premise of The Bachelor and argue that God wants something more for us. That God wants more for relationships. It is possible through a show like The Bachelor to show people what true love is? To show them that true love is God sending his Son into the world.
*There are valid questions that could be asked about watching The Bachelor and some television shows in general. This could probably take up another blog. Please note I am not advocating for The Bachelor but just that watching it in community has driven my thoughts.