In my last article, I talked about purity and chastity and its importance in our lives. This applies to even the kinds of entertainment we watch and listen to. Graphic violence, nudity, and sex scenes are huge problems in TV shows in today's culture, and for Catholics and other Christians, this is a big concern and a good reason to avoid these types of shows if they are a huge part of the storyline every week.
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the virtue of purity is linked to that of modesty, and it is pointed out that modesty consists of one’s feelings as well as the body. “It protests, for example, against the voyeuristic explorations of the human body in certain advertisements, or against the solicitations of certain media that go too far in the exhibition of intimate things” (CCC, 2523). The “exhibition of intimate things” refers to nudity that is not necessary to the story and is not covered up by camera angles or objects and also to sex scenes that are graphically depicted. Whether it is intentional or not, these kinds of depictions can arouse feelings that are sinful, which is also a factor in giving scandal, another sin outlined by the Church. No matter how much we may try to convince ourselves otherwise, the things depicted in TV shows and movies do not take place in a vacuum. Therefore, they can have an effect on the moral state of an individual and, in turn, on society.
We all have a duty to discern and moderate what is coming to us from the outside world. What we fill ourselves with will come out. The more we fill ourselves with good, wholesome content, the more we will exude those good morals and principles to others. The same goes for bad, destructive content. Besides this, we all have a duty instilled in us by our Creator to do all things for His glory. 1 Corinthians 10:31 tells us, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” If even eating and drinking is designated for the glory of God, then how much more should our entertainment be geared toward it?
Now, unfortunately, in this day and age, it is difficult to eliminate all unclean and impure content from our recreation without going to live under a rock. In this case, a couple of questions are necessary to help us discern:
- Is the impurity part of the main plot of the story consistently? (e.g. In the show in question, does it seem to be the norm to depict graphic violence, nudity, and sex, and to have them be main parts of the story every week?). This can also be applied to cursing (is the F bomb dropped consistently or just once or twice when a particularly stressful situation arises? Taking the Holy Name in vain is NEVER acceptable.)
- When it comes to nudity, how is it depicted? Are the people openly naked and are they naked just to be naked? Also, how often does it occur? If the nudity is mostly hidden and just in passing for one scene (for example, at the end of The Passion of the Christ, it is obvious that Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus, was naked, but it was hidden well and it made sense because Jesus had just shed the burial cloths), then it is acceptable. Even if the impure parts of TV shows and movies are few and far between and do not mean to degrade the dignity of the human person, it is still a good idea to avoid them whenever possible.
So, the next time you turn on the TV to watch that show you've been wondering about, think long and hard. Is that form of entertainment really helping you respect yourself and others and bringing you closer to Christ?