Q. What are your views on current media for our kids and teens? Books? Movies? If they show true life, what do you think of that?
A. Books, movies, T.V., radio, Internet…there are many ways today that we are entertained, informed and, some may say, “bombarded” by modern media on a daily basis. It’s interesting to reflect upon the fact that of all these types of communication, only books have been around for more than a century! Every other form of modern communication is brand new to human society. And, I often wonder what sort of impact these new forms of media are having on us today.
So you ask my views on these forms of current media. In particular, you ask what I think of books and movies when “they show true life.” Here are a few thoughts.
The first thought I offer is that books and movies have great potential to stir up the imagination and engage the passions. That’s why they’re entertaining! That can be good when the imagination and passions are stirred for goodness in union with the truth. But books and movies can also stir up our imagination and passions in a way that is unhealthy.
So what if the book or movie is based on true life? Does it automatically make it ok and healthy if it’s “based on a true story?” In my judgment, no. Just because something is based on the reality of our world doesn’t mean it’s necessarily healthy for us. There are many things in our world that are “real” but are not worth spending time thinking about let alone being entertained by. I think this can be difficult but important to understand.
Let me offer an example from the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Before his conversion, St. Ignatius loved reading stories about the great knights who gained fame and glory. He also loved stories of chivalry and romance. When he read them he was inspired and imagined what it would be like to win the same fame and glory, win the esteem of others and to win the heart of a certain noble lady of the court. One day, Ignatius was wounded in battle and spent months recovering in bed. He asked for his favorite reading material but all they had was a copy of the Life of Christ and a book on the saints. As he read these books he was deeply inspired and imagined what it would be like to be a saint. Then he noticed a difference in the two forms of books and the effects they had on him. When he read the stories of the knights and romance he was stirred and inspired right away, but soon after felt dry and restless. When he read the stories of the saints he was also greatly inspired. The difference was that with these books, his inspiration and enthusiasm for living their lives left him at peace and content rather than dry and restless.
My suggestion to you is this. What we put into our minds will affect us. Find books and movies that portray the virtues we are called to as Christians rather than just portraying the reality of our sad and fallen world. And if you’re not sure if a certain type of movie or book is healthy, look a the effect it has on you or your children. Like Ignatius discovered, anything worth reading or watching should leave us with a lasting peace and contentment.