Prudish Disclaimer: I can’t help but fear this post will come across as anti-fun and pro-Christianity… while I often am anti-fun and I am pro-Christianity, I’m more interested in your opinion on negativity in entertainment.
Please forgive me if I failed to remove the preachy tone! I’m the first to admit a sinister attraction for Law & Order: SVU, but I’m also conscious of the fact that I turn to it when I’m feeling negative and it doesn’t make me feel any better. I’m all for people watching and doing what they think is best for themselves and their families — and thinking deeply about the things they choose for both.
Have you ever felt depressed? Maybe seriously, or maybe lightly. You know it helps to get a healthy amount of sleep, exercise, and good food… but it might be time to reconsider your entertainment, too.
It’s not just The Walking Dead that might be encouraging you to feel depressed— it’s every TV show and movie that pulls you in with violence, sex, crudeness, and dystopian views.
I know what it’s like to be depressed, and I have a number of friends who know the feeling, too. I’m sure it’s closely related to the time of year, as November through March in my part of the world is notorious for depression, anxiety, and all-around malaise. But when everyone you talk to for more than ten minutes starts to hint at deeper feelings of dissatisfaction, sadness, and loneliness… maybe it’s something bigger?
The past year has let me in on a little secret:
What you watch and what you listen to affects your world view.
But Sarah, I’m an Adult, I Can Watch What I Want
You certainly can, and you certainly should! I’d be a little crazy if I thought everyone should have my own values and tastes. There are also examples of sex, dystopia, crudeness, and violence that could be argued to have lots of merit in moments of entertainment history. It would be silly to argue against all of it as a whole.
It’s not that adults can’t watch what they want without being affected by it. What I mean to suggest is that if you find yourself feeling sad, lonely, or disconnected from the world, it could be related to your entertainment choices. And you might benefit greatly from taking a break.
Feeling negative or lost and then watching a TV show about how negative and lost the world is won’t help you overcome your depression. In fact, it will only exaggerate it. When TV shows like The Walking Dead, Dexter, and Game of Thrones display violent, power-hungry depictions of life, it reaffirms our own negative suspicions and feelings, doubles them, and drags us in even deeper.
Sarah, You’re Too Sensitive And This Is Real Life
I used to think that this perspective was very prudish; that ignoring violence and sadness was ignoring reality and the way things are. But guess what? The way things are is also kindness, goodness, and possibility. The way things are is also being in tune with your personal religious perspective and filling your time with things that make you a better person — not things that distract you from your life with extreme lifestyles and gruesome images you likely wouldn’t experience in your lifetime outside of war and apocalypse.
I also used to think that positive thinking was just wishful thinking. Because anyone who could be happy or successful in a world like ours must be lying to themselves. But taking a negative, pessimistic view of something does not automatically mean it is the most accurate view. In fact, as a Christian I feel called to take a positive, optimistic view in spite of everything negative in the world. And that’s something I was missing out on when I was caught in an negative entertainment spiral.
Feeling Sad? Try Making Different Entertainment Choices
If you’re feeling a little more depressed than usual, here’s my challenge to you: Look at your routines and daily choices. Are you reading super-depressing books? Are you watching TV shows where people cheat in their marriages, lie to each other, die gruesomely, and are generally miserable? Are you listening to music about people wanting to have sex with everyone and anyone, all over the place? That might be contributing to your low mood.
Try giving them a break for a few weeks and see if you feel better. Not just more positive about your own life, but also more hopeful about the world and the possibilities in it.
For me, that meant swapping crass American Dad for uppity high-brow Fraiser. Ignoring the more low-brow, later seasons of Futurama in favor of the more-tasteful first few seasons. Swapping Ani DiFranco’s insightful but negative ballads for peppy, Christian PER Positive Hits.
The change was a little rough at first — I still think of those things fondly, and remember funny jokes from them. And from time to time I blast sad music or watch a crude TV show. But I am so, so much happier now, and I am so strongly repelled by the things I used to like that I’m amazed I ever made it through them in the first place.
But Sarah, It’s a Great Plot!
Extreme TV shows get away with their extremeness because they include great writing and great plots. But does that really redeem the whole package? There are great stories all around us — in books, movies, and in television shows from the past and being created now (or hey, create your own!).
You don’t have to watch gruesome, crude shows to hear an emotional, meaningful story. It just seems that way because there are so many of them and they’re so popular in (paid-for by public relations specialists) mainstream media.
I can’t deny that the past year has brought lots of changes that might make me happier: I am still a part of a happy marriage, and I’ve worked my butt off to stay self-employed as a freelance writer. But I know deep in my heart that positive entertainment and uplifting music related to my values has made a huge difference in my life.