Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Every so often when I’m at a loss for something to do, usually on Friday evening after a grueling week at work, I’ll turn to Netflix and look for a movie to watch on my laptop. Sad to say, I experience the same disappointment every time because there’s nothing I want to watch.

I went through the same ordeal for years when I would visit video stores, wandering from aisle to aisle and back again and coming away empty-handed after scratching my head and concluding, “There’s nothing here worth watching.”

The reasons were simple and had nothing to do with art, acting or cinematography. The movies usually had too much sex and/or violence – and let’s not forget stupidity. Even though I didn’t mind the stupidity all that much, the excessive violence and sex were more than my middle-aged mind could handle.

My kids scoffed at me because it reached a point at which I’d only watch PG-rated movies – or if I was REALLY daring, PG-13 movies. I wasn’t screening them for my children. I was screening them for myself. What does it say when you peruse hundreds of movies and can’t find anything you want to watch, or, even worse, anything you consider suitable to watch?

When my children were young, we had the same problem, until one night I came home from work and found them huddled around the TV, watching something inappropriate for the 107th time (it was Jerry Springer on this particular evening), so I pulled the cable plug out of the wall and cancelled the service, and my four daughters spent the rest of their teenage years watching whatever they could find via rabbit ears. Generally, their programming was limited to local news and weather. Or very old reruns of “Mr. Ed.” As I always told them, you can’t go wrong with “Mr. Ed.” A horse is a horse, of course, of course – unless it’s Mr. Ed.

To this day, we still don’t have a television in the house; however, from time to time, I rent movies to watch on my laptop or iPad.

It’s no surprise that the entertainment industry is a wasteland with little to offer families. However, I thought I’d made a great discovery recently when I came upon a made-for-TV film about miracles and kindness and love and redemption, and I thought to myself that things were taking a turn for the better.

It was one of those heartwarming movies about spiritual beings from another dimension – in this case, they came out of a magic lamp, sort of like genies, although the main character insisted he wasn’t a genie.

I watched two or so hours of this movie and felt good about all the things that were taking place, until I put two and two together and concluded these beings were supposed to be something resembling angels, but they were never called “angels.” They just went by their first names, sort of like Hank and Fred.

They kept telling all the characters in the movie who were suffering from family and personal problems that all they had to do was “believe” and things would get better.

It became the movie mantra – “Believe, believe, believe.” I heard it dozens of times, but the strange thing is that the angel impersonators never said what you were supposed to believe in. Santa Claus? The Tooth Fairy? Your inner strength? Mr. Clean? Of course, they never dared utter the name of God and certainly never hinted that God might be behind all the successes they were having, not to mention the source of any good in the world.

This, I was forced to conclude, is what happens when a secular industry sucks the spiritual dimension out of the otherworldly. Creatures that are supposed to be angels become genie-like do-gooders who could just as easily be working for Goodwill. And the Higher Power that we know as “God” becomes nothing more than a vague power of positive thinking. “Just believe!” But believe what?

Well, I don’t suppose I’ll have too much success in the future when I look for entertainment that meets my exacting specifications. But I guess I should add to my list that I’m sick of sex, violence … and secularism.

J.F. Pisani is a writer who lives with his family in the New Haven area.