Wednesday, July 28, 2010


With Jeff and Chris gone a few weeks ago, I had more opportunities to watch shows I normally wouldn't watch if they are around -- namely "Bones" and "House."

I've probably spent my entire life watching medical shows and police shows (my dad was a cop and couldn't stay away from them...he even had to watch "Hunter," even though he hated it). But I've been wondering more and more, what is our fascination with shows like "NCIS," "Bones," "House," "CSI," etc. Because there certainly are more of them than there ever have been, and they certainly are more gruesome and graphic than they've ever been. They are also more about the patient or the victim and less about the professional than they've ever been.

I remember having a discussion with Pastor Petersen one day about how our lit

Mark Harmon photographed by Jerry Avenaim.Image via Wikipedia

erature and t.v. shows reflect our societal concerns -- aliens in the '60's and '70's, genetically engineered epidemics in the '90's, etc. But what would shows like our modern crime and medical dramas show us?

I believe they show our fear of loss of identity -- loss of community. Think about it. When someone becomes a patient of Dr. House, a team of five doctors doesn't rest until they find what is wrong with you until you are restored to a state of peace again. The investigators in "Law and Order" do not rest until they have done everything they can to bring justice. Bones, Boothe, and the team focus their amazingly obscure knowledge and all of that they have into making sure that the skeleton and disgusting sludge that comes into the Jeffersonian go out with an identity and a solved murder.

How real is this? Most of us don't get a eam of five doctors who will do anything to make sure we are well. Often when we have five doctors, they don't bother to talk to each other much. We deal with one doctor who performs a couple of blood tests and shrugs during the 5 minute visit because they can't figure out why you feel like crap. Must be in your head...unless the blood tests say otherwise. In reality, I doubt that most murder investigations get the kind of energy that CSI, NCIS, Law and Order, or the others devote. Thinking of the loads these cops and attorneys have, I doubt they can devote that kind of energy.

We live in a culture where we are less connected to people. Sometimes (and it shows in the lives of the victims on these shows), there really are very few people who we interact with who make our existence make sense. That level of devotion that we see in these shows, I believe are a reflection of our society to want to believe that each of us matter, in a world where we are relinquished to ID numbers (this is often explicitly expressed in "Bones.") And in a world where we tend to not show ourselves at our most vulnerable, or the parts that we are most ashamed of -- these shows show us at our worst -- reduced to a smelly sludge, or if still alive, vomiting blood and other bodily fluids. But in the end, we are back to ourselves -- with a name and tied to a life.
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Untamed Shrew said...

I think inherent in each one of us is a yearning to never be given up on. Doctors give up. Lawyers give up. Teachers give up. Even parents give up! The only place we can turn to meet this deep yearning is Christ.

"Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands." Is. 49:15-16a

Susan said...

Two thoughts.

1. Wow, when I think about the number of homeschooling friends (even though they be long distances away, like over where you are) and the people at church, in addition to family, that IS a lot compared to who cares about so many other blokes.

2. About the team coming together to work relentlessly to solve a problem and help the neighbor/patient/victim. Gary's seen something rather sad since he's had his day-job. There is a huge amount of devotion to the job and the co-workers that seems to be in the place of devotion to family. So many people don't have family, or don't get along with family. The people you work with are the people you spend the bulk of your time with. So there is a lot of attention given to building camaraderie, getting along, and team-cohesiveness. It's okay for pastors' work to require a lot of devotion and love toward his spiritual children in addition to his biological munchkins. But when you're a salesman or a clerk or a construction worker? Do your job and get along with your co-workers, but save your devotion for your family.

Rev. James Leistico said...

That's a different angle on something I've noticed: an expectation (in my church members and society as a whole) that science/medicine can fix everything - if my doc can't fix me, he must be incompetent because another doc could have done it right. Some of the greatest anger I have heard has been expressed against the medical community - and I realized it comes from the expectation above, which in the end is an idolatry. I remember an ER where George Clooney has to face up to the fact that he cannot cure everything, and it shatters his idolatry of himself. I had assumed that our people's expectations had come from these TV stories. But your post makes me think perhaps not, that the shows come from our wishes and desires for perfect (though I note that each of the main characters are deeply personally flawed or have some tragedy weighing them down) doctors. Or maybe the character flows out of the expectation/hope, but then fuels greater false expectations.

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...


Interesting points. I think you are spot on regarding the idolatry in our culture. Our schools and our media definitely encourage a worship of government and science -- and science meets us at doctors. In many ways -- House is our new high priest.

It makes me think of when the Challenger blew up. That was our FIRST fatality in our space program, despite two decades of a very dangerous space program. That is amazing, really. The Russians have cosmonaut deaths in the twenties, and have had numerous rockets blow up. We don't really allow for human error anywhere that humanity and science connect.

Maybe that's what happens when you take science from being ONE way of gathering knowledge to having it be the only way of gathering valid knowledge.

Rev. James Leistico said...
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Rev. James Leistico said...

just a few slight corrections from this space geek: Apollo 1 was the first American astronaut catastrophe, though it happened on the launchpad during a pre-launch test in 1967. ("The Right Stuff" burned that into my memory, since Gus Grissom had also been a Mercury astronaut.) And then there was the Columbia disaster in 2003, for a total of 17 fatalities.

Interesting that you bring up the Soviets, since they tried running a society without any religion except that which gave full devotion to the State.

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

You're right. I think the comparison I saw quoting that was "in the same time period." and was before Columbia. Not to minimize those two disasters.

With the accidents that occurred during that time period, though, the Soviets had many more accidents than we did in order to get even close to that number, since a rocket capsule cannot take the same amount of passengers as a shuttle. But our reaction to it as a tragedy, rather than part of the scientific process is a very different approach.

The scary thing is that as human beings, we are looking for compassion from science, rather than from the Church or from our community. Science is atheistic, and no one seems to appreciate how much atheisitic "science" has been used to devalue life and commit atrocities.