Thursday, February 11, 2010

Women, Faith and LOST

Television as a medium has a long way to go in its portrayal of both women and Christians, but in my rewatching of past episodes, ABC's LOST may be a promising start. It's not surprising to discover that TV is lacking in sophisticated portrayals of both women and Christian faith.

One of my favorite directors in television is Joss Whedon. Whedon is the creator of such shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and my personal favorite, FireFly. Despite the fantastical circumstances his female characters find themselves in, Whedon has been unusually successful in bringing them to life by grounding them in the common experience of women, and portraying that experience with a sympathy and a realness that is often a rarity in male directors. But what about the "common experience" of faith?

I'm hard pressed to think of a female character on television today who thoughtfully approaches issues of faith, but one that comes to mind is the character of Rose on LOST. For me, this show is one of the few on television that actively engages themes of faith. At its center is the fate vs. free will debate. Though it does so mainly through its male characters. Rose, albeit a character who screen time is dwarfed in comparison to the male characters of the show, embodies a thoughtful, confident faith that does not resort to stereotypes of religious folks. In one of the most moving scenes of the series, Rose prays with Charlie, a character struggling to make sense of a difficult situation. Her prayer (to "our heavenly Father") comforts Charlie and her faith impacts all those who come into contact with her.

I would love to see more of this kind of character, both to process my own faith and to help others understand the unique viewpoint of Christian women. LOST's subtle portrayal of faith has led to constructive conversations with millions of fans who would normally dismiss Christianity because of TV's portrayal of them as silly, judgmental or unintelligent. While TV has a long way to go, LOST represents small steps toward engagement with the issues of faith that make up our stories.

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