Popularity and Immorality

Some groups seem to believe that there is a mass conspiracy pushing immoral media on society.

Though this theory could have a fair amount of truth to it when it comes to the movie and TV industry, I’ve seen it applied to books as well, which, at least in my mind, are less controlled by the mass media and tend to have a very wide variety of story lines. Most of the stories, like Harry Potter, weren’t even expected to be popular.
A recent where popular authors suddenly going off the deep end by adding immoral content after the stories are popular is a different matter I won’t go into.

Here, I will talk about a few books that I’ve read, and movies/TV shows I’ve watched. One thing to note is that with the majority of the stories mentioned bellow, it surprised people when they got popular. They weren’t expected to be popular when they first came out.

Harry Potter

Philosoper's_Stone_New_UK_Cover

The controversy (if any): Witchcraft and disrespecting authority
My view on this: I think the disrespect for authority could be the bigger danger to young children. The witchcraft may be a problem for some, and certainly isn’t something I’d put in my own books, but from what I saw from reading the first two books, it seems very make-believe to me. If I had kids, I’d avoid letting youngsters who weren’t mature enough read it. I wouldn’t want them influenced by the ideas presented. (I’m just going with what I saw of the first two books, not what the author might be subtly pushing or what happens in later books.)
Why I think it’s popular: Characters and clever writing. I’ve only read the first two books, but the writing was quite clever and humorous. When someone has to de-gnome a garden, it sounds pretty fun. The author has talent.
Do I like it? I’ve only read the first two books. I think the writing is clever and witty, but I’m not a big fan of witchcraft, even this wand-waving type, and for more reasons than just the moral issue. Though I think the characters are well-rounded, I have trouble relating to them.

Percy Jackson   

The controversy (if any): Pagan gods (I don’t see that much opposition though) The second series has another problem, but I’m not getting into that since it happened well after the series was popular.
My view on this: I don’t think it’s a big deal. These gods are never shown as deserving of worship so I don’t think it’s likely to lead older kids astray. (Reading the books made me thankful I don’t worship those extremely flawed gods.) I did see one youngster at the library who seemed to think they might be real, so with some pre-teens, it could be an issue. (I’m suspicious that the documentaries about the Greek Gods on TV could be more dangerous than the book since they’re presented in a more realistic tone.)
Why I think it’s popular: It has lots of humor, an interesting story, and good characters
Do I like it? I enjoy it quite a bit. Unlike Harry Potter, the characters’ powers are easy to keep track of so I feel like I can figure out what actions they should take.

Hunger Games 

The controversy (if any): Violence
My view on this: I don’t think the violence is that much of an issue for teens. It’s no worse than the average YA book. Yes, it’s probably too much for youngsters, but just because something is too mature for pre-teens doesn’t make it inertially evil.
Why I think it’s popular: The one is actually seems like it did get a lot of marketing before publication. It has a well-rounded main character. The writing is fast-paced and the plot involves a tyrannical government, which may be something young adults relate well to. Unlike the two above stories, Hunger Games doesn’t feel clever or humorous. It may have become popular because people were looking for something with an anti-government message.
Do I like it? I like the books and the movies.

Ranger’s Apprentice Series


The Ranger’s Apprentice by Saracia on DeviantART

The controversy (if any): This is an example of a popular book that is pretty moral. No good guys practice magic and the younger characters generally respect adults in authority over them. There are quite a few decent role models.
Why I think it’s popular: Very well-done characters, a good plot, and some humor.
Do I like it? Yep. It has really good characters.

Dark Life


The controversy (if any):
Nothing, it’s not popular enough. The main character did lie to his parents.
Why I think it’s popular: It’s not popular but it should be. The writing is great and the characters are well-rounded. It’s also got a cool plot twist. It simply hasn’t gained popularity, but I don’t believe that’s due to it being more moral.
Do I like it?: Yep

Star Wars

The controversy (if any): The Force
My view on this: It could be a problem if someone gets too caught up in it, but for the average viewer, it’s not a problem. It’s very different from real-world magic.
Why I think it’s popular: At least with the original trilogy, I’d say it was the characters. They were extremely easy to relate to. I also liked a lot of characters in The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. Both were/are serious shows capable of keeping the interest of adults.
Do I like it? I’m really into the politics of Star Wars. Other than the Force, which I mostly ignore, I don’t see a problem with it. I found all the characters in the original trilogy very easy to relate to. I doubt this was a big pusher for Prequels, but one thing that I really liked in them (where a few characters got on my nerves) was the politics. In The Clone Wars the political situation helped me relate to the characters really well.

Avatar: The Last Airbender TV series

The controversy (if any): Eastern Spiritualism (Legend of Korra has more problems and the writing isn’t as good, but I won’t get into that today since it came out after the series was popular.)
My view on this: I’d only worry about young kids who have trouble separating fantasy and reality, or are in a society where there is a lot of Eastern spiritualism promoted. It’s pretty obvious normal people can’t control water.
Why I think it’s popular: The characters, the writing, and the humor. The series has some of the best writing I’ve seen on TV.
Do I like it? Yes. The characters and writing are really good and the show often twists cliches. I can learn a lot from the writing.

Afterworlds

The controversy (if any): A lesbian romance, ghosts and an afterlife that contradict a Biblical worldview.
My view on this: The ghost thing didn’t bother me too much since I can separate the fiction from reality, but others might worry about this. The romance is a bigger problem since it glorifies sin.
Why I think it’s popular: Interestingly, this book is by a popular author, but it seems to be one of his least popular YA books. Sure, it’s more popular than a lot of books, but that’s most likely because he was famous before the book was published. His other books were much less controversial and more popular.

From this list, you can see there are some popular a few popular books that have nothing immoral about them. There are other popular ones that have controversial elements.
On the other side, there are well-done moral stories that are not popular but there are also some pretty immoral ones that are unknown.
The way I see it, many of these popular movies, TV shows, and books get popular because of great writing. Sadly, in some, there are immoral elements. To me, these seem like a black ink spot on a beautiful painting. Most people watching or reading (if I give humanity any credit, which I probably shouldn’t) aren’t consuming this art because they like the black ink blotch, they’re consuming them because, other than the ink spot, the art is beautifully done in a masterful way. I admit, there are a few who will enjoy the material and promote it because of the immoral content, but that group is rarely enough to be the reason for the popularity.

How should Christians combat this? Instead of spending all our energy trying to keep other people’s kids from consuming media we don’t like, we should learn from it and write something better, something with relatable characters, clever writing, and most of all, is God-honoring. We must strive for excellence, not cheap ripoffs.

What are your thoughts on this issue?

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About Jessi L. Roberts

I live and work on my family’s cattle ranch in eastern Montana. I have a flock of chickens, a hyper golden retriever, some cows, and a few horses. I enjoy fantasy and science fiction and my head is full of wild sci-fi story ideas, some involving apocalypses and others involving aliens. I have been published twice in Havok Magazine, an imprint of Splickity.
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3 Responses to Popularity and Immorality

  1. What a fascinating, thoughtful post! I think I agree with you: though I can’t speak for everyone, I know that if I read books with immoral content, it’s not because I enjoy the immorality, it’s because everything /around/ it is so fascinating, well-written, relatable, or whatever the case may be. So yeah, great post! And thanks for commenting on my blog! 😀

    Alexa
    thessalexa.blogspot.com
    verbositybookreviews.wordpress.com

    Like

    • Same here. There are a lot of popular things that have some bad content, which generally makes me wish they were cleaner since they have really cool stuff that isn’t immoral.
      And thanks for commenting on my blog. It’s kind of depressing when you work a long time on a post and then get no replies.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Bryan Davis says:

    Good thoughts, Jessi. I enjoyed reading this.

    Liked by 1 person

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