Beliefnet
Movie Mom
| This product uses the TMDb API but is not endorsed or certified by TMDb.
What kind of movie do you feel like? Ask Movie Mom Click here

Craig Tomashoff’ has a thoughtful article in TV Guide about the portrayal of religion and spirituality on television. It has some surprising examples. The often-outrageous animated series “The Simpsons” was praised for using “Christian faith, religion and questions about God” as recurring themes.Ned_Flanders.jpg

At first glance, it seems odd that a child-choking, beer-swilling glutton who has embodied all seven deadly sins could be considered a shining example of a man of faith. Then again, as the Vatican paper explained, the Simpson family “recites prayers before meals and, in their own way, believes in the life thereafter.” Even Melissa Henson, director of communications for the Parents Television Council, says, “The Simpsons is one of the more balanced treatments of faith-based characters that you’ll see. Flanders seems like a dork, but he’s sincere.”

Most prime-time elevision shows are designed to appeal to the broadest possible audience and producers worry that identifying characters with a particular religious faith will be controversial, offending both those who share that faith and those who do not. The result is a pervasive cynicism on television with regard to faith and people of faith.

A recent TV Guide Magazine poll found that 59 percent of readers believe religion and faith-based characters aren’t being treated fairly on prime time. As one respondent put it, “So often, religious people (read: Christians) are portrayed as crackpot, hypocritical, ultraconservative nutjobs.”

community.jpgThomashoff points to “Community’ as an example of inclusion and “The Middle,” “Lost,” and “The Good Wife” as shows that grapple with questions of faith in a sincere and respectful way. “Hellcats” has a Christian character whose faith leads her to decide not to have sex with her boyfriend. And Will Scheffer of the polygamous HBO drama “Big Love” says, “Faith is our main theme. All our characters will be struggling and questioning, but in a way that won’t be off-putting to viewers, whether they be atheists or true believers.” Stories — whether drama or comedy — are about conflict. When television writers and producers portray the struggles of their characters to find meaning and direction, questions of religion and spirituality provide an authenticity and connection to viewers.

We don’t often see death in comic strips and sit-coms. But on “How I Met Your Mother,” Marshall Erickson (Jason Segal) lost his beloved father Marvin (played by Bill Fagerbakke). And the title character in Garry Trudeau’s comic strip, currently celebrating its 40th anniversary of publication, lost his feisty mother Daisy. In both cases, the deaths occurred out of sight but the audience shared in the loss as we see the impact on the characters that to some of us feel like family.
Doonesbury has run a week of strips about the memorial service for Daisy, mostly focusing on the insensitive behavior of Mike’s ex-wife J.J. and his brother. In “How I Met Your Mother,” Marshall, who was very close to his parents, got the bad news in the last moment of the episode. I hope future shows will show Marshall and his wife Lily as they try to understand their loss and find a way to keep the best of Marshall’s father close to them.
I admire both Doonesbury and “How I Met Your Mother” for their willingness to bring the challenges of parental loss to their stories.
doonesburyfuneral.jpg

What’s the worst movie sequel you ever saw? I’d have to say the sequels to “Grease,” “Men in Black,” “Get Shorty,” and “The Whole Nine Yards” are tied for last place.
Many thanks to my dear friend and fellow critic Brandon Fibbs for sharing this excellent graph showing how well movie sequels hold up to the original films.
Sequel-Map-1-41.png

It’s a big moment in any movie when one of the main characters dies, whether in battle, by accident, foul play, or natural causes. The nice people at the information site ChaCha have done the math and figured out which actors have died most often in movies. They also point out some interesting patterns and coincidences — De Niro was killed by Pacino in “Heat” and then Pacino was then killed by De Niro in “Righteous Kill” and Bruce Willis had two movie deaths at the hand of his then-wife, Demi Moore.
dead-actors-medium.jpg