Are crime shows today's most popular religious ritual?

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Are crime shows today's most popular religious ritual?

Postby different glory » July 17th, 2014, 9:22 am

This article is by no means deeply researched or thought through, but it raises an interesting point - is the modern (ie over the last 150 years) eagerness to read/watch stories of crime, detection and retribution a new secular form of the human religious impulse?
The article focusses mostly on a show I haven't seen (True Detective) and throws in one or two other factoids -- that the emergence of the detective story in novel form was contemporaneous with the emergence of nineteenth-century Darwin-bolstered atheism is one; the "priest-like" personae of many fictional detectives is another. Indeed, that last point could have been made even more strongly - there are many fictionaldetectives who are actually clerics of one sort or another - Ellis Peters' Brother Cadfael, for example, or Harry Kemelman's Rabbi series,or... ummm... Ruth Rendell?was it Ruth Rendell who wrote about a Scottish religious-poet-detective? And of course Father Brown.

So.... are Western societies in general giving up on religions to teach about sin and justice and bring stories of hope about the good triumphing ,and turning to crime stories in stead?
That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works. - Psalm 26
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Re: Are crime shows today's most popular religious ritual?

Postby Sprocket » July 17th, 2014, 9:58 am

Interesting thought. Sherlock Holmes was not only a detective but also something of a moral arbiter, sometimes letting minor criminals go without reporting them to the official police, provided stolen property had been restored and he was satisfied that the wrong-doer was penitent - most notably in 'The Blue Carbuncle',
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Re: Are crime shows today's most popular religious ritual?

Postby GregB » July 17th, 2014, 12:38 pm

It has also been pointed out that Poirot had a very strong moral sensibility. If these figures, operating on the frontier of human good and evil in terms of classic crime, have come to be regarded as some kind of new priesthood, then it may well be another example of how the advancing secularisation of our societies since the Enlightenment has spawned substitutes for a religious overview and explanation of the human story. The same phenomenon occurred with ersatz utopian political philosophies, such most notably as communism and fascism, which sought to relocate future heaven on earth now. Crime stories offer a basically simplistic (though entertaining) vision of the dualistic struggles between good and evil in the form of criminals and (though often flawed these days) one-dimensional saviour figures in the form of detectives, the new guardian angels of the good. Nothing, of course, about redemption from sin or any of the other key elements of, at least, the Christian message. (But, hell, where do those concepts figure in the audience ratings...?)

I've watched 'True Detective'. Moral morass matured...
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Re: Are crime shows today's most popular religious ritual?

Postby Pondero » July 17th, 2014, 1:36 pm

Father Brown stories were written by a devout Christian, Gilbert K.Chesterton, and apart from showing the foibles of human nature, and the cleverness of Father Brown, who in his unassuming manner was able to solve all mysteries, usually by noting events that happened that other people overlooked, was able to bring a Christian perspective to bear on the problem. I have read quite a few of these stories and I believe the purpose of G,K.Chesterton in writing them was to bring back your average secular person back to Christianity.His detective stories are not a substitute for religious belief.
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God alone never changes.
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God alone suffices.

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Re: Are crime shows today's most popular religious ritual?

Postby Lyn » July 17th, 2014, 6:45 pm

Crime stories and TV based on those stories are very popular but few have Religious (with a large "R" as the detectives. I have noticed a religious theme in many of the stories but not all. Western fans will say that crime took over from Westerns in the 1970s and that is true.

I read a crime novel a few years ago by an American, one of the Kellermans, in which a Jewish sect was preparing for the end of the world. They were not Messianiac Jews but believed armageddon was coming and they were preparing for it, including stocking certain types of cattle etc. They also referred to a drunken, adulterous film producer who produced a "religious snuff movie", obviously Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ".

There have been plenty of others with a Christian flavour. Add a bit of religion and it makes it more interesting (The Da Vinci Code being the exception which I bought in a charity shop and was too ridiculous to have a realistic base, same with Angels and Demons).

Never read Father Brown which I am sure is very good though tame and enjoyed watching Cadfael occasionally but most crime novels deal with more believable crime and the police force, forensics and forensic psychologists.
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Re: Are crime shows today's most popular religious ritual?

Postby Pondero » July 17th, 2014, 7:35 pm

They also referred to a drunken, adulterous film producer who produced a "religious snuff movie", obviously Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ".


Now that is carrying it too far, Victoria. The Passion of the Christ is a serious drama of the Crucifixion from the Garden of Gesthemani to the death of Christ on the cross. Calling it a snuff movie is insulting.
Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing make you afraid.
All things are passing.
God alone never changes.
Patience gains all things.
If you have God you will want for nothing.
God alone suffices.

— St. Teresa, The bookmark of Teresa of Ávila, [28]
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Re: Are crime shows today's most popular religious ritual?

Postby different glory » July 20th, 2014, 12:01 am

Returning to the topic...
Yes, it's partly true that crime shows took over from Westerns in the 1970s (and 1960s I'd suggest), though I think that's partly reflecting the rise of non-US-made television shows. In terms of television, and for historical reasons, the US pretty well had a monopoly on Westerns, whereas (unhappily) all countries could run convincing (more or less) crime shows - hence (in Australia) the emergence of Homicide and Matlock Police, and .. I don't know... that UK one which went for ages and ages and eventually went off the rail. :confused: The Bill!

Once local television industries cranked into gear, the Western (which was arguably nearly always a crime story anyway -- getting those outlaws!) slipped away.
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Re: Are crime shows today's most popular religious ritual?

Postby GregB » July 20th, 2014, 12:32 pm

Post moved.
Last edited by GregB on July 20th, 2014, 5:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Are crime shows today's most popular religious ritual?

Postby Lyn » July 20th, 2014, 5:21 pm

Pondero wrote:
They also referred to a drunken, adulterous film producer who produced a "religious snuff movie", obviously Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ".


Now that is carrying it too far, Victoria. The Passion of the Christ is a serious drama of the Crucifixion from the Garden of Gesthemani to the death of Christ on the cross. Calling it a snuff movie is insulting.


It wasn't me who said it Pondy. I saw the film on the day it was released over here and was profoundly moved. Since then I've had a rethink, but I still wouldn't call it that despite Gibson's reputation.

Sorry if it appears I went off topic, wasn't intended. It was more the subject of the Kellerman crime novel which was religious and a very interesting book, that I was talking about.
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Re: Are crime shows today's most popular religious ritual?

Postby GregB » July 20th, 2014, 5:23 pm

I think one of the main reasons for the decline of the Western in the 60's was the widespread disenchantment with the frontier myth, embodied in the figure of the cowboy hero, a modern knightly figure fighting the 'baddies' in the shape of the outlaws (Billy the Kid, et al) and the Indians (Apaches above all.) Then, the dominant liberal progressive narrative of the decade (influenced to a considerable extent by the anti-Vietnam War and civil rights movements) cast the white European settlers advancing ever westwards as the villains while the Indians were now seen as noble freedom fighters and the outlaws as basically mixed up kids à la James Dean, oppressed by repressive parents (eg. films like 'Soldier Blue' for the former and 'The Left-Handed Gun' for the latter.) Of course, the reality was that the Indians were, indeed, largely primitive peoples steeped in warrior culture and the outlaws were (often psychotic) criminal degenerates and gallows-fodder, but such hard facts never penetrated the skins of the chattering classes and talking heads who dominated the media of the time.

The relegation of the smoking Marlboro man from horseback hero to cancer victim probably didn't help, either.

The Western has been revived from time to time, but it has never really regained its place in the mainstream of Hollywood cinema and it's certainly true that the crime film and TV series have now become the main cinematic and televisual scenarios of the classic conflict between good and evil*, not least as they have their contemporary manifestations in all modern societies while the Western was confined to the America of one particular time.

[* The epic blockbusters of the Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and similar variety are another phenomenon worthy of study, but they hark back more to the great myths of antiquity.]
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