For years the film industry has loved to use the richness of Catholicism to enhance story lines in movies and television shows. They love using our architecture, confessionals, rosaries, cassocks, and prayers because they offer so much sensory recognition and drama. These are the same reasons Catholics are so ripe for slapstick which admittedly can be funny. However, as America rapidly moves into an era of declining Christianity and increased secularism, we see our pop culture presence reduced nearly exclusively to cheap laughs and even flat out bigotry.
ABC has decided to double down on this anti-Christian narrative by working with the openly vulgar and outwardly hostile-to-the-Church activist Dan Savage. The show ABC and Mr. Savage have created is called The Real O’Neals which features an Irish-Catholic family of five. Judging by the show’s trailer, everyone from the priest all the way to the little girl of the family are selfish hypocrites. Citing hypocrisy among some Catholics isn’t that big of a problem–it exists and can be humorous. The issue is that it portrays the problem to be with Catholicism rather than flawed individual characters. But perhaps I’m overthinking this already. It’s hard to be personally offended at such a stupid show, doomed for cancellation. But it’s also hard to ignore the glaring double standard of Hollywood and our culture at large. Honestly, what other religion would it be acceptable to ridicule on prime time on a Disney-owned network station? So it’s the principle, not the pathetic content, that makes this offensive.
The priest gets called out for driving a Lexus instead of donating to charity. The little girl running the charity is stealing the money. The mom is overly-pious and shallow, trying to force people to believe in God and making her children Jesus pancakes. The father is a doofus cop that shuts down on important issues effecting his family. One child is secretly anorexic and the main character–supposedly Mr. Savage as a teen–just came out as gay while his girlfriend is pressuring him to pressure her to have sex with her using her 48-pack of condoms. The anti-intellectual, socially conservative parents are more shocked by their son being gay than the other two children’s problems. There’s also a statue of the Virgin Mary in the bathroom to remind the kids to keep the toilet seat down! Just your typical wacky Catholic family, right!?
I think most shows should be fair game for entertainment. However, there’s a difference between shows that are appropriate for HBO and Netflix and shows that are on free, prime time television, and are packaged as a family friendly comedy. Shame on ABC.
Contact ABC with your thoughts here.
Fun Fact: Only family that still goes to church regularly is the Simpsons! Funny how that used to be the edgy and “inappropriate” show for kids.