<< BreakPoint Daily Commentary

Why Are Hollywood Stories Soaked in Nihilism?

Two days after the killing spree near UC Santa Barbara that left seven people, including the shooter, dead, the Washington Post’s film critic, Ann Hornaday, commented on the “remarkably well-made” video made by the killer, Elliot Rodger.


The result was, or at least I hope was, the start of a much-needed discussion and debate about the stories we tell ourselves and each other.


After duly emphasizing Rodger’s history of mental illness, Hornaday wrote that Rodger’s “diatribe,” “might easily have been mistaken for a scene from one of the movies Rodger’s father, Peter Rodger, worked on as a director and cinematographer.”


More to the point, Hornaday wrote it was “clear that his delusions were inflated, if not created, by the entertainment industry he grew up in.” In bemoaning his life of “loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desire,” Rodger “unwittingly expressed the toxic double helix of insecurity and entitlement that comprises Hollywood’s DNA.”


She wondered “how many students watch outsized frat-boy fantasies like ‘Neighbors’ and feel, as Rodger did, unjustly shut out of college life that should be full of ‘sex and fun and pleasure?’ ” She asked “how many men, raised on a steady diet of Judd Apatow comedies in which the schlubby arrested adolescent always gets the girl, find that those happy endings constantly elude them and conclude, ‘It’s not fair?’”


Not surprisingly, Apatow and others took umbrage at being associated with Rodger’s killing spree. But Hornaday, who has written about how her Christian faith shapes her work as a film critic, wasn’t seeking to assign blame. She was exploring how “sexism, insecurity and entitlement” reflected in the stories Hollywood tells us have “shaped our own expectations as individuals and a culture.”


Her point about the importance of the stories we tell is crucial.


N. T. Wright has written at length about the role stories play in shaping our worldviews. Through these stories we answer questions such as “Who are we?” “How did we get into this mess?” and “What’s the solution?”

Stories are so powerful that we must exercise discernment when we read, listen to or watch them. A Christian colleague of mine, who viewed the first three seasons of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” hasn’t watched a single episode this season, even though he has recorded all of them.


What’s more, he suspects he won’t ever watch them. Not principally because of the nudity and violence: In previous seasons he fast-forwarded through those scenes. But mainly because his remote control has no button that can spare him from the nihilism of the story being told. As the Canadian magazine MacLeans put it, the message of shows like “Game of Thrones,” “True Detective,” and “The Walking Dead,”—another show my colleague gave up on—is “Life is tough and then you die.”


But Christians know that’s a lie. Christ has triumphed over sin, death and Satan. So why wallow in stories that insist otherwise?


Think about it—for yourself and your family. When St. Paul urged the Philippians to think on those things that are honorable, just, pure, lovely and commendable, he wasn’t being a censor; He was telling them the story about how the solution to what was wrong with the world became flesh and dwelt among us, defeating “loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desire.”


BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.

Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.

Publication date: June 5, 2014

More BreakPoint Daily Commentary Articles