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I Can’t Follow All These Popular Shows and Movies; How Do You People Do It?

I find myself feeling lost and “uncool” among all these lists about the best popular culture of 2018.
| Jan 8, 2019 | 5 comments |

Not long ago, the internet was full of all those “best of” articles. This includes that favorite topic of those writers who explore popular culture stories in biblical perspective: the best TV/film/music/games/etc. of 2018.

Their lists leave me feeling very lost.

Here’s one example, from The Gospel Coalition‘s Brett McCracken. I already knew when I clicked on his article, “The Best Movies of 2018,” that I’d likely struggle just to recognize the titles. The results did not disappoint. I had not seen a single one of McCracken’s top-ten titles, and only recognized the name of a movie called First Reformed.1

I’d seen only two of his Honorable Mentions: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and, of course, Black Panther.

I might try to see Christopher Robin and certainly A Quiet Place.

But the other titles? I haven’t seen them. And some of them I hadn’t even heard of.

Several of these titles recur in a site closer to me, Christ and Pop Culture. (I’ve written there before and hope to write there again.) CAPC has been running a twelve-days-of-Christmas-style series. But, like many of the stories and songs favored by my CAPC colleagues, I struggle to keep up with all. This. Media.

Only the “Eight Worlds of Wonder” and “Ten Supers Saving” installments include stories I know well and enjoy.

The rest of them—I will either concede some level of disinterest, or feel annoyed for not being able to engage with them.

But apart from disinterest, I struggle with this thought: how in the world do folks have time for all these stories and songs and games and books and albums and beyond?

Especially movies that debut, not more accessible to streaming, but initially exclusive to theaters?

I’m not trying to be legalistic. Nor would I insinuate that movies are pre-judged worthless. Or that people ought to spend their money or time more effectively. I’m sincerely curious, and here’s why: Because I don’t even have children yet, and I can’t imagine taking this much time, not just for popular culture pursuits, but for engagement specific with That Latest Critically Acclaimed Film Everyone’s Talking About.

Previously I’ve felt uncertain about this. As if I’m missing out. As if people will judge me “uncool,” or perhaps even unequipped for cultural engagement or even evangelism.

But that’s silly. You don’t need to see all these movies, even the Critically Acclaimed ones, to participate in real life.

And you certainly don’t need to see them to be made aware of particular spiritual truths.

Anyway, I’m not a filmmaker or a full-time film critic. That’s not my creative calling. Books and magazines, and someday novels—ah, that’s more like it.

Though, to my credit(?), I have swayed a few movies’ Rotten Tomatoes scores.

Jan. 18 update: See this sequel article, in which friends of mine share how they find the time to follow these popular (or best-reviewed) films and shows.

  1. I saw the trailer for First Reformed, but the story just didn’t strike me as being very Reformed. Not a single tulip in sight. Honestly, even the highly acclaiming reviews from the Christian movie blogger set did not intrigue me.
E. Stephen Burnett is coauthor of a nonfiction book about parenting and popular culture (title TBA), to release spring 2020 from New Growth Press. He also explores biblical truth and fantastic stories as editor in chief of Lorehaven Magazine and writer at Speculative Faith. He has also written for Christianity Today and Christ and Pop Culture. He and his wife, Lacy, live in the Austin area and serve as members of Southern Hills Baptist Church.

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Tony Breeden

Stephen, your point doesn’t follow from the article you cite. Mccracken’s list is pretentiously artsy not popular. I saw First Reformed. It was a bitter disappointment. The rest of that list is a jaw-mccracken yawn until he gets to the honorable mentions like A Quiet Place and Black Panther.

His article would have been more accurately titled The Best Movies of 2018 To Avoid, of The Best Movies of 2018 You’d Be Better Off Missing.


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