It suddenly hit me yesterday evening. After reading so many raving reviews, I had started watching ‘How to Get Away with Murder’. It’s from the same makers (Shonda Rimes) as Grey’s Anatomy, a series that I love. But after watching maybe 8 episodes of How to Get Away with Murder, it suddenly struck me.
Where is the hope?
I loved the friendships in Grey’s Anatomy: the friendship between Meredith and Christina above all, but also between the other characters. Despite many horrific events (a ferry disaster, two plane crashes, multiple car accidents, a sink hole, even an earthquake—clearly Seattle is a very dangerous place to live) there was hope. There was love.
The main characters sure have their faults, but they all have redeeming qualities: kindness, loyalty, being quick to forgive, you name it. In How to Get Away with Murder, that’s not the case. There’s no hope.
The main characters are liars, cheaters, manipulators, drug dealers, and ultimately even murderers. They’re self-centered, rude, cruel, violent. It may make for great television, as you keep watching to find out who did it, but in the end, it left me with a bad taste in my mouth and an empty feeling inside. This show offers no hope whatsoever, except maybe the hope of getting away with murder—literally.
It made me realize how much has changed in entertainment. TV series and films are moving towards realistic drama. Maybe the series and movies of old were too optimistic, too perfect—I get that. I used to laugh at a top series in my youth, Beverly Hills 90210, because the writers almost always managed to solve serious issues in one or two episodes, even eating disorders. Hence the trend to move towards darker stories, with more real-life events, more drama, more violence and more ‘sins’.
But with this trend, entertainment has lost much of its hope-appeal. How many series these days still offer hope? How many series make you feel good inside, believe in the power of relationships, in the goodness of people? (not that these are always true mind you, but at least they make us feel good)
Research shows that people crave hope more than anything. That’s true for teens as well, maybe even more. They need hope that life will get better, especially if they’re struggling in middle school or high school. They need hope for the future, that they’ll be able to go to college, get a job, find a partner. They need hope that this cold world that they live in, that they see around them, will get better.
Teens want hope. They crave it. But where can they still find it? If TV series and movies don’t offer much hope anymore, where will they find it?
Youth ministry should offer hope, above all else. Teens need hope and we have the most hopeful message ever. The hope of a God who is in control and is not ruled by fate or circumstances. The hope of a deeper meaning to life. The hope of a Savior who conquered all that is evil and sinful in this world. The hope for an eternity with God, where he will wipe the tears off our faces.
More than anything, we should offer hope and love to our teens. How are you doing this in your youth ministry?