I’ve always loves puzzles and mysteries, so for entertainment I am naturally drawn to Who Dunnit’s and other mystery stories. Everything from the earliest novels of Wilkie Collins and Conan Doyle to today’s forensic detectives show up in my bookcases and on my video screens.
Recently I’ve become uneasy about a trend I’m seeing in this genre. It seems to me that the bad guys are becoming ever more evil and more the focus of the story as writers and authors attempt to hold their audiences’ interest with greater challenges for their fictional heroes.
Perhaps this trend began with the Sherlock Holmes stories. Conan Doyle must have quickly realized that he had created such an infallible detective that the stories would become predictable without more and more difficult crimes, so he created the Super Villain, Moriarty, to match wits with his Super Detective.
The more skilled and ingenious the good guy in the story is, the more devious and evil the opponent must be, for the sake of excitement and dramatic tension. This is especially so in episodic drama where the story builds with each week, each volume or each movie sequel.
Serial killers are a favorite, especially on the TV crime dramas of this type, and in order to engage us and make us root for the hero we are given detailed glimpses into the depravity of the evil-doers.
I enjoy watching my favorites, such as Patrick Jane of The Mentalist or the team on NCIS, match wits with the likes of Red John or the Port-to-Port Killer, but the source of my recent unease is the way these villains have become so much larger than life. They seem to have abilities and powers more akin to comic book superheroes.
In sustaining the dramatic tension for a whole season or beyond the writers of these series and others have made their serial killers, suspects or “unsubs” almost omnipotent. These evil men have associates at all levels of government and thwart our heroes at every turn, killing innocent victims in ever more atrocious ways until (hopefully) finally being defeated in the last episode.
If you attend a church service or praise gathering you will hear the phrase, “Magnify the Lord”. This comes from Psalm 34:3 “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.”
Christians are called to magnify the Lord, that means to make him our focus and enlarge him in our lives and in our presentation of him to others.
I’m afraid that some of my favorite books, movies and TV series are magnifying evil, instead, in the name of entertainment.
It makes me wonder what my is life magnifying today.