When I spotted this book on a trip to my favourite book shop (Barter Books in Alnwick), I knew I had to have it. Firstly, because I’ve heard Bryony’s name mentioned many times at our church as she was here before she went to train to be a vicar. And secondly, I’ve always found it interesting the ways that Christians are portrayed on TV, so I was really intrigued to see if I would agree.
The book is split into three sections: The Good, The Bad and The Quirky, with Bryony offering her reflections on each one. What surprised me was that The Bad, while not showing a ringing endorsement of what it’s like to be a Christian in 2018, were not necessarily bad in general. I guess it essentially boils down to ‘Vicars are people too’:
How do you feel about these realistic portrayals? Is it wrong to have a vicar character saying the ‘F’ word on television or is it refreshingly accurate?
If you are uncomfortable about these portrayals, ask yourself why. Is it because they are true? Is it because they present a version of a Christian that you don’t recognise to be orthodox?Bryony Taylor
Some of the characters referenced in the book were from shows I’ve never watched before, and after reading, I’m definitely adding some to my watch-list, like Rev and Bluestone 42. But my favourite section of the book was the section about comedy and its relationship with faith.
Since I started going to Church, I’ve definitely become more sensitive to religion-based jokes, and not just Christianity, but any religion. I agree with what was written in the book; ‘Mocking the evil things done in the name of religion or mocking comical clergy characters is fair game but once you get to the question of the actual beliefs held by Christians, there is potential for offence’. There are many things I hear now that I would previously have laughed at, but now I feel have crossed the line of what I find offensive.
In the book, Bryony gives examples of comedians who have gone too far, but also comedians who identify as atheists but use their religious upbringings as the basis for their jokes – these tend to be funnier (at least to me) as they are observational rather than derogatory.
So our response to these ‘bad’ portrayals? Let’s be British about it. If something offends you, good! It shows that you do care about what you believe. Be grateful that we live in a culture which encourages satire, encourages the challenge of misuse of power – it’s following in the tradition of Jesus Christ.Bryony Taylor
I think for me, the main thing that this book highlighted was not that there are so many ‘bad’ portrayals of Christians on TV nowadays, but that there are not so many good ones. As discussed in the book, you mainly see someone talk openly about their faith on TV only if it is somehow directly related to a plot point, not just as part of their every day lives. And if it miraculously is part of their every days lives, they’re likely to be over 70 and not at all representative of a growing part of the Church of England nowadays – I’d love to see some young Christian parts written into TV dramas/soaps that aren’t just the stereotype.
I’d definitely recommend this book, I read it in a day because I found the subject so fascinating, and the book was really well researched and presented.