Monday, April 17, 2006

God or the Girl - Episodes 1 & 2

Here's my take on the first two hours of the A&E show that is causing a bit of a buzz around Saint Blog's this morning.

- Title - So much has been said about this that I feel I'm beating a dead horse. So I'll be brief. It's a bad title. Most Catholics recognize this. But I don't think we Catholics realize that some non-Catholics might only hear of this show, and never actually watch it (in which case, I think, the confusion of the title would be cleared up). For these people, the title represents a dangerous catechetical mischaracterization. After all, the choice for a man discerning married life is certainly not "The Girl... or GOD?!" All told, though, the bad title is a minor flaw, and probably designed to spark the bit of controversy that seems necessary these days to draw a crowd. As I said, from the first two episodes, the show itself seems to clear up the false dichotomy implied.

- Premise - The premise is one of the show's weaknesses. People are already speculating about the relevance of Dan's carrying the cross and Mike's dating situation to a discernment process: I've read comments on other websites that suggest Dan's "stunt" is for show, and that Mike isn't "really discerning" if he's still dating. I think this confusion stems from the faulty premise. The decision these guys are making is not really to be priests: it's to enter a seminary. Now, of course, implicit is the sense of calling to the priesthood. But, there's no need to be 100% sure before making the step into a formation and discernment program. Pre-seminary discernment is about personal human development and spiritual growth: to these two matters, Dan's carrying a cross at the suggestion of a spritual director and Mike's dating at the suggestiong of his horomones/feelings are perfectly relevent. Just something to keep in mind...

- Format - A little cheesy. Par for the course of "reality TV." Of course, Catholic programming tends to be cheesier than most, so this is actually an improvement from the norm in a sense.

- Editing Over at Amy Welborn's there's quite a discussion taking place about the show. The comment boxes reveal homophobia run rampant and hasty judgements on nearly every front, though a few level-headed people have sounded off. What's amusing to me is that people are falling into the number one trap of "reality TV" - thinking it's reality. The fact is, we're seeing a chewed up and digested, edited copy of the real proceedings. Speculations about whether Mike's priest is presumptuous or "out to get him" are absurd. They're a stretch from what we have seen; and, given that A&E owns the cutting room, we can probably infer that what we haven't seen would provide substantial balance. This priest has known this Mike guy his entire life. We've seen less than an hour of his life. How can we judge the priest as being presumptuous, who has been advising this kid through the confessional screen for so many years? My point: there has been substantial editing, and while we might not need to take that into account to judge the show, me must take it into account before making assumptions about the guys that the show is portraying. There's a whole lot happening behind the scenes. It's a shame that so many people are already trying to ascribe alterior motives to these four guys.

- The Guys -
Joe The oldest of the four, he seems to have the most growing up to do. Now, I hope I don't seem to be making the same error as I have accused others of commiting in my above comment. But, hell, what girl would not be irritated if you were visiting her halfway accross the globe and didn't contact her until your third day in her country? And, as we know from the show, Joe is a former seminarian. And as a current seminarian, I can testify that some formation programs don't provide the best "human" formation possible. Perhaps he has fallen victim to such a program. I think he's sincere, though, and having seen situations where guys face objections and pressures from family, I can sympathize with his plight.

Dan This kid seems pretty cool. I know guys just like him. He seems really genuine and earnest, if a little bit naive. I think his spiritual director and housemates are great thumbnail images of the youth of the Church. I hope he makes it.

Steve Between Arlington and Lincoln dioceses, I don't know how this guy will manage to slip through the cracks. I have to admit, I enjoyed most in last night's show the part where he had a bit of a flop at his fundraising event. Humility is sometimes embarrassing just to watch in action. But seeing him handle it, for me, was the most "human" part of the whole show.

Mike I think many seminarians would benefit from watching this guy's story. Many guys have never quite had the experience that he is enduring, and it is a good opportunity for reflection and consideration. He seems like a decent character himself, and I don't read anything into his spiritual director's advice apart from a genuine, pastoral care. I would like to give the priest the benefit of the doubt, that his insistance is founded upon a knowledge of Mike's character and call to which viewers may not be privy.

My final assessment is that this show is a good thing for the Church, esp. right now with the DaVinci Code about to storm the nation again. The good that will come from it, united with our prayer, will far outweigh any negative publicity or misconceptions that it causes (that is, if the first two episodes are anything to go by). As it unfolds, you'll hear more from me. That's it for now.


Anonymous Sis said...

ahem... for those of us who don't get cable... are you taping it as requested??? ;)

4/17/06, 8:14 PM  
Blogger JMT said...

Yeah, I'll admit, I didn't think it was terrible. I watched an episode and a half, fully prepared to absolutely hate it, but it didn't make me want to scream or throw things. Maybe I should apologize to Shawn for calling him a heretic for thinking it might not be terrible. Nah.

4/17/06, 9:28 PM  

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