Most of the time when I look around at my surroundings in this world we live in, I am encouraged by my time so far on earth, and blessed to be living in a place where I can have the freedoms I often take for granted- the freedom of family, friends, the ability to hope, dream and exercise religious freedom, even having a home, a roof over our heads, and the friendly neighbours whose helpfulness to us sometimes goes unthanked (unfortunately). However there are some people in this world (celebrities even!) that make choices that are unspeakable and unfathomable, and there are some things in this world that happen that are unfair as well.
Every day on the news we see drunk driving, passengers being killed, famous people using drugs and not living up to their expectations of a good role model to young people, neighbours at war over trivial issues, conmen scamming unsuspecting victims out of life savings, politicians scheming and lying to the camera, and scandals being brought to light after years in the darkness- some of these stories about our heroes even. On top of the somewhat deliberate actions of people who may have right motives, other less controlled occurrences occur. When there are natural disasters like famines, fires, floods, poverty, tsunamis, civil war and earthquakes, as well as manmade decisions bringing forth injustice, what can we do as individuals to take a stand? Fortunately, these next few favourite TV shows speak about the notion of justice, and while I may not agree with some viewpoints, these shows do make us think and question our definition of what is right and what to do, both in an individual and collective sense, with the world isn’t so.
One of my favourite TV shows currently, Arrow (based on the DC comics Green Arrow), debuted in 2012, to much critical and commercial acclaim, and is now headed for a third season in October this year. With Stephen Amell playing the main character Oliver Queen, who is both a vigilante and hero by night and a billionaire and business owner by day, Oliver was rescued after spending 5 years stranded on an island like in the film Castaway. Coming back to town (Starling City) to right his father’s wrongs and fight crime with his mask, Oliver has to keep his identity secret from his sister, mother, ex-girlfriend and best friend. A secret identity that brings all sorts of unsavoury characters into the town; Arrow explores the sense of justice that goes beyond the law and the rules.
Some of us may agree with the methodology of Oliver when he fights crime, and may actually want to emulate him when trying to make the world a better place; while others may even cry out that the show (and other superhero shows like it) are giving avid TV watchers a sense of reality which is not true- because frankly, has there been any superheroes in real life? Regardless on which camp you sit with, what Arrow tries to accomplish is a story of a man, just like the rest of us, who is willing to do what he reckons is necessary to save the city he loves. While it may lead him to colour outside the law lines once in a while, Starling City becomes safer because of the Arrow’s presence.
MONK, The Mentalist and Castle, alongside Arrow, have also been some of my favourite TV shows recently (with the exception of MONK, which ended in 2009). While not as swashbuckling or action packed as Arrow, these three shows do show us circumstances, stories and situations of how we can, should or even ought to act in the face of trials either done to us, or to people we love, respect and admire. With each of these three being police/procedural dramas that are similar in that each episode is standalone (each case is solved with about 5 minutes to go) with an overarching season-long theme; MONK, The Mentalist and Castle all display consultants as the leads.
Rick Castle is a single father and a crime fiction writer who helps the New York City police department on cases while also solving the mystery of who killed his partner’s mother. Adrian Monk, an OCD detective whose wife was brutally murdered, suffered a mental breakdown, and was discharged from the SFPD; and now solves cases as a consultant, with the help of his assistant (Sharona Fleming in earlier seasons, Natalie Teeger later on). Patrick Jane, lead on The Mentalist, also had a personal loss similar to Monk- his wife and daughter were horrifically slain by serial killer Red John, and now working as a consultant as he aides the fictional California Bureau of Investigation, conducts a search of his own- to find and kill Red John.
While each of these shows may show different roads and avenues of justice and what it means to the characters involved, what shows like MONK, Arrow, The Mentalist and Castle have in common is having the ability to be vulnerable with their characters on screen. While not necessarily relatable to everyone who watches, stories like being marooned somewhere and being rescued, serial killers, mental breakdowns and the like, while rare, are not without poignancy, and I’m sure someone who watches the show will be encouraged to look inside their own lives, and see if their idea of justice, is in line with the show’s or not, and whether the view of justice needs to be altered, changed, or even turned on its head as we view the world as it is today.
As a Christian, I am reminded, even through these TV shows mentioned above; everyone’s definition of justice and what they are willing to do for their own belief in right and wrong can seem murky at times. Reflecting upon what Christ has told us (that still stands tall and holds up today), I am reminded about James 1:26-27- Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world. To serve up justice in the form of revenge ought not to occur in our lives, regardless of our religious beliefs, and even if these TV shows advocate for it. Nevertheless, justice, a clear definition of it, and even how one should go about it, can take years to even comprehend.
What is your own view of justice, in light of these TV shows aforementioned, and the news in the world today? How has any of these TV shows (if you’ve watched any, if not all, of them) influenced the way you yourself see the world today? What do you reckon God thinks about justice and how it ought to be handled? Feel free to sound off your views in the comments. Til next time.