Which TV shows were staples in your home? I grew up watching classic shows like Lassie, Dennis the Menace, and The Andy Griffith Show, but I also enjoyed Full House, Family Matters, and Saved by the Bell, just to name a few.
Sitcoms help us alleviate stress, they cheer us up, and they transport us to another place. At the same time, they can wreak havoc on our expectations.
Follow Your Heart
Many TV shows – at least the ones I grew up watching – paint love as an avalanche of feelings and confusion.
I love you, but someone from my past came back into my life. Now, I’m confused. Who do I love? I need to go sit under the bleachers and cry. Who will I choose? I’ve never been so stressed in my life. Wait, this guy always treated me terribly, but the other one is like a prince. It’s a sign. I should follow my heart. This guy may be a jerk, but he’s my jerk. I love him. I must be true to my feelings. Wait, he broke my heart. I was so sure he was the one. What will I do? I’ve been single for five minutes. My life is falling apart. Who can love me now that the best months of my junior year in high school are gone?! Is life worth living? Who is that coming towards me? It’s my prince! He never gave up hope. Oh, Prince! I will never leave you again. You are my only true love!
It’s laughable now, but I was affected by these teenage dramas. Love was supposed to be exciting, a little confusing, passionate, and filled with emotion! And, if I followed my heart, I would surely find it!
However, after years of emotional turmoil, I found out the Bible was right instead. Imagine that!
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, ESV).
The Star of the Show Always Gets the Girl
We tend to identify with the star of the show. Even if he or she is nothing like us, we are transported into his or her shoes for a half hour. The more we see the star of the show crowned homecoming queen, getting the girl of his dreams, and having every aspect of his or her life pan out perfectly, the more we come to believe life is supposed to be that way.
Why don’t I have a boyfriend? What’s wrong with me?
Why am I not popular? Why haven’t I landed a $40,000/year job right out of high school?
Sitcoms, and dramas, paint an entertaining, but unrealistic picture about life. We cannot all be the quarterback, the head cheerleader, or the valedictorian; but, after watching copious amounts of TV, we can begin to feel devalued because we have not achieved the same level of scripted “success.”
Why Are We Not Living Happily Ever After?
It’s not that sitcom love doesn’t have its rocky moments, but TV couples tend to work through their problems easily in one short, emotional, and funny scene. After an apology, a hug, and a few clever remarks, sitcom couples are deemed happy and healthy!
Well, why can’t we work through our problems so easily?
Sitcom couples have energy, passion, witty comebacks, an endless wardrobe, makeup artists, and scripts. These people are not real; and, if we were able to see into their real worlds, we would find that they deal with a lot of the same relationship problems we face.
On the other side of the coin, we often see intense dramas portraying dysfunctional relationships – often with couples never fully resolving their conflicts (okay, maybe at the very end of the series). This message is just as unhealthy, if not more so, than the “everything works out in thirty minutes” message.
Not every lesson we learn from TV shows is negative. Plenty of teen shows from my time taught us to say no to drugs, to have respect for ourselves, to work hard, and to give to those in need.
However, along with the good messages we were taught that love is primarily about feelings. That love comes and goes when feelings change. That if you want someone badly enough, he or she will eventually love you. That part of loving someone is occasionally treating him or her poorly. That it’s normal to have a new love interest every “season.” That you can declare your undying love to someone one day… and then break up with him or her the next day.
By the time we take in all these contradictory messages, love seems scattered, unpredictable, and unreliable – something to pursue, but also something to fear. Our world is filled with hurting people who have been scarred by what they originally thought was love.
We had such chemistry. We fit together perfectly. Our relationship started out so well, and then it was all downhill. I’m not even sure what went wrong.
Chances are no one ever taught them how to love simply and purely.
Evaluating the Media Love Messages
Rarely do sitcoms paint love as an action – something we do even when we have to dig up the energy to do it. Since sitcoms are designed to make us laugh, they tend to leave out the grueling hard work that relationships often require. Instead, they show us family dinners, Hawaiian vacations, and all the happy moments of life.
When you choose your mate and start your life together, remember that most media portrayals of “true love” are faulty. When you begin to feel like something is wrong with your relationship because you are not happy enough, fulfilled enough, exciting enough, or rich enough… don’t turn on the TV.
Instead, crack open the Bible. What is normal in God’s eyes? What about your relationships is pleasing Him and what needs to change? Don’t stress out if each day is not magical. I guarantee you that Abraham and Sarah had many hard days! So did Isaac and Rebekah! And, so did Ruth and Boaz! God’s favor on us does not exempt us from trying times and hard life lessons.
My recommendation is to enjoy clean sitcoms in moderation, but remember to test what is good and praiseworthy through the eyes of Scripture and not your favorite show. ~smile~
Did you learn poor lessons about love from your favorite TV shows like I did?