I almost rage-quit a video game recently. Not because it was too hard, or crashed too horribly (the usual reasons gamers quit particular games)—no, it was because of the cutscenes.
This particular game was the sequel to an adventure role-playing game (think Final Fantasy). The original game was focused around the usual trope of saving the world, with the occasional joke about which character had a crush on which other character thrown in for character development. The sequel, on the other hand, opened with the mother of the 19-year-old protagonist asking him when he was going to get married. Five hours in, a third of the cutscenes had to do with the actual save-the-world-again plot and the other two thirds were about the hero’s love life, the hero’s younger brother’s love life, or the 40-year-old mentor’s long-dead love.
For a thirty-some year old single, it was a bit much. I turned the game off for the day and finished reading The Yearling instead.
Pop Culture’s Pervasive Lies
The truth is, other than too many clichés about needing to get married Right Now, that particular game was relatively benign. Most people—singles in particular—hear much worse messages every day.
Take, for example, Pixels, Adam Sandler’s most recent box office flop. When three schlubby men and one token Hot Woman team up to fight an alien invasion, the men are rewarded (or at least promised) hot women as literal trophies…and the main female protagonist is herself essentially one of the prizes. Clearly, the moral is that every man deserves an attractive lady by his side, even if one of his biggest life accomplishments was coming in second in a Pac-Man tournament 30 years earlier.
Most music isn’t much better. At the moment, OMI’s “Cheerleader” is at the top of Billboard’s Hot 100. In some ways, it’s an uplifting song—the singer is grateful for his girlfriend and promises to be faithful to her. On closer examination, though, the song fails to depict a healthy, strong, male-female relationship. Here’s the woman’s role, as presented in the song:
- Be the man’s motivation
- Stay strong
- Stay in his corner, right there when he wants and needs her
- Be his cheerleader
- Walk like a model
- Grant his wishes like a genie in a bottle
- Give him love and affection
Here’s the man’s role:
- Not cheat on her with all the woman who are throwing themselves at him
- Have, as the wizard of love, the “magic wand”
- Pop the question
Yes, this is a three-minute song. No, I don’t expect it to contain the same nuanced evaluations of relationships as are present in, say, Anna Karenina. But it’s awfully one-sided, especially when a simple reversal of the chorus could have shown a much better picture of a truly loving relationship. Imagine if, instead of the woman always being the cheerleader, the last chorus were reversed: “Oh, I want to be her cheerleader / Be always right there next to her.”
Now, certainly there is a place for mindless entertainment. In fact, when “Cheerleader” comes on the radio, rejoice that it celebrates fidelity and long-term commitment. But the problem is, these examples are the rule of most entertainment options these days, not the exceptions. Movies, TV, music, magazines, billboards, and yes, even my beloved video games all glorify sexual promiscuity over virginity; they all promote relationships (even unhealthy ones) over being alone; and they play selfish acts in relationships as humorous quirks instead of marriage-harming behaviors.
And the more you listen to these sorts of lies, the more you start to believe them.
How Lies Affect Your Thinking
Shortly before the movie 50 Shades of Gray came out, a fellow Covenant Eyes employee got into a debate with her sister about whether she should see the movie. To us here at Covenant Eyes, it’s poorly-written smut at best and outright pornographic at worst; to my coworker’s sister, though, it’s a compelling story.
Debates about its relative literary merits aside, my coworker refuses and will continue to refuse to watch 50 Shades of Gray or its already-ordered sequels. As she explained, “I don’t want either the sex or the violence in my head. I don’t want them to change who I am.”
My coworker was exactly right, of course. She was echoing what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
This doesn’t mean becoming puritanical in our entertainment choices. It simply means being cautious about what enters into your heart and life. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Fill your heart with garbage, and from it will flow garbage. Fill your heart with obnoxious platitudes, and from it will spring obnoxious platitudes. Fill your heart with thought-provoking work or clean hilarity, and from it will spring thought-provoking work and clean hilarity.
Nowhere is this process of mental wearing more evident than in porn. Studies have shown that as few as 3 hours of porn a week results in a marked decrease of support for women’s rights. Porn use also causes demonstrable change in neurochemistry, which retrains your brain to be turned on by variety and not by your spouse. So if you’re married, you’re likely to get bored by your spouse. If you’re single, you’re going to have a hard time finding a spouse in the first place, because your thought process has been changed enough that no one person can meet your expectations.
Porn is obvious, but other media choices can have more subtle impacts as well. Let’s take video games for a minute, as an example that’s near and dear to my own heart. Obviously, I’m not going to suddenly say that all video games are evil. There are, however, certain lines that I’ve had to draw for my own mental health. I enjoy first-person shooters, but if I’ve been playing too many of them I find I’m more likely to react to frustrating situations in anger or swear (usually in my head, at least, and not out loud). If I’m feeling particularly self-aware, I’ll take a break from video games for a bit. Usually I don’t realize the impact on my mood until I’m halfway through the next game. I’ve tried to balance the violent games with puzzle-based ones, but I suspect they wear at me more than even I realize.
Whatever media messages you consume regularly are eventually normalized. Watch 50 Shades of Grey on repeat, and you’ll normalize consensual sexual violence. Watch Adam Sandler movies, and you’ll normalize crude and misogynistic jokes. Play too many violent video games and you’ll normalize anger as an acceptable response. Everyone will have a different threshold for what they consider morally acceptable—a friend and I already have plans to watch Pixels during a bad movie night for the express purpose of heckling it, for example—so my point is not to impose legalism where we have freedom. But it is important to be mindful of how your entertainment choices may be influencing your behaviors.
Using Positive Media for Healing
The corollary to ditching bad entertainment options is to surround yourself with good ones. After all, if negative examples in the media can change your acceptance of social behaviors, then positive examples in the media should help reset them. By the way, ratings are not always the best indicators of positive messages. The misogynistic Pixels is rated PG-13. Meanwhile, Mad Max: Fury Road (rated R) fights against harems, digital or otherwise, and Inside Out (rated PG) values the roles of parents and puts women in leadership roles.
Finding wise entertainment is especially important when you’re feeling stressed and depressed—emotions that often lead people to watch porn to feel better. It’s easy to say the correct response to these cravings is to read our Bibles and pray, but in the middle of the struggle, it can be hard to convince yourself to do so. Instead, especially early in recovery, the better solution may be to turn on the radio or pop in a movie—do something to give us a sensory replacement of watching porn without the sexual aspects.
There’s a biblical basis for this. Saul, the first king of Israel, suffered from literally demonic bouts of depression. When the then-unknown David came and played the lyre for the king, “Saul would be relieved and feel better, and the evil spirit would depart from him” (1 Samuel 16:23).
Or, as Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors sings:
Music, it makes you feel good, makes you feel understood,
Like you’re not alone, you’re not a rolling stone,
Not the only one on the road.
Songs and movies have helped me on my own journey. They have helped me name my emotions and needs; they have helped me weep when tears wouldn’t otherwise come. There have been seasons where I’ve put a particular song or album on repeat, because that particular music has helped me channel and interpret my circumstances. In some cases, the songs have reminded me that my own struggles aren’t unique.
Over the years, some favorites have made it onto mix CDs and playlists, often revolving around some form of life change. One such playlist centered around my rocky transition from grad school to the professional world; nearly all the songs included a theme of uncertainty and instability (such as Ben Folds’ “You Don’t Know Me”), but the CD ended with Switchfoot’s “This is Home” from the Prince Caspian soundtrack; every time I listened to it, it brought me on a musical journey from doubt and fear to faith and belonging—a journey that roughly mirrored my own, and led me to deeper trust in God.
The trick is to actually pay attention to the message of the music you listen to or the movies and TV shows you watch (you internalize them, even if you don’t actively listen to them). Then surround yourself primarily with the messages you want to hear. Let the music or the movies or the TV shows or the video games reflect your own self-doubt, yes; but let them lead you to a place of hope.
“Let’s take video games for a minute, as an example that’s near and dear to my own heart. … I enjoy first-person shooters, but if I’ve been playing too many of them I find I’m more likely to react to frustrating situations in anger or swear (usually in my head, at least, and not out loud). If I’m feeling particularly self-aware, I’ll take a break from video games for a bit. Usually I don’t realize the impact on my mood until I’m halfway through the next game. I’ve tried to balance the violent games with puzzle-based ones, but I suspect they wear at me more than even I realize.”
Truth. Open world games such as Grand Theft Auto Online (such as what I frequently play) are both a lot of fun, but a dose of negative influence all at the same time. You can easily avoid some of the bad aspects of the game (between the script kiddies and the NPC language), but some you have no choice over. Still wrestling with this; it’s admittedly hard to let go of.
Great post, Lisa. The media we feed on is as much of a “don’t go there” issue with believers than the topic of sex/sexual intimacy.
Thank you for this article. Movies and video games are a hot topic for me. As a wife to a porn addict, who is just starting recovery, and the mom to 8 children this is a *huge* battle in our home. I sometimes seem to be the one on the outside looking in. It is very obvious to me the effect of movies and vidoe games have on my family members. It has always, ALWAYS been a HUGE clue to me that my husband was slipping into sexual sin when he increased his movie watching, and the content of those movies.
Aside from what the movies or games are ‘teaching’, there is also the passiveness to the watching/playing. My kids go to a whole new level of laziness if their movie intact increases. I have been battling this monster for our whole marriage (20 years). This past year, after my husband lost his job due to porn, I sunk into a great depression. I could not deal with fighting this beast and decided to not fight for a while. Ugh! Now that I am trying to pick up the pieces it is proving difficult to bring my kids out of the swamp of laziness. We are making progress day by day, but there is an addictive nature to letting your brain be passively entertained…even if it isn’t negative messages. We will be having a bit of a computer fast coming up. Their book selections will be positive and not junk reading. No movie watching for a while, but instead family games, working on hobbies or projects. We have done this one other time and it is truly ‘painful’ for them.
Thank you for bringing this topic up as I think this is a weak area for many people. I had more than my share of foolish TV watching growing up, especially in my teen years and early 20’s. Then something amazing happened…I found the library :-) Ha, ha! Growing up I thought the library was only used for school book reports. Now I don’t have time for movies or games. Raising a large family limits my time, and the time I do have, I prefer to spend elsewhere.
If you’re interested in getting help reformers unanimous is a great place to go for help with addictive behaviors
Go to reformersrecovery.com for location near you
Always remember that Americanized women have all been raised and badly programmed in the toxic, corrosive, negative world of feminist. Through no fault of their own… .they just can’t help but look at the world (and you) like a feminist and think like one. Only in America will a woman actually drag you into court for being “TOO NICE” to your own wife.
And you won’t even be honored for saving her life!
A woman will look for the NEGATIVE in every single one of your qualities – including the positive – and spin it into a negative.
If you put a woman on a pedestal and try to protect her from the rat-race, you’re a male chauvinist.
If you don’t you’re sexist.
If you stay home and do the housework, you’re a pansy.
If she stays home and do the housework, you’re oppressive.
If you work too hard there is never any time for her.
If you don’t work enough, you’re a good-for-nothing bum.
If she has a boring repetitive job with low pay, its called “exploitation”.
If YOU have a boring repetitive job with low pay…..
you should get off your *** and find something better.
If you get a promotion ahead of her, that is favoritism.
If she gets a job ahead of you, it’s equal opportunity.
If you mention how nice she looks, it’s sexual harassment.
If you keep quiet, it’s male indifference.
If you cry, you’re a wimp.
If you don’t, you’re an insensitive bastard.
If you make a decision without consulting her, you’re a chauvinist.
If she makes a decision without consulting you, she’s a liberated woman.
If you ask her to do something she doesn’t enjoy, that’s domination.
If she asks you, it’s a favor.
If you appreciate the female form and frilly underwear, you’re pervert.
If you don’t, you’re gay.
If you like a woman to shave her legs and keep in shape, you’re sexist.
If you don’t, you’re unromantic.
If you try to keep yourself in shape, you’re vain.
If you don’t, you’re a slob.
If you buy her flowers, you’re after something.
If you don’t, you’re not thoughtful.
If you’re proud of your achievements, you’re full of yourself.
If you’re not, you’re not ambitious.
If she has a headache, she’s tired.
If you have a headache, you don’t love her anymore.
If you want it Too often, you’re oversexed.
If you don’t, there must be someone else.
THE BOTTOM LINE…. EVERY one of your qualities will be spun as a negative. This can easily be studied and understood by countless psychologists and anyone with common sense.
So what guy would EVER want to be the loser who treats her WELL???
Make sure it isn’t you.
Be the Jerk she WANTS you to be!
Give her what she WANTS.
So really Lisa, I am tired of hearing about misogyny because it is all BS.
I am sorry that you feel this way. What you say is true about our culture. But not true if a women truly has a personal relationship with Christ. I think what Lisa is saying is we have to becareful of what we let enter our hearts thru listening, watching, and playing. “Whatever a man thinketh he is” You might want to read it again. Cursing isn’t needed either to get your point across. I will pray that you can deal with your heart issues anout women. Peace be with you. Blessings
I think what porn does is force people to acknowledge just how much women use sex to get what they want. America is in denial about women. We cling to this notion they are innocent little flowers that just want love and families. No, the reality is that millions and I mean millions use sex to get what they want. Proof you ask? Go look at the numbers doing porn, stripping, escorting, massaging, web camming, modeling, and doing homemade porn. Then, throw in the look at me aspect of selfies. People are really seeing how vain women are. But really the bible tells us about this. Women have manipulated in the bible since the beginning of time. The difference is that in the modern world no one can call out women and tell them to behave and stop doing what they are doing. If you do, you are suddenly a misogynist. But the reality is that this will all take care of itself. Women are going to keep doing this more and more and people will see the truth.
I am sitting here reading People magazine as I type this. In People, a non-porn product, I see nothing but woman after woman do selfies and essentially saying look at me, look at me. It is all about me, me, me, me. It is constant. These women are millionaires. Just about every one of them and yet, they still do it. They don’t have to do it but they do it anyhow. There is no grand conspiracy by men to keep their mothers, sisters, girlfriends, wives, and daughters down. The reality is that women are sexualizing themselves. So pick on Adam Sandler movies if you want, but you need to extend your complaints to what women do in society. It is ironic that women get dressed up, wear plunging necklines, wear five inch stilletos, and do everything in their power to attract attention and then turn around and complain when a man notices. Call me a misogynist if you want but women need to take way more responsibility than they do in society. There is no grand conspiracy. Maybe a Women’s studies class might try to create one but I assure you, having worked in the corporate world — there is no conspiracy and in fact, being a woman is more of an advantage. If anything, men are the ones who get discriminated against.
Good points about being mindful of our media consumption. I read a book once called Lust Virus (highly recommend) amd the author suggested that we abstain fr all media involving images for a while to realize the power that they have to influence us. I have toyed with the idea of fasting from all movies/TV/video games for Lent but have yet to succeed. Maybe next year.
I am dismayed to read the misogyny here in the comments section, but that demonstrates the point made in the post about porn lowering men’s support for women. And why are we here?
As a teenager, I feel surrounded by bad messages in music and on TV. I know teenagers people outside my family who let bad messages affect who they are. I struggle with making positive decisions about what enters my mind and heart, but I love God and I remain faithful. You make great points, such as to draw lines where your moral boundaries lie. I too enjoy first-person shooters, but I always remind myself that it’s in a video game, probably the only place where violence is acceptable.
“Imagine if, instead of the woman always being the cheerleader, the last chorus were reversed: ‘Oh, I want to be her cheerleader / Be always right there next to her.'” At the risk of being labeled a misogynist, can I point out the congruence between the original lyrics and Genesis 2, where God creates the woman to be a help meet for the man (one aspect of which is being a cheerleader) and not the other way around? Lisa’s preferred reversal of the lyrics is, by contrast, incongruent with God’s stated intention for the relationship between the man and the woman. Lisa, you make some good points, but you also make a number of feminist-influenced, extra-Biblical (even contra-Biblical) points that are at least a distraction that undercuts your credibility and at worst an ironic demonstration that you yourself have allowed the media to control your (feminist) attitude — and you’re not even aware of it.
First, regarding the song, I want to point out that I am only asking for the final repitition of the chorus to be reversed. I am not trying to imply that the woman needs to stop being the man’s cheerleader — rather, that a marital relationship requires reciprocity in some form from the husband towards his wife. I also do not see this as being incongruent to the Bible. See Ephesians 5:22-33, where the wife is told in 3 verses to submit to her husband and the husband is told in 8 verses that he needs to love his wife sacrificially. Going back to the song, reversing the lyrics once is the easiest poetic solution; it addresses this reciprocity while still matching the meter of the song.
Now, regarding my use of feminist language. I admit, I have read my share of feminist blogs and literature, but I also believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God and as such also agree more with complementarians than egalitarians. Specifically, I believe in (1) biological and neurological (but not intellectual) distinctions between men and women which impact how we interact with the world, specifically manifested through God’s curse on both sexes; (2) the submission of the wife to the husband in marriage; and (3) the calling of males and only males to the role of elder/overseer/pastor in the church.
With that said, I agree with some of the tenants of feminism. I do not believe what some commenters seem to think I believe: that by using feminist language, I hate all men, or that I think women somehow are perfect and don’t need to be held accountable. The fact that I call more men to task (as do most of the authors on this blog, including Luke Gilkerson) is merely a reflection of the fact that this blog is focused around the problem of pornography, which still tends to be a male problem. The tenants of feminism that I do agree with include, among others, that men and women should be paid and promoted equally for equal work and that if a man rapes a woman, he should take responsibility and suffer the consequences for his own sin, regardless of how immodestly the woman was dressed. (This does not give women the license to dress immodestly, mind.)
In fact, I believe that most of what I am accused of as “feminist” is just a Biblical treatment of women. Consider the following examples:
In Genesis 1:27 (the first account of creation, prior to the Adam and Eve account), we are told that both men and women were created in the image of God. This is reinforced in Galatians 3:28, when it says “there is neither male nor female.” My reading of this is that the inherent biological differences between the sexes (and cultural differences) are, like the institution of marriage, set in place for this life only.
In Proverbs 31, the perfect wife is described not as a stay-at-home mom, but as a hard-working business woman.
Throughout all four gospels, women are called out as the first witnesses of the resurrection (note that in that time their testimony would not have counted in a court of law).
Finally, I could call out a number of places where women are put in various leadership capacities throughout the Bible. One simple example is that Priscilla is named before her husband Aquila in their positions of early leaders and missionaries in the church, which if nothing else implies that she held an equal position with him (neither are named as overseers).
So do I look at life through the lens of feminism? That may be. Like the article points out, what I see and do impacts my own worldview and emotions, and I do read a very small handful of feminist blogs on occasion. But I certainly try to keep my worldview rooted in the Bible.
look man, you gotta stop being so damn petty and just let life take you where you want to be. if you find a woman who is truly genuine and canirg, she wont give a damn if you have no hair or too much hair . your standards may be too high and a gorgeous woman on the outside does not mean that she is gorgeous on the inside. its fantastic to dream, but sometimes you gotta wake up if you are that hard up for a gorgeous woman then go to vegas and rent one for a week . then go back to where ever you are from and find a real girl that is going to be honest and right to you