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Clergy in Film and Television

I don't know if any of you are ER fans, but I've been watching it on and off since it first came on air. This week, they introduced a new character - a hospital chaplain (female, as it happens) who will become the romantic interest for one of the series regulars. I'm curious to see where they will take this story. In her first episode, she talks about having a spiritual life and being concerned with spiritual issues, but also being a 'regular person' or something like that. I'm curious to see where they take this character.

I'm often frustrated with the way clergy are portrayed in film and television. So often the clergy person in question is just a caricature, someone who is completely out of touch with the real concerns and needs of people. Maybe that's just a harsh but telling judgment on the role of clergy/church in the world today. But most pastors I know have a lot more to offer than empty words! To see a clergy person portrayed as rounded and fleshed out is much more rare.

Examples I can think of off the top of my head of clergy in film and TV:
- Seventh Heaven, the WB show about a pastor and his family
- Raising Helen, a movie with John Corbett and Kate Hudson where Hudson's character falls in love with Corbett's character, a pastor.
- LOST, my favorite show, had Mr. Eko, a priest of sorts, with some very questionable theological descriptions of baptism and its meaning: (emphasis mine)

CLAIRE: Charlie told me you were a priest.

EKO: Yes.

CLAIRE: He said that you told him that I had to have --

EKO: I did not tell Charlie to do what he did. I'm sorry if he misunderstood me.

CLAIRE: But, do you think the baby has to be baptized?

EKO: Do you know what baptism is?

CLAIRE: It's what gets you into heaven.

EKO: It is said that when John the Baptist baptized Jesus the skies opened up and a dove flew down from the sky. This told John something -- that he had cleansed this man of all his sins. That he had freed him. Heaven came much later.

CLAIRE: I haven't been baptized. Does that mean that if you do it to Aaron and something happened to us that we wouldn't be together?

EKO: Not if I baptize you both. (source)

Can you think of other examples? Do you think that TV/film shapes people's perception of clergy, or that TV/film's representation of clergy is shaped by real experiences, or both/neither?


Scott said…
Well "Brothers and Sisters" has a UM male clergy who is having sexual relations with one of the main male characters.
Theresa Coleman said…
Life of Daniel
Sorta realistic
Theresa Coleman said…
And "Book" on Firefly.
Christopher said…
I always wanted to see a chaplain in Scrubs.
karen said…
Only one I can think of right now that hasn't been mentioned is that the character of Josh Lewis on Guiding Light is now a minister. Yeah, he decided one day it was a good day and within a couple of months became the head pastor in town. Kinda makes me want to hit someone.
Meredith said…
I'm a Gilmore Girls fan. The town pastor and town rabbi made occasional appearances. They showed the two as being good friends, making fun of the town mayor together, and even sharing the same worship space. The rest of the time, though, they dragged out the reverend to "christen" a few babies and guilt Rory into not having sex. No depth of character at all.
Jeff Nelson said…
There was the evil demented pastor in Carnivale. But nobody watched that show, so it's fine.

There was also Father Phil from The Sopranos, who was portrayed as almost subliminally enjoying the fawning he'd get from all the gangsters' wives, especially the food they'd bring him. He was inches away from a fling with Carmella, too. That portrayal wasn't too bad, as I'm sure people sworn to celibacy deal with that sort of thing all the time.
Anonymous said…
There are two great portrayals of pastors on FOX cartoons the Simpsons and King of the Hill. Rev. Lovejoy makes a great character. I cannot think of the pastor's name on King of the Hill, but she is the Methodist pastor in town, and a few stories have developed around her and the church. Of course, the purpose of these shows is not to make realistic portrayals of clergy, although the King of the Hill example may not be that far off . . .

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