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God is Beauty

Why Media Matters

I don't know about you, but I love media and the art that's made using it. Books, movies, podcasts, Spotify, all of it! I might be a little biased (I studied Communications, Media & Journalism in college), but you get to be a little biased when you write a blog. I have a lot of opinions on Catholic media literacy, but the chief among them is this: Catholics can, and should, learn to appreciate media for its beauty while viewing its morality through a critical lens.

This sounds a lot more complicated than it is. Basically, what I mean is that we should all be able to watch a popular TV show or movie, read a popular book, or play a popular video game and appreciate the beauty in the art. I think of the beautiful shots and cinematography that we see in movies like The Revenant and even Avengers: Endgame (that portals scene, WOW), or the clever storytelling and humor of NBC's The Good Place. Now, the fact that these pieces of art have beauty in them doesn't mean they're perfect. "The Good Place" can get raunchy with their jokes, and The Revenant is a very violent movie. The point is that we should be able to recognize and acknowledge both.

There's a well-known Catholic author and speaker named Christopher West who wrote a great essay on this called "Christian Moviegoers: Please Don't Settle for Bad Art!" It's only about a page and a half long, and I'd recommend reading it if you have a spare 2 minutes. His main point is that it's important to recognize the beauty in human art, even if that art doesn't 100% agree with our moral worldview. That's easier said than done, but it's important! Here's why: All beauty comes from God, because He's the source of all that is good.

Okay, so all beauty comes from God. Why does that matter? It matters because beauty is not just a pretty girl or a picturesque nature scene. I would argue that beauty is anything in this world that points to God. By that logic, is a beautiful shot in a movie beautiful? Yes! The things shown point to God because he created people and all natural things. It's also beautiful because the mere existence of that image in a movie wouldn't be possible without the skill, creativity, and ability that God gave the people who put the movie together.

If we take this to heart, we can unlock a whole new way of looking at media for ourselves. There are lots of popular pieces of media that have objectionable things in them. Shows like Breaking Bad and The Office, books like Harry Potter and To Kill a Mockingbird, even various different types of music can have these things we take issue with as Catholics. But that does not mean that we should write them off entirely! What we should instead do is learn to appreciate the beautiful parts of media while recognizing the potentially harmful parts.