Sunday, October 23, 2011

On VCRs and Remembering Smallville

Once upon a time if you wanted to watch a television show later than the time it was scheduled to air, then you would have to inject a thin black box into a really loud machine called a VCR and press record.

Forget trying to have a conversation with someone while the tape is rewinding. You practically have to yell over the loud screeching noise of the VCR trying to find its way to the beginning of the tape.

In the name of efficiency and innovation, the technological world has introduced us to DVR, so that the ancient machine known as the VCR can truly be a thing of the past. Unless, of course, you still have one. And it's still your primary method of recording a TV show. I hate that the VCR is time-consuming, and I hate the lines across the screen when we're watching something on it, but we haven't entered the world of DVR just yet.


Lindsey and I record the shows we want to watch every Thursday and Friday night to watch after our children go to sleep. Every week at about ten minutes until 7:00 is an adventure of trying to figure out where our one-and-a-half-year-old son Kalel has hidden the VCR remote this time. Then comes the rewinding of the one tape we use over and over, week in and week out. The one that has had the series finale episode of Smallville on it for five months because it was so brilliant I can't get myself to record over it. My ritual every week is to rewind the tape to start recording after Smallville, but I always go a little too far. And every week we end up watching the final scene of Smallville when Clark Kent steps out onto the roof of the Daily Planet and opens his button-down shirt to reveal the famous Superman S on his chest.

We watched all ten seasons of Smallville, and along with LOST, it was one of our favorite shows. Some seasons were great. Some were a creative nightmare that caused me to think, "What were the writers thinking?"

It was a very innovative and fresh take on the journey of Clark Kent to Superman, and it was fun to see each week how the creators were going to reframe key elements of the Superman mythology. Most of the time, the way they told the story was compelling and well-executed. But sometimes, with some of the key elements, you wish they would have done things differently. Season four was particularly a disaster with Lana possessed by a witch and the whole search for the stones that could've easily taken one episode, instead of a whole season. Lionel Luthor's journey toward redemption was one of my favorite parts of the story. The death of Jonathan Kent was a heart-breaking, but unfortunately necessary, progression of the story. Ultimately, it was all about the hero's journey, and when Clark Kent finally donned the suit and cape and took flight in the final episode, it was incredible. I didn't think they could pull off a satisfying final episode, but they did it, and it sits on my ancient VCR tape still because of it.

Why did Smallville resonate with so many people? I think it was for a couple reasons. First, the desperate longing for a savior seems to be written into the fabric of our human existence. We're messed up. We're the cause of much of our own problems, and we need somebody clearly not from here, yet somehow one of us, to rescue us out of the darkness.

It's interesting that the Superman mythology is all about a father sending his only son to earth to become one of them to rescue them. Very similar to the story of Jesus. Of course, Clark Kent isn't Jesus, yet the hero he represents can be a reminder of our desperate need for a savior. Jesus is that savior. Yet, just like in Smallville, the savior isn't always loved by everyone. For some, he's seen as a threat, someone who is in the way. Some love the darkness more than the light and run as far away from rescue as they can. But Jesus still pursues the ones who see him as the villain, and some eventually see him as the hero he is.

The second reason I think Smallville resonated with people is because we all long to leave a mark on the world, to make a difference in people's lives. Before the natural corruption settles in from living among so many people already versed in living in darkness, a child would choose to be the hero rather than the villain. Clark Kent, though he was gifted with so many extraordinary abilities that we would all love to have, was a person who genuinely cared about people. Abilities or no abilities, he would always choose to be the hero and help people. Though it was just a story, it was a moving story that once again points us to a man with extraordinary abilities that Paul tells us in Philippians 2 is truly good and will always choose to be the hero and help people.

Jesus invites us to love people, to create courage, to rescue people out of darkness. We can make a difference in our world, but just like with Clark Kent and with Jesus, it won't always be appreciated. People won't always understand it. Some people will even hate us for it. Yet if we're truly good, truly moved by the hero Jesus who has rescued us, then we'll always choose to be the hero, loved or hated, because the story isn't primarily about us. It's about the hero, and the hero is about rescuing people in darkness. Jesus invites us to be heroes, but not for fame or recognition, but because we genuinely care for the people we're trying to rescue by drawing their hearts to Jesus.

Smallville was a brilliantly told story. Its popularity tells me that people hunger for the story of Jesus to invade their lives, even if they don't recognize it. From a creative standpoint, it tells me that we need to do a great job of creatively and compellingly contextualizing and telling the story of Jesus so that people are inspired by the story of our hero and moved to be rescued by him and to rescue with him.

"Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." - Jesus in Matthew 4:19

What do you have sitting on your DVR or an ancient VHS tape that you can't seem to get rid of?

Photo Credit: Anderson Mendes on Flickr Creative Commons

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