A collage of supernatural movie and violence show from the television.

Why I Watch Shows Containing Violence and Supernatural Themes

“You watch wrestling? Why?”

It’s a question I’ve been asked a lot, in tones ranging from confused to disdainful. And I get it—it’s so lowbrow, so unsophisticated, so. . . violent. Certainly not very appropriate media for a girl to enjoy. But it is precisely the raw nature that draws me to it.

Before we get down to the violence issue, I want to start by explaining first why professional wrestling continues to thrive across the globe: it offers a highly accessible form of visceral, aggressive escapism.

Every time we look for entertainment, we seek to escape, to vicariously live the experiences reality denies us. We want to be able to watch someone do what we can’t in real life.

What makes wrestling “appealing” is the satisfaction of seeing the bad guy getting their comeuppance in the way we want to see it. Done dirty by your boss? You can actually punch them in the face in front of your colleagues and be celebrated for it. Family feud? Lock yourself in a cage with the offending relative for a free-for-all where no one can stop you from beating each other to a pulp. Justice doesn’t have to wait for red tape.

Watching wrestling makes me feel better, even if just temporarily, because of that escapism factor. Simply put, I think, “Yay, in this fictional world, the bad guy gets beaten up. Lemme spend a few hours here instead of in reality.”


The simplicity of violence

I’m not writing all this to indiscriminately justify the shows that I watch, but mainly to reflect on what’s really fuelling my interest in them.

In real life where bad guys seem to get away with everything due to the right influence or money that allows them to circumvent the “proper channels”, violent media give us the opportunity to see a world where the wicked truly get theirs, right away. Retribution is immediate, visible, quantifiable.

One of my favourite pro wrestlers, Becky Lynch, has been touted as the first “alpha female” in the WWE, the world’s biggest pro wrestling company. For years, Becky patiently toiled in the background. Despite being beloved by the audience for her sweet, dorky personality, she was relegated to a supporting role to make others look good—particularly her best friend, who hogged the spotlight as the daughter of a “legend”.

Becky eventually reached a point where she was finally the favourite to become a champion. . . only to have her best friend snatch that opportunity from her one more time. So Becky snapped, turning on her best friend with a punch.

As she whaled on her best friend, each blow was a scream of frustration—both hers and ours. It’s that anger we feel when someone with talent keeps getting passed over and ignored. Seeing Becky finally stand up for herself and take what she felt she deserved was exhilarating—it’s something we all wish we could do.

In such cases, violent media encourages the idea that justice is in our hands—that we get what we deserve only when we decide to take action ourselves, and that we are the ones who can make the call.

I confess that I’ve often chosen Becky’s way of doing things. I’m often convinced that it’s up to me to stand up for myself and make things happen, rather than waiting for God to work in a situation. Watching evil people walk free with seemingly no consequences, I’ve often asked God why He takes so long when He could bring the hammer down now.

But the truth is, we are short-sighted and deeply flawed creatures. We cannot see all ends, and we don’t have every piece of the puzzle. Thus, the justice that we administer ends up being flawed too.

In Becky’s case, taking the step to enact her own justice eventually transformed her from the endearing personality everyone adored into a cocky champion with a massive chip on her shoulder. She completely bought into her own hype and came to see herself as above the law, which made her unable to take criticism.

When we get used to acting on our own, eventually the power of being our own judge goes to our heads, which corrupts us. We stop waiting on God and trusting His justice.

Which is why Romans 12:19 cautions us to not seek revenge ourselves when we are wronged, but to “leave room for God’s wrath”. When faced with injustice, our job is to bring it to Him, because He has promised that He will act. In Psalm 73, Asaph outlines for us the consequences in store for the wicked—they are on “slippery ground”, ruined, and their destruction comes swiftly (vv.17-19). At the end of all things, the Lord’s justice will prevail.

Even so, the Lord is also a patient God who “does not want anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). As a person who has received the mercy of Jesus Christ, I’ve come to acknowledge that if I had to deal with me, I would have destroyed myself a long time ago. And as God’s grace has saved me, so I must be willing to extend mercy to others.

When we focus on short-term vengeance, we fail to give people chances to surrender themselves to God and experience the mercy that we ourselves have received.

The power of the supernatural

As someone who grew up in a culture where women are often regarded as “less than” men, young me wanted to see a world where the power of women was recognised, respected, even revered. This was where Buffy the Vampire Slayer came in.

I understand why some see the show as demonic due to its premise of dealing with vampires and demons. But for many girls of my generation, Buffy and the other characters in the series became inspiring icons because of how they challenged cultural expectations and inequality. Buffy was a normal girl who through supernatural means became an alpha female; she subverted the “dumb blonde” trope by becoming the only person in her universe with the strength and skill to battle the forces of darkness.

In Buffy’s world, the supernatural opened up opportunities for people to be extraordinary. Where the real world would see weirdos and nerds, her universe saw fighters and survivors. That is the draw of many supernatural-themed shows—they take those who are typically disadvantaged and turn their weakness into power so they can finally be superior.

As a young girl, I wanted so badly to be strong the way Buffy and her friends were. To rise above the station that the patriarchal culture stuck me in. To be capable of, well, saving the world, using the talents and skills I have—skills that have been ignored if not belittled by people around me.

As I look deeper, the qualities that made supernatural shows like Buffy so attractive to me are present in God’s kingdom too. In the course of His ministry, Jesus called and inspired ordinary, unlearned men; with the power of the Holy Spirit, He turned them into spiritual giants who changed the world.

Long before supernatural shows were even a concept, God was already choosing “the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:27). Through a ragtag group of supposedly born losers, the world received the gospel message of salvation.

That said, God’s version of empowerment is also very different from the world’s. Jesus came to earth divinely empowered, with the ability to do literally anything, but He chose to not defend Himself at the critical hour as He headed to His painful death. He was ultimately defined by His humility and submission to the will of the Father (Philippians 2:5-8), rather than His miracles.

That Christlike empowerment is most clearly displayed in humility can feel like a tough pill for me to swallow, especially when being empowered as a woman continues to be a goal for me. I still find myself constantly pursuing ways to make this happen in my life, whether it’s seeking dominance in my line of work or calling the shots at home.

But as I write this, Resurrection Sunday has just passed, and I’ve been reminded of just how powerful what Christ did on the cross is. There is no greater victory than what He achieved. And so, even though it takes much dying to self, even though it feels like a thankless endeavour to be humble, there is no greater power.

The call to discernment

Ultimately, we must look at all kinds of media with careful discernment.

In keeping with the theme of female empowerment, Buffy does lean heavily into portrayals of Wicca, a belief system that has long provided a pathway to empowering women through the practice of magic and nature-centred worship. Many supernatural shows are also heavily influenced by spiritual texts that are given a “twist”. And so it’s important to approach supernatural-themed shows with great caution.

This doesn’t mean that non-violent/non-supernatural media are automatically safe—there are many movies and shows with safe “packaging” but actually hold many subtle snares. For instance, a sitcom may not necessarily be violent, but its themes may glorify selfishness and rudeness. A reality show may be about the real world, but it could be championing pride or superficiality.

If such media keeps us from appreciating God’s mercy and causes us to focus on human power instead of His power, if they make us vulnerable and cause us to stray from the Bible’s teachings, then we must be willing to humbly turn away.

Two questions we can ask ourselves are:

  1. What does God think? Bring it to the Lord in prayer, and ask Him to search your heart for any wrong motives for watching such media.
  2. What does it say about God? Do the movie/show’s themes help you to see God’s goodness, justice, and mercy in your own life, or do they disrespect Him?

We must also be mindful of how our choice of entertainment impacts other believers too. Even if we aren’t personally affected by a particular movie or show, we must “make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Romans 14:19). Our ultimate goal is to glorify God in whatever we do (1 Corinthians 10:31), and so let it be our priority to commit even our entertainment choices to Him.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *