Tyler Durden Goes to Church

Or, perhaps, The Promise Keepers meet Braveheart. John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart is encouraging Christian men to get in touch with their inner warriors. While the book was originally published in 2001, its popularity continues to grow four years later. According to Nigel Hunt’s Yahoo article,

Eldredge believes many Christian men have become bored, “really nice guys” and invites them to rediscover passion by viewing their life’s mission as having a battle to fight, an adventure to live and a beauty to rescue.

While I don’t want to predict whether the book’s impact on people who follow its advice would be positive or negative (how would one measure such a thing, anyway?), I am fascinated by the fact that Eldredge argues that modern technologies, such as the television and Internet, have rendered men passive and docile, bored with their middle-class lives. In many ways, the book echoes the male angst portrayed in Fight Club, both film and novel (a topic that I’ve written about recently).

I am certainly disturbed by the adventure and battle metaphors that include rescuing princesses (who, quite frankly, probably don’t need rescuing), but I also want to address a recurrent assumption that I find curious. Why do so many people assume that “modern technologies,” especially television, render everyone so passive? What is it about our experience of TV that allows us to accept such a claim about the power that it has over our lives? I don’t think there is anything inherent about TV that necessarily defines our relationship to it as passive, but the “passivity thesis” seems to be gaining a degree of credibility that ought to be challenged.

6 Comments »

  1. Collin Said,

    January 24, 2005 @ 12:54 am

    I wondered, too, about the passivity thesis, but then I saw a segment on the local news that really helped change my mind for me.

    Seriously. That thesis has been around for a long time, at least since the days of McLuhan’s hot and cool, yes? Mostly, I think of it as a sloppy shorthand, one of those “truisms” that doesn’t bear up under much scrutiny. Maybe I’m just sensitive to sweeping overgeneralizations about media in general, but I’m pretty sure that boredom isn’t an effect…

    cgb

  2. Chuck Said,

    January 24, 2005 @ 8:26 am

    I’m suspicious of broad generalizations about the media as well, and although I keep it somewhat muted here, I’m more ssupicious of how the passivity thesis is used. Why, for example, do we need to worry that men have been rendered passive and docile, while Eldredge (and this men’s group) doesn’t seem to worry about TV’s having a similar effect on women?

  3. Dylan Said,

    January 24, 2005 @ 3:05 pm

    Coming from a non-scientific point of view, I wonder about the legitimacy of this. If we, as a society, are content to let television keep us in a passive state, what would explain the popularity of the shows that make us think, like The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Carnivale (although not ALL that popular), and The West Wing (pre-John Wells’ atom-bomb helmship).

    And as for the internet, hasn’t it evolved in such a way as to be more engaging? The blogosphere is the perfect example of this. I am more engaged and more engaging because of it.

    Just my thoughts. On a side note, have you heard of a study about video versus film and how video (read: television) puts our minds in a beta, passive state, while film puts our brain in an alpah, engaged state? I wish I could find where I heard this.

  4. Chuck Said,

    January 24, 2005 @ 3:39 pm

    Not to mention teh fact that we often do other things while watching TV, that we flip channels, whatever….

    I haven’t heard about that study, though I’d be interested to know more about it. Manyt of the same myths about passive movie spectators exist, of course, though television is usually denigrated, or placed on the “negative” side of the binary, when the two media are compared.

    When I say that I wished I watched more TV, I’m actively trying to counter these negative statements about TV….

  5. Steve Said,

    January 26, 2005 @ 6:44 am

    Hey, a princess rescued me…not the other way around…

  6. rich Said,

    February 9, 2005 @ 5:56 pm

    check out jerry mander’s book four arguments for the elimination of television. lots of convincing points made about the effects of television.

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