Constantine, Episode 1: Non Est Asylum
Constantine tries to save an old friend's daughter after being warned that her life is in danger, but to do so he will have to fight the demon who is hunting her.
When I first heard that Constantine was being made into a series, I was intrigued. Being unfamiliar with the comic, I was ready to learn more without having to go to the trouble of hunting down the entire series from the first issue. I signed into HULU and got settled in for an hour of new television.
The opening scene was pretty bland: a dark and dreary mental hospital where the hero (Constantine, played by Matt Ryan) is about to partake in some recreational electro-shock therapy. Of course, the mental hospital was also filled with the typical patients who were mostly wandering around with no supervision, including the possessed woman painting on the wall covered in bugs. The dialogue was filled with the usual “I’m so cool and bored with this” chatter, and I was well on my way to losing interest.
Unfortunately, that was the best that the show had to offer. As soon as Constantine began the exorcism, I began to get uncomfortable and, for me, everything went downhill from there. Throughout the rest of the episode, all I really wanted to do was turn it off. When my husband came into the room and asked what I was watching, I just said “God doesn’t want me to watch this.” I had a very clear feeling that what I was seeing and hearing was wrong for many reasons.
Before I get into it, let me take a minute to clarify that I’m not easily put off by this kind of show. I’ve watched Supernatural from its premiere and, for the most part, enjoyed it. I’ve seen a variety of movies where the plot focuses on possession and exorcism and been pleasantly freaked out. I believe in angels, demons, possession, and a host of other things that are dealt with in this show, but I’ve never had such a strong feeling that I shouldn’t be letting it into my mind. My problem here wasn’t the demons or possession, but the way it was portrayed and the lessons that were being taught.
I was surprised by how uncomfortable the way the characters used spells, sigils, and rituals, made me. It’s not the first time I’ve been exposed to such things, but the way these were portrayed seemed wrong, and the use of black magic and blood rituals was just too much. Usually, there is a feeling of light battling darkness, but this was more like darkness fighting something darker. Honestly, Constantine seemed like he was fighting in order to make the demon suffer along with him rather than fighting to save someone from hell.
I also found it strange that God had no part in this show. Amidst the fighting demons, talking to angels, and little girl being dragged to hell, God was never even addressed. I’m not really clear as to how that could happen. Shouldn’t a show that talks openly about angels and demons, heaven and hell, and even salvation, at least obliquely refer to God? Apparently not.
It bothered me that there was so much talk about how Constantine was doomed to spend eternity in hell, and that there was no way out for him. I understand that his fate is what drives him to continue fighting demons, but the focus on salvation through works as opposed to salvation by grace is a problem. Everything about the show seemed to say that we get ourselves into heaven instead of an amazing sacrifice made by God.
I’m sure I could come up with many more things that I found wrong about this show if I went back and watched it again, but I’m not going to. I won’t be watching that episode, or any other. According to Galatians 5:16, what made me so uncomfortable was the Holy Spirit. I’m not in a lot of situations where I hear the Spirit telling me that clearly to stop what I’m doing. Usually, it’s a twinge of guilt or a flash of regret, and I have to make a decision to repent and change. This time, I am absolutely sure that I was being told to turn off the TV and get away from this show. Of course, being who I am, I didn’t listen right away, and I can definitely say that I regret that.
We live in a permissive culture and, by large, the geek community is more accepting of new ideas than most. We pride ourselves on being inclusive, and being open-minded is almost a requirement. We don’t get hung up on whether or not magic is real, if aliens exist, the probability of time travel, or a million other little things. Most of us love the strange, and the more fantastic something is the better. Whatever we’re into (comics, anime, videogames, etc.), we eagerly expose ourselves to new ideas, beliefs, and cultures without really thinking about it or what it could mean in the long run.
As Christians, we need to be especially careful. Sometimes the fantastic crosses the line and the strange feels uncomfortable because it’s in direct opposition to what we believe. For everything we encounter in the world, there is a limit between what is permissible and what has gone too far. Some lines are fluid and are decided by each individual based on personal struggles and temptations. For example, an alcoholic should probably not decide to spend five nights a week doing a tavern ministry, while someone else may be called to devote their time to exactly that. Other lines are firm and are not to be crossed no matter what justifications we use. I think we can all agree that it’s never OK to actually act out any scenario we play in Assassin’s Creed.
What helps us find these boundaries and stop when we’re racing towards the edge? Job 32:8 says, “But it is the Spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding.” Whether we’re trying to decide if something is acceptable or if we’ve already jumped into it, the Holy Spirit was given to us for direction and support. We have to be aware of what the Spirit is telling us and actually listen for God’s direction in our lives.
When we’re not careful to listen to God’s direction in our lives, we run the risk of deafening ourselves to His voice. 1 Thessalonians 5:19 warns “Do not quench the Spirit.” When we continue to expose ourselves to things that are in direct opposition to what God wants, we come closer and closer to doing just that. We run the risk of losing our ability to distinguish between what is right and wrong in God’s eyes (1 Tim. 4:1) and can end up living in rebellion against God even if we don’t fully realize it (Heb. 3:15).
Whether or not you watch this show, remember that God has a plan and that there are specific things that can lead you away from what He wants for you. We were given the Spirit for a reason and when we don’t choose to listen to it, damage is done, even if we can’t immediately see it.
Language – d***
Violence – Some graphic deaths and possessions
Occult References – Dark magic (ritual, sigil, and blood), possessions, discussion of demons, and demonic figures
+ It looks like the show won't be in production much longer
- Dialogue is stale and not as witty as it tries to be
- The use of magic is over the top and crosses the line in several places
- Even with demons and angels showing up at every turn, God is completely absent