Just a week ago, Mike Cosper’s book The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long for and Echo the Truth released. Over at Christ and Pop Culture, it’s part of the rotating bundle given away to members. You can read my write up to get a 30,000 ft. overview and join Christ and Pop Culture to get the book for free.
Over the next few weeks, I’d like to use Cosper’s book as a launching point for discussion. In some ways, this is a book I wish I had written. Most of his main ideas I wrote about in my Th.M thesis. As it stood though, the thesis was a work in theory with no actual exposition of how it plays out in actual movies and TV shows. Cosper’s book on the other hand is mostly exposition with sparing, but when it appears, substantive interaction with other literature on the topic.
I realized after graduating that if I wanted to convert my book into something more accessible, it needed to be more focused on actual examples in movies and TV shows that people (for the most part) actually watch. I had plans to do this, but no discipline to devote to it, and inevitably, there was always something else I’d rather work on.
Luckily for all of us, Cosper had the time and the discipline and the result is an excellent read on the topic.
As the subtitle of this blog post indicates, Cosper’s introduction unpacks the way our world is full of stories. Specifically, we see this in the world of TV and movies. Considering the draw both of these forms of entertainment have, there is probably something more to stories than mere enjoyment. Cosper says, “In what follows, I intend to explore our addiction to these stories. In particular, I want to look at their common threads, and I want to explore why we keep telling them, over and over again. I believe we’re watching because TV and movies are both echoing and forming our desires, and I want to delve into what those desires really are (23).”
He then says, “I believe the gospel has given us a framework for the whole story of history. I want to explore the way our ordinary, everyday stories intersect with the bigger story that God is telling, and I want investigate what these stories reveal about being human, being fallen, and longing for redemption (23).” Ultimately then Cosper will be “less interested in debating the merits of watching content” than “in understanding what drives it (24).” Cosper wants to get to the heart of the stories we tell through TV and movies. He says that “the motivation for our stories is deeply connected with the gospel, and by thinking about that connection, we can more deeply appreciate both (24).”
I couldn’t agree more, and in fact, I might go a bit farther. You could make a case that the pervasiveness of stories and the draw of TV and movies provides a strong apologetic for the Christian worldview. It doesn’t necessarily “prove” it, but as we’ll see next week, given the arc of most stories, it is a piece of data that fits more comfortably within a Christian view of the world. This is a bit of transcendental reasoning (different than a transcendental argument), asking what would need to be true for our obsession with stories to make sense. Cosper is probing why this is and does so in a way that connects it to the gospel. I would take the same path and say that it also provides a strong argument the gospel being true. There is a “fittedness” that emerges between a world obsessed with stories and the Christian belief in a story-telling God who made humans in his image. People have an almost innate gospel longing and if they are not confronted with the Christian gospel, will find a substitute elsewhere.
I’m getting ahead of myself, but next week we’ll look a bit more at the first two chapters of Cosper’s book. On the one hand, stories tend to be “gospel-shaped.” On the other hand, many TV shows and movies are full of “objectionable content.” In immersing ourselves in these stories, how can we reflect wisely on the content both on the surface and what lies beneath? That’s what we’ll look at next week. In the meantime, join Christ and Pop Culture, pick up a free copy, and read this book for yourself!