In my latest reading of Rick Santorum’s It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good, Santorum offered some thoughtful insights on movies and stories. A lot of his discussion on this topic was lamenting the illicit sex without consequences and the anti-hero in today’s stories, which he contrasts with the clear delineation of good and evil in stories of the past. But Santorum makes clear that he’s not in favor of flat stories that do not show anything unpleasant. Here are some of his insights about stories:
Page 275: “An ancient rabbinic saying is that ‘God made people because He loves stories.’ I say, ‘Man makes stories because God made us to love.'”
On page 282, Santorum quotes novelist Walker Percy, who said: “Judeo-Christianity is about pilgrims who have something wrong with them and embark on a search to find a way out. This is also what novels are about.”
Pages 285-286: “Cultural capital consists of the stories, images, music, and practices—-all the ‘artifacts’ and the activities that are the fruit of leisure—-that explain ourselves to ourselves, the whole of ourselves, and which do so truthfully, honestly.”
I agree with a lot of this. I love stories that encourage me to care for the characters. I believe that good stories have characters who grow. And I think that good stories have realism or (even if they’re unrealistic) communicate values.
Santorum takes a swipe at Desperate Housewives, but I think that the series fits what Santorum considers to be a good story, at least in many areas. It makes me care for the characters. It presents characters who learn and grow, notwithstanding their flaws. And, while I agree with Santorum that it does not promote a morality in which sex is reserved solely for heterosexual marriage (since there are gay characters and also people who live together), it does have story-lines that depict the bad consequences of adultery, as well as highlights that pre-marital sex can result in a baby. Moreover, it has had positive episodes about faith. I’d say that these are characteristics that I’ve observed in a number of TV shows and movies nowadays.