Romance in Entertainment Media
Rebecca Yuan—Canoga Park, California, USA
To relax and take a break from our
work or studies, we often turn to media entertainment, which may be more easily
accessible than other hobbies or activities.
But before we decide to spend
three minutes listening to a song, two hours watching a movie, or ten hours
reading a bestselling novel, we need to consider what we are putting into our
heart through our eyes and ears. Will our choice of entertainment help us stay
pure, or will it pollute the wellspring of our life?
ENTANGLED IN FICTIONAL ROMANCE
From children’s animated movies to
television dramas, romance seems to be everywhere. Cartoons teach preschoolers
that the prince and princess meet, kiss, marry, and live happily ever after. Teen-oriented
books constantly rehash the age-old themes of first and forbidden love. The
airwaves are inundated with songs about love or lost love.
Media producers continue making
romantically-themed products because they know that people naturally desire
love and are willing to pay to vicariously experience the excitement of being
Unfortunately, without God, many
producers misconstrue true love, and the notions that they sell in their
romances can really harm our spiritual health and relationships.
What are some dangers to being
emotionally entangled in fictional romance? How can we protect ourselves from
being spiritually weakened by too much romantic media?
Danger #1: Confusing Love with Desire
The Bible tells us that the meaning of true love is sacrifice. As 1 John
[F]or love comes from God. Everyone who loves
has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God,
because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one
and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not
that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning
sacrifice for our sins. (1 Jn 4:7-10, NIV)
But too often the media interprets desire as love in the same way that Shechem did. Shechem was a young
man who “fell in love” with Jacob’s daughter, Dinah. However, to instantly
gratify his desire, he forced himself upon her. The Bible records:
And when Shechem the
son of Hamor the Hivite,
prince of the country, saw her, he took her and lay with her, and violated her.
His soul was strongly attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved
the young woman and spoke kindly to the young woman. (Gen 34:2, 3)
Did Shechem really love Dinah? Not according
to God’s definition of true love. Instead of being willing to sacrifice, Shechem’s love was a selfish and covetous desire that
disregarded Dinah’s will and purity.
Romantic storylines are not usually as violent,
but they often encourage us to strongly desire, objectify, and pursue the
opposite sex in the same carnal way that Shechem did.
They preach the instant gratification of desire through the thrill of pursuit
(flirtation, flowers, candle-lit dinners) and physical intimacy (passionate
kissing, long embraces, sexual contact).
Kissing is portrayed as an innocent act, the
loss of virginity mistaken as a rite of passage, fornication justified as a
consummation of love, and adultery excused as long as people are escaping
In short, modern-day romantic media promote an
unbridled desire that is not held back by purity, patience, commitment, or the
fear of God.
If we find ourselves rooting for our hero or
heroine’s impure actions; if we start enjoying the sights and sounds of
improper conduct in God’s eyes; if we find ourselves drawn to desire
masquerading as love, then perhaps we need to reconsider what we are putting
into our hearts. Let us remember that the consequence of unchecked desire is
one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when
desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown,
brings forth death. (Jas 1:14, 15)
As Christians, we simply cannot confuse love and desire because we are
holy to the Lord.
you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of
impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. (Eph
Danger #2: Distracting the Unmarried from God
Singlehood is often the best time to serve God because it is a period with
the least familial responsibilities. That is why Paul tells us:
He who is
unmarried cares for the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord. But he
who is married cares about the things of the world—how he may please his wife. There is a difference between a wife and
a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may
be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the
things of the world—how she may please her husband. (1 Cor 7:32-34)
Unfortunately, unmarried Christians
are often distracted from God because of secular ideas of romance. Consuming
too much romance causes us to awaken love before its time (Song 2:7) and seek
to please the opposite sex before the proper time of marriage.
Instead of doing all we can for
the Lord, we spend our time pining for that prince in shining armor or the fair
maiden who will fulfill our heart’s desire. Sometimes we worry so much over
finding that perfect someone that we lose our focus and inner peace. As James
wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that
war in your members? You lust and do not have…. Yet you do not have because you
do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may
spend it on your pleasures. (Jas 4:1-3)
If this is the case, let us stand
up to the media’s message that we need to find someone to “complete us” and
strive to become “perfect and complete” in the Lord (Jas 1:4). Let us also hold
onto the promise that if we “seek first the kingdom of God and His
righteousness,” God will take care of all our other needs (Mt 6:33).
Danger #3: Creating Unrealistic Expectations for Marriage
Another danger of romance in the
media is that it helps create unrealistic expectations for a spouse or future
In romances, leading men are
usually handsome, fit, well-dressed, charming, and attentive to every whim of his
lady. Leading women have gorgeous figures, flattering clothes, flawless faces,
and rarely nag. They seldom have financial problems and their houses are always
If people internalize these
traits of perfect husbands and wives, they may become bitterly disappointed by
the discrepancies between fantasy and reality.
To counter the media’s idea of
marital expectations, let us focus on the spousal responsibilities given to us
by the Bible:
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the
Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the
church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is
subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave
Himself for her… let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as
himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Eph. 5:22-25, 33)
More importantly, let us remember
that contrary to what the media tell us, our goal on earth is not merely finding
romantic love or fulfillment. As the Bible tells us,
[W]hatever you do, do
it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will
receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. (Col 3:23, 24)
DEPARTING FROM THE DANGER ZONE
If we are a regular consumer of
romantically-themed media (movies, dramas, music, books, etc.), let us ask
ourselves the following questions:
Do I find myself living vicariously through the
romance of fictional characters?
Does my media consumption cause me to desire the
opposite sex in a way that is not pleasing to God?
Do I have a hard time walking away from
romantically-themed media entertainment?
Does my media choice distract me from being
wholeheartedly devoted to God in my singlehood?
Do I fantasize about a fictional character and
view them as my ideal mate?
Does my media choice cause me to form
unrealistic expectations for my spouse or future spouse?
If we answered “yes” to any of the
questions above, perhaps we have already fallen into the entanglements of
fictional romance. What, then, can we do to escape?
Action #1: Reduce Romantic Media Consumption
romantic media is causing us to stray from God’s teachings, the most immediate
action we can take is to exercise self-control and reduce our media
consumption. It may be painful to lessen or forgo something we enjoy so much,
but we must remember that we are constantly in a spiritual battle (Eph 6:12).
In order to resist being eaten
alive by the devil, we must be sober and vigilant (1 Pet 5:8). We must be like
Paul, who said,
But I discipline my body and bring it into
subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become
disqualified. (1 Cor 9:27)
Action #2: Replace Romantic Media Consumption with More
When we make the determination to
reduce romantic media consumption, we should also make plans to fill the gap in
our schedule with something more beneficial to our spiritual health. Otherwise,
we may feel bored, restless, and tempted to return to romance.
There are a variety of activities
that will allow us to “walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming
the time” (Eph 5:15, 16). We just need to be a little more creative.
Instead of indulging in romantic
media, we can find activities that are both enjoyable and useful in our service
to the Lord.
We can strengthen our bodies
through exercise, refine or acquire new skills (for example, in cooking, music,
languages, crafts, writing, art, computers, organization, cleaning, fixing
appliances, to name a few), or help someone in need (encourage a friend, send a
care package, volunteer, etc.).
When choosing the replacement
activity, let us remember Paul’s encouragement on what we should fill our minds
[W]hatever things are
true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are
pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there
is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. (Phil
Action #3: Renew Our Commitment to Stay Holy and Pure
Most importantly, as we escape the
entanglements of romantic media, we need to pray to God and renew our
commitment to be holy and pure.
God is holy and intends for us to
be holy (1 Pet 1:13-16). He also knows our struggles because He was tempted
like us (Heb 4:15). If we come before Him to ask for help, He will help us
overcome our temptations.
As James tells us,
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he
will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (Jas 4:7, 8)
May we honestly evaluate our
relationship with media romance. If need be, let us make the determination to
break free from its influence. Let us ask for God’s guidance so we may redeem
our precious time on earth and live our lives worthy of the Lord.