Should Your Family Watch A&E’s ‘Damien’?

Bradley-James-DamienTonight (Monday, March 7), A&E premieres “Damien,” a new drama series that picks up where the 1976 movie “The Omen” left off. The spawn of Satan who’s a little boy at the end of that movie is now a man, and only just discovering his dark destiny.

Click here to see a piece over at my Pax Culturati blog at Patheos that explores the series in detail — with several quotes from Catholic-raised-and-educated creator, executive producer and showrunner, Glen Mazzara — but in short, the answer to the question of whether this show is suitable for the whole family is simple.

No.

In the five episodes made available to the press, I didn’t see a great deal of sexual content, but there’s quite a bit of violence and disturbing imagery. As I said in my Patheos blog post, the Church and Catholics come off OK, and the show doesn’t mock faith in the way that other recent shows have done.

After all, to have an Antichrist, you must have Christ, and from the show’s opening scene — in which 30-year-old Damien Thorn (Bradley James), having gone through some horrific experiences, demands answers from Christ on a crucifix in a church (while holding a rosary) — it’s clear that the character exists within a Christian, specifically Catholic, context.

As Mazzara explains, he envisioned this notion of Damien as a kind of flip side of Christ. So, rather than a being who’s fully human and fully divine, his Damien is fully human and also fully demonic. Like Christ, he’ll face temptation, but I doubt that (after, A&E hopes, several seasons), he’ll wind up on the side of the not-fallen angels.

But, anytime you’re dealing with stories involving the occult or the devil, even if Catholic figures are treated fairly, there’s the risk of making the evil seem cooler than the good. So, if someone doesn’t have a good grounding in the Faith and a solid idea of the reality of Satan, stories like this can lead impressionable minds astray.

Now, as a revert, I watched “The Omen” and its sequels — and similar films, like “Stigmata” or “The Exorcist” — many times when I was out of the Church. Strangely, the reality of evil and the power of the Faith to fight it were among the factors that brought me back. But, your results may vary.

As I said at Patheos, “Damien” has some solid scholarship and theology behind it (but don’t get me wrong, this is just an underpinning to the plot; the show’s not a dissertation on actual theological truth), and it poses some compelling questions about moral responsibility and the nature of evil.

Parents know their own children best, but as a general rule of thumb, I wouldn’t recommend “Damien” for anyone below high-school age. Even then, use your best judgement or watch with the kids and discuss.

Image: Courtesy A&E

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