I said I had a 10-paragraph write-up for this and while that's a slight exaggeration I still expect this to be quite long. Almost as long as the show's run. For those of you who don't know, 7th Heaven was a family drama show originally on The WB and then The CW after the WB/UPN merger. It was about a pastor Eric and his wife Annie and their 5 children thus a family of 7 to fit their title. Though the show premiered in 1996, I probably didn't start watching it until maybe 2003 or 2004. I would have already been a teenager and in middle school but the show was syndicated (because it ran 11 LONG seasons) and thus re-aired so much on various networks that I've seen the entire thing from front to back, probably on ABC Family TBH.
7th Heaven was certainly the type of show that I watched to kind of understand the people that I grew up with in elementary, middle school, and high school. I grew up in the type of place that after my family moved from Arizona to Missouri, my new SECOND grade classmates grilled me on my religion and being that at best one-half of my family could be described as Catholic (Mexican Catholics) and the other half absolutely not religious at all, well it wasn't necessarily a place that I immediately felt like I belonged. This kind of persisted all throughout my primary and secondary education (I eventually found a group of more liberal like-minded friends but in high school a group of women did try to full on Mandy Moore SAVE me). So 7th Heaven ended up being like my crash course in kind of the Evangelical Christianity that I grew up around that I didn't really understand. And it was maybe my first foray into my current borderline obsession with Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christianity.
Despite watching endless re-runs of this show in the early to mid-2000s when it was really in its prime, it's unwatchable today. Let's just get the Eric Camden sized elephant out of the room and talk about the over sinister reason before getting to the covert reasons. The actor who portrayed Eric Camden, Stephen Collins, admitted in 2014 that he had inappropriate sexual contact with three female minors. The latest of which was in 1994, just two years before he was in everybody's home as wholesome pastor dad Eric Camden. For that alone, watching him play this paragon of good and morality is disgusting. And his cast members, most notable Catherine Hicks, mentioned that if the show was ever going to get a reboot they'd right off send his character to hell.
But it's not just because of Stephen Collins that this show is unwatchable. It's the heavy-handed Christian Propaganda (which BTW never worked on me. Baffling how the excessive amount of Evangelicalism that I grew up around never converted me. Probably because I believed in Evolution too early to ever be persuaded) and it's overly cheesy morality lessons which were really kind of the primetime focus of the earlier seasons that would have been in the 90s. It's the obsession and ownership of the sex lives of Mary and Lucy by Eric and older brother Matt (no wonder Jessica Biel forced her way off the show by doing a nude photoshoot). It's how at the end of the day it's so rote in its presentation. "Oh look there's a problem one of the Camden children is dealing with and keeping secret. But it's all solved at the end of the day and Eric Camden gives a sermon about how self-control will save you from getting addicted to gum." Not even joking. An episode focused on Ruthie got addicted to gum because she didn't have enough self-control. Or the even more propaganda-y "look at this teenage rascal, they do things like maybe drink alcohol or smoke pot. WE CAN SAVE THEM" and then they are saved and Eric Camden gives a sermon about love and acceptance and whatever. Thank goodness there were no gays on this show. Can you EVEN imagine what kind of "love the sinner, hate the sin" sh*t we would have gotten (though considering the personal politics of MANY of the cast members, I'm guessing that would not have flown).
The kind of lessons it teaches that goodness can be found with your very white, middle class (because the Church pays for your house and living expenses), and Christian family just don't hold in 2021. Where we see that same kind of ideology held up as a standard to berate and denigrate anybody that doesn't fit that standard.
I'll end with this, Vice had an article in 2016 titled "Satan's Favorite TV Show: The False Moralism of 7th Heaven" by Diana Tourjeé, in it she describes in even more depth what I have here. But I like this ending paragraph:
"Perhaps that's the problem with ideologies obsessed by the appearance of correct, or good, behavior. Collins portrayed a good man, who comfortably judged others' actions as right or wrong. But while Reverend Camden was staggered by the evil of smoking pot, Collins had a history of actions that are actually deplorable. So what does a show like 7th Heaven sell to its consumer? We already know that faith can be a mask to religious leaders whose personal lives are wicked. The series feels desperate in its attempt to reconstruct an American life it felt was in jeopardy. While much of religious media feels like it consists of caricatures of real families, 7th Heaven felt exceptionally crude—so clean it was obscene."
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