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Chuck: The Postmodern Hero

I love the TV series Chuck. It’s quirky, smart, and gives me something to look forward to with my family on Monday nights. You might think that this was enough to like a show. Anyone who knows me well knows that I can’t leave it at that. I have to find some theological nugget in it before I can truly like something. Maybe that is what really draws me to Chuck; I see something lurking deep beneath the Hollywood veneer that draws me in.

So here goes…

Several years ago Bethel Seminary held a lecture series that used the Star Trek universe as a vehicle to discuss the difference between the Modern and Postmodern mindset. The lecturer (I don’t remember who it was, sorry) pitted Captain Kirk against Captain Picard, heralding Kirk as the quintessential Modern Leader and Picard as the quintessential Postmodern Leader. Kirk was about action. He punched first and asked questions later. He always got the girl, and the only source of help to which he turned was the voice of pure reason — Spock. Picard, on the other hand, was surrounded by a host of voices from which he drew strength and made decisions. The modern man — Riker — was relegated to second string and his voice became equal with the voice of Reason–Data, the voice of science–Geordi, the voice of emotion–Deanna, the voice of Honor– Worf, and the voice of ancient, otherly wisdom — the bartender.

What does this have to do with Chuck? I have a new analogy (this goes out to all those studying for the ACT and SAT): Picard is to Kirk as Chuck is to Bond. Think about it. James Bond was the ultimate Modern Hero. Steeped in the Cold War World of Empirical Titans battling over scientific pursuits and world domination, James Bond was a man of action and almost super-human ability. He acted alone. The only person he needed was a nerdy scientist back at the lab who allowed Bond to use technology to overcome every obstacle. Oh, yeah…and Bond always got the girl. However, he only got her for one night in a steamy, meaningless tryst, as the conqueror.

Then along comes Chuck. He is given a gift that is beyond his natural ability. Call it Grace. He is a geek thrust into greatness, who bumbles all the way. He is extremely loyal to his family and friends, regardless the cost. He never kills, only tranqing enemies when needed. As the last episode highlighted eloquently, the intersect is not about one lone man, it is a team. Chuck would not be Chuck without the diversity of Casey, Morgan, and Sarah. Oh yes, Sarah. Chuck, our postmodern hero, does not conquer women, he softens the heart of a modern sheSpy and wins her over with honesty and compassion. They are getting married. Their love runs true and deep.

Many people are afraid of the postmodern era. I am excited for it. We need more Chucks and Picards in the world.

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