Thursday, October 24, 2013

Sleepy Hollow and the Biblical Book of Revelation

Sleepy Hollow is a show that recently premiered on Fox. It is about two individuals, Abbie Mills and Ichabod Crane, who are fighting the unnatural forces of the spiritual world. Mills is the sheriff of Sleepy Hollow, and Crane was a revolutionary war soldier whose wife put a spell on him. He woke up in Sleepy Hollow two centuries later to fight the headless horseman. In every episode, the duo has to figure out a way to defeat the demons that are trying to start the apocalypse mentioned in the Biblical book of Revelation. The first episode laid the groundwork for the four horseman of the apocalypse story narrated in the book of Revelation. “Crane works with local police to help stop the [headless] horseman before he and the other three horsemen “bring about the end of days" as told in Revelation” (Akers). The headless horseman is the first unnatural force that Mills and Crane encounter. Throughout the five episodes that have aired so far, it has been established that the two main characters are supposed to represent the two witnesses mentioned in Revelation 11:3, which states, “And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days.” These “two witnesses [were] chosen to work out whether or not the apocalypse will happen” (Abrams). Mills and Crane, as the two witnesses, are in charge of making sure the unnatural things of the spirit world do not change things on Earth so that the seven years of tribulation would begin.
As with many new television shows, Sleepy Hollow also comes with mixed reviews and some criticism. Twitter was blowing up with tweets informing Fox that it is the book of “Revelation” not “Revelations”, no ‘s’. During the entirety of the show the characters constantly refer to the book as “Revelations”. There was also another person who commented on an article, stating, “True Christ followers beware. The twisting of God's Word is not something we should support” (Akers). Other than those few comments, the show seems to be popular and thriving because it has already been signed for another season.
The writers of Sleepy Hollow were interviewed about the connections they made to the Bible and what inspired them. One of the writers stated, “I think we gravitated toward the Bible as being really relevant to our storytelling once it became about the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse” (Abrams). They added a new twist to the story, because “Washington Irving’s short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” doesn’t normally conjure up images of the Bible.”  (Akers) Since the writers have decided to go this route there has been other references to the Bible other than just the four horseman of the apocalypse. “Even the population of Sleepy Hollow is 144,000 — that's a number from the Bible. There are a lot of details from the Bible, but we're not trying to do the Bible literally” (Abrams) Because the writers are not trying to do the bible literally they are able to transform typical biblical stories into story lines that better fit the direction of their show.
As I researched more I realized that most TV shows that contain any religious references fall into only a few categories. The first category is the ‘crazy religious person’ or other slight mentions of religion, which do not play a significant part in the plot. The Walking Dead is a very popular show on television currently. One of the main characters on the show, Herschel, was a very strong believer in God before the zombie apocalypse. Every once in a while the show uses his character to reference the Bible. At one point in the show he claims, “I can't profess to understand God's plan, Christ promised the resurrection of the dead. I just thought he had something a little different in mind” (The Walking Dead, Season 2 Episode 13). This would be an example of an offhand religious remark that does nothing to further the story. Another example of slight mentions of religion is in medical dramas. These shows tend to have those “crazy religious people” who don’t want procedures done due to religious beliefs. In one episode of Grey’s Anatomy there is a girl who believes in the Jewish faith. She refuses a life-saving surgery because a pig valve would be involved in the procedure (Grey’s Anatomy, Season 1, Episode 8). She refuses this procedure because in the Jewish tradition pigs are seen as non-kosher, which means they are unfit to be consumed or used in any way. 
The second category was TV shows that purposely drew content from the Bible. Over the summer The History Channel created a new show called The Bible. “The Bible comes to life in HISTORY’s epic new series. From Genesis to Revelation, these unforgettable stories unfold through live action and cutting-edge computer-generated imagery, offering new insight into famous scenes and iconic characters” (The Bible). This TV show comes directly from the Bible with little to no outside interpretation.
The last, and newest form of religious television is the reality television theme of religion. The Denver Post challenges its readers to “come up with a reality TV theme that has yet to be explored. The answer, naturally, is Jesus” (Ostrow). This reality genre has yet to be tapped and it is just starting to make its way into television. There are three shows that fall into this category so far. The first to air was Preacher’s Daughters. This show is all about "balanc[ing] the temptations every teenager faces with their parents' strict expectations and code of conduct as influenced by their faith" (Ostrow).
The Sisterhood, the second show to air, is “about five outspoken preachers' wives in Atlanta of the "Real Housewives" variety” (Ostrow). This show is supposed to appeal to the audience of the Real Housewives shows. This show will not be all that different from the others in that it will still be filled with drama and conflict. The last show, which is set to premiere sometime in 2014, is Divas for Jesus. This show is about a “group of fabulous Christian women whose faith consists of guns, God, gossip, and great wine…Monday through Saturday, our ensemble cast of glamorous Nashville ladies live upper class lifestyles working and playing hard. Tossing Book Club for Bible Study, these ladies get together every week, and on Sunday they ask for forgiveness and cleanse their fabulous little souls” (Clark). I believe this show will be the farthest to stray from typical Christian views.
I believe that there is a wide variety of ways that producers can use religion in television shows and the writers of Sleepy Hollow do a good job of integrating the Bible and creating a unique story for their viewers.

Works Cited
"About The Bible." A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2013.
Abrams, Natalie. "Sleepy Hollow Bosses Find Inspiration in the Bible." TV Guide. CBS, 15 Sept. 2013. Web. 24 Oct. 2013.
Akers, Shawn A. "'Sleepy Hollow' Draws Inspiration From Book of Revelation." Charisma News. Charisma Magazine, 19 Sept. 2013. Web. 24 Oct. 2013.
Clark, Heather. "‘Divas for Jesus’ Reality Show to Feature Upscale Women Who Love ‘God, Guns, Gossip and Wine’." Christian News Network. N.p., 20 Dec. 2012. Web. 24 Oct. 2013.
Ostrow, Joanne. "TV Reality Shows Find a New Theme: Religion vs. Temptation." The Denver Post. N.p., 7 Mar. 2013. Web. 24 Oct. 2013.

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