History channel’s “Vikings”sparks healthy religious discourse
“Vikings”, created by Michael Hirst, has often been compared to “Game of Thrones” due to its medieval themes, elaborate costumes, and violent battle scenes. Those similarities do hold true, but that is where the comparison stops. As opposed to the shows that focus on spectacle and huge battle scenes, “Vikings” focused on themes of religious clashes, orthodoxy, and spirituality.
“Vikings” sets itself apart because of its historically based characters and events. Many of the people in the show did actually exist in the 9th century, such as the main character: King Ragnar Lothbrok. The show also features famous historical events, such as the Siege of Paris (885-886). Knowing that the characters in the show were real people who suffered and died evokes a stronger sense of empathy among viewers. In shows that are completely fantasy or fiction, the stakes feel less high.
The costumes and effects found in “Vikings” are, arguably, comparable to other top tier television shows like it. With a budget far less than production companies like HBO, the History Channel does a great job at producing a visually pleasing show. The costumes and makeup are fantastic to say the least. One can get caught up examining the details of the tattoos found on the skin of most of the viking warriors.
Aside from immersive visuals and historical accuracy, “Vikings” also deals with questions of theology. Throughout the series, a single question remains constant: who follows the right god? The Vikings are a polytheistic people, believing in many gods such as Thor, Odin, Loki, and so on. Their enemies in the show, the Saxons, are a monotheistic culture that strictly follows the Christian orthodoxy. Both cultures are strongly devoted to their gods and believe they are following the “right” religion. Viewers watch this pointless argument go back-and-forth for many episodes. Eventually, the Ragnar Lothbrok comes to a realization while speaking to a Christian Priest asking about the Norse gods.
“I hope that someday our gods can become friends,” Lothbrok said.
He does not try to convert the Christian priest, or tell him that he is following the wrong god; nor does he renounce his own faith in favor of Christianity. Ragnar, instead, wants people to listen and understand one another. Dualistic thinking is what causes division among friends, family, and cultures. For those always looking to win arguments and be “right,” they should take a lesson from Ragnar and try to be more open to healthy discourse.
The show has the violence and visuals to satisfy the “action genre” audience, but the show is absolutely covered by religion. Every character in the show is affiliated to some kind of orthodoxy. Both the Vikings and the Christians have a high respect for the spiritual realm. They live and breath religion. Many shows in 2019 do not make religion a central theme because it is almost taboo. Therefore, it has sparked a healthy discussion in both religious and non-religious groups.
According to Bishop Robert Barron, creator of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, Vikings is a must watch show.
“If you’re a bit tired of the dreary secularism that dominates so much of contemporary entertainment and politics, I might invite you to watch a program that makes religion—and Christianity in particular—the central theme,” Barron said.
In Barron’s article titled “3 Reasons Why ‘Vikings’ is the Most Religiously Interesting Show on TV,” he reviews and discusses the different religious themes found in the show.
“We find all of the confusion, fascination, explosive violence, and truly creative dialogue that we might expect from a real confrontation between faiths.While many might think that a Catholic bishop’s opinion of a show like “Vikings” would be negative, he praised the show and its creator for boldly dealing with the topic of religious clashing,” Barron said.
One thing no one can argue against is that “Vikings” is one of the most unique TV shows currently airing. It’s fresh look on spirituality and orthodoxy is a welcomed addition to religious discourse. For those looking for a well-made, historically based television show that offers thought provoking theological questions, “Vikings” is the show to watch.