Matthew Schmitz is deputy editor of First Things.

Sympathy for the Medieval Dorks of ‘Forged in Fire’

I would like to get the people who talk about the “filmic text” of Mad Men or the “ludic aspect” of Game of Thrones to watch more demotic TV—you know, the pleasantly mindless stuff. One could write a whole dissertation on the priapic anxiety of Don Draper and Tony Soprano and still say less about … Continued


Sex Education, Courtesy of ‘The Americans’

Strange to say, a cable drama about Soviet spies has gotten closer to the truth of American sex than the countless series that explicitly treat the topic have. In the season three finale of FX’s The Americans, which aired in 2015, viewers saw Philip and Elizabeth Jennings—outwardly a normal suburban couple, secretly ruthless spies—flash back … Continued

Entertainment, Television

Can Harvard Solve the Problem of Religious Illiteracy?

When Ralph Waldo Emerson addressed the 1838 graduating class of Harvard Divinity School, he began with an invocation: In this refulgent summer, it has been a luxury to draw the breath of life. The grass grows, the buds burst, the meadow is spotted with fire and gold in the tint of flowers. The air is … Continued


Marx vs. Faith on ‘The Americans’

Study the history of civilizations, open your fridge, look in the mirror: everywhere you will see the unmistakable signs of decay. Entropy is as inescapable in the realm of culture as in nature, which is why so much of what we see on screen seems so familiar—or so I believed until I began watching The … Continued

Entertainment, Television

Seven Books that Should Be Banned

Every fall the publishing industry—excuse me, the “national books community”—engages in the self-promotional frenzy known as “Banned Books Week.” It comes complete with #BannedBooksWeek hashtags, events at public libraries, and high-minded declarations from authors. This may help book sales, but it only harms our ability to take books seriously. The first dishonest thing about “Banned … Continued


The Latest Victims of Political Correctness? Gilbert & Sullivan

After canceling their upcoming production of the Mikado in the face of complaints that it is racist, the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players said that they “never intended to give offense.” If so, it is hard to understand why they were producing the Mikado in the first place. Gilbert and Sullivan operas are not exactly the … Continued


Wes Craven’s Nightmare Faith

Over centuries, we are told, fire-and-brimstone preachers have perfected the art of exploiting our darkest fears—damnation, hell, torture, exposure, guilt, transmission—to pack the house and fill the coffers. Some of these hucksters may be more obviously fraudulent than others (Sinclair Lewis’s Elmer Gantry has nothing on James Joyce’s Fr. Arnall in Portrait of the Artist … Continued


Dr. Dre: Violent Man, Mediocre Talent

In November 1990, Dr. Dre picked up hip-hop journalist Dee Barnes and began slamming her face against a wall. After unsuccessfully trying to throw her down a flight of stairs, he pursued her into a bathroom where he held her to the ground, grabbed her by the hair, and began punching her head from behind—all … Continued

Celebrities, Entertainment, Music

What Does Hollywood Have Against Marriage?

Mindy Kaling, creator of The Mindy Project sent a tweet this weekend saying she was fed up with negative portrayals of marriage in television and film. “Does everyone in LA hate being married?” she asked. “It’s sure how you make it look in TV and film!” Does everyone in LA hate being married? It’s sure … Continued