Hamish Linklater stars as Fr. Paul in Midnight Mass. Photo courtesy Netflix

Speaking Out: Miniseries crosses a perilous line

By  Paula Ducepec, Youth Speak News
  • March 2, 2022

Midnight Mass is a recent Netflix miniseries about a predominantly Catholic small island town whose parish priest came back from a pilgrimage changed.

Heads up: this column contains spoilers about the plot.

Monsignor John Michael Pruitt, the original pastor of Crockett Island, returns years later as replacement priest Fr. Paul — and as a vampire. He brings his “salvation” with him, the “angel” that made him who he is now: a bloodsucking monster.

Still, wearing the clothes of the priest, he continues to preach a new gospel within the walls of the church. The people of the town continue going to church because, like the rest of us, they are looking for salvation. Seeing what this “angel” has gifted the monsignor, they too want to have eternal life. No matter the cost.

I know Netflix and other forms of media are now fighting to showcase something novel to create content that sticks out from the crowd, but this one can be hazardous.

It is very dangerous because it not only attacks the usual senses — sight, sound, touch — as the horror genre usually does, it attacks what people crave spiritually: salvation and redemption.

Vampire lore has long been transformed from pure horror to erotic media to teen romance, but a couple of things remain consistent: that they are feared and that there is a way to fight and kill them.

Vampires can symbolize death, dread, fear and our darker self. These things are very real in our lives but do not want to face them in their entirety because they are the qualities of our demons.

Among all of these fears are the remedies or weapons to use to fight against it; a vampire killing kit if you must. Garlic, a wooden stake, sunlight and, most of all, Christian implements such as crucifixes and holy water repels these demons.

Midnight Mass has kept most of the lore regarding the sensitivity and death by sunlight but removes the more fundamental weapons: the crucifix and the holy water.

Christianity is woven into this lore because we do still believe that the goodness, the purity, the life that the Cross and crucifix will save us from evil. Bearing the crucifix reminds us of Jesus’ triumphant sacrificial death.

Is the show telling its viewers the symbol of the Cross no longer bears weight against evil, and moreso is the bearer and face of evil?

Monsignor Pruitt wears the priestly garb confidently and preaches the “Good Word” without any effect on his vampirism. In fact, it is his costume that makes people confidently and blindly follow him without question. He wears the clothes that people trust the most, the identity of someone people trust to lead them to salvation. Yet, he is the one who leads their souls to peril.

I see this as an attempt to say the Church no longer has the power to ward off evil. In fact, it is presented as one of the faces of evil.

If the place that is supposed to save us, redeem us, and lead us away from temptation can no longer save us and can even inflict evil on us, then where are we to go now? Who will save us?

In the end, Midnight Mass is a horror TV series, but not in the typical fashion. Rather, it brews fear with its premise that we can no longer be saved, and the shepherds who are discharged to guide us to salvation instead lead us to danger.

Midnight Mass is a dangerous, yet very thought-provoking, TV series about evil that lurks around us and the faces that it bears. It should also give us an alarming wake-up call to stay diligently alert in our fight against evil.

(Ducepec, 24, is a Bachelor of Science graduate of the University of Toronto.)

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