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Just because I’m an atheist doesn’t mean I’m [adjective] November 14, 2007

Posted by Teen Atheist in issues, rants.
Tags: , , , , ,

I have a religious friend, Alice, who is working on a chick lit novel for National Novel-Writing Month. We haven’t known each other all that long (we met at an event), but we get along fine even though she knows I’m an atheist.

Reading her plot synopsis, however, made my facial muscles twitch a little bit: [Removed for privacy. Sorry, guys! And Alice, if you’re reading, don’t take it personally!]

Even funnier is this exchange:

TA: “Your protagonist is an atheist, right?”

Alice: “The girl is. The boy isn’t. He’s nice.”

TA: *trying hard not to headdesk*

I actually still like Alice despite this, and she hasn’t made any judgments (out loud, anyway) on my atheism so far. So while we’re still friends, I doubt I’ll be reading that novel anytime soon. Besides, I loathe chick lit.

The whole conversation got me to thinking about atheist stereotypes in the media. I’m not as big a literature geek as I am a TV buff, and while there are definitely types that atheist characters on television are categorized into, I can’t say I really mind these types:

  • The Brilliant, Snarky Misanthrope: Dr. Perry Cox (Scrubs), Dr. Gregory House (House), Dr. Cristina Yang (Grey’s Anatomy), Matt Albie (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip)
  • The Heartless, Dysfunctional Whore: Andrew Van De Kamp (Desperate Housewives), Dr. Christian Troy (Nip/Tuck), Brian Kinney (Queer as Folk)
  • The Slutty, Angsty Rebel: Jen Lindley (Dawson’s Creek)
  • The Lab Geek: Dr. Temperance Brennan (Bones), Dr. Mohinder Suresh (Heroes)

The only one who doesn’t fit into any of the above categories would be Dr. Allison Cameron on House, and this fact is actually acknowledged on the show (House to Cameron: “You’re the most naive atheist I know”).

While I’m against stereotyping of any kind, I don’t really have a lot to complain about when it comes to what we atheists have been stuck with. Notice that out of the 10 examples I’ve provided, 6 are doctors (7 out of 11 if you include Cameron). Of the remaining four, one is a successful advertising executive (Brian Kinney) and one is a talented head writer for a popular sketch show (Matt Albie), while the last two (Jen and Andrew) are the cool, rebellious teenagers. And all ten are smokin’ hot.

Honestly, I kind of love it. A lot of these characters (see: Cox, House, Yang) tend to be the most popular among TV critics, they tend to be the most quotable, and most of them have been my favorites on the shows, even before they came out as atheists (see: the above three, plus Andrew on DH and Albie from S60). If anything, I take this as an indication that TV writers understand atheists better than most people do, otherwise all TV atheists would be serial killers, rapists and/or baby-eaters. Or “temporary” atheists, like Girl X of Alice’s novel. Thank God (hee-hee) TV writers know better.

And really, what would we have to bitch about? “We atheists are misrepresented! Not all of us are terribly smart, sexy and successful! We demand more idiotic, vapid atheists on television!”

That’s not to say there are no idiotic, vapid atheists in real life (because, well, I am one), and should such a character ever appear on a TV show, I’d welcome it. Right now, though, I’m really happy with the way we’re being portrayed on TV.

[ETA 11.15.2007: Oh my Godz! I forgot to mention one of my favorite characters of all time, the whip-smart, lovely Brenda Chenowith from Six Feet Under. In terms of the stereotypes I mentioned above, she’s a cross between the first two (brilliant, snarky misanthrope and heartless, dysfunctional whore). Absolutely looove her.]