‘Preacher’ — Hiding An Important Religious Message
by Frank Martin
Religion is always a difficult topic to write a story about. It’s inherently charged from the very beginning, so trying to navigate that controversial minefield is never easy. The television adaptation of Preacher does it to great effect, however. It more or less uses the source material as puzzle pieces. Then it reconstructs its own unique story using those pieces as building blocks for its characters and plot. By doing this, it’s able to communicate a message about religion that is never, ahem, preachy. It also cleverly wraps its message in a shell of violence and over-the-top dark humor that masks its true theme.
The end of Preacher’s third season had Jesse (Dominic Cooper) reclaim his power to control people. Meanwhile, God (Mark Harelik) has been interacting with Tulip (Ruth Negga) in order to get her to stop Jesse from looking for him. The reason for this is pretty clear: God is afraid of Jesse’s power. He can make any being, even God, do whatever he wants with his voice. Yet Tulip is the only person that has a direct line to Jesse’s heart. He can control Tulip if he wants, but he cares about her, so he values her opinion. That’s why God wants her help.
The symbolism here is clear. God grants people free will. He can control them, but He doesn’t. That’s His gift to every living thing, human and supernatural being alike. Jesse, meanwhile, has the power of God, but doesn’t honor that free will stipulation. He uses his ability to control people and take away their free will. He is in many essences the anti-God. It’s an extremely powerful message about religion and the existence of God that is extremely controversial, and yet Preacher manages to eliminate the controversy by making a show with ridiculous jokes and a scene featuring two people wrestling amidst a room of exploded intestines. It is a very clever way to deliver a message.
Preacher is now streaming on Hulu.