TV & Radio

Netflix’s The Chosen One seems ripe for a biblical backlash – so why haven’t Christians cried blasphemy?

The Chosen One, Netflix’s new coming-of-age supernatural drama, begins with a scene of wrenching violence. A man is in a frenzy, attacking a woman we later come to know as Sarah (Glee’s Dianna Agron). In the foreground, a baby cries in distress. Sarah fights back and manages to escape her attacker. With child in tow, she drives towards the border and the Baja California peninsula in Mexico. She is stopped by a cop car. The officer IDs her, calls for backup. We watch the baby; the pupils of his eyes seem to dilate. The cop changes his mind. “It’s not the suspect.”

While fans of George Lucas’s Star Wars might mistake this interaction for some kind of Jedi mind trick, the actual explanation is altogether more spiritual: the baby, Jodie, is the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. At least, that’s what Jodie comes to believe, after he begins performing miracles as an adolescent (played by Bobby Luhnow). In this way, The Chosen One is a bolshie, gripping and commendably well-made rewriting of the Christian myth – specifically, the fundamentalist belief that Christ will walk the Earth again in corporeal form. This is, you would imagine, somewhat dicey subject matter for a TV show. From the mocking satire of Monty Python’s The Life of Brian to the labyrinthine conspiracies of The Da Vinci Code, films and series that take liberties with Christian doctrine have often provoked considerable outrage. And yet, somehow, The Chosen One has escaped this fate. It has managed to walk a near-impossible tightrope – telling a punchy and modern moral fable in a way that doesn’t besmirch its own religious underpinnings.

The lack of backlash from the Christian community is perhaps doubly surprising when you consider previous attempts to adapt the work of Mark Millar, the Scottish comic book writer behind American Jesus, the fiction upon which The Chosen One is based. Millar’s oeuvre includes the revisionist superhero comic Kick-Ass, the zany Bond spoof Kingsmen, and the morbid Wolverine story Old Man Logan (adapted into 2017’s Logan). Kick-Ass in particular proved contentious thanks to scenes of violence and foul language involving then-preteen star Chloë Grace Moretz; Kingsman faced opprobrium for a crude final punchline about anal sex.

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