Created By: movie007 on April 3, 2012 Last Edited By: movie007 on April 6, 2012

Ambiguously Christian

A character is suggested to be Christian.

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We've all probably Seen It a Million Times. A character might make casual references to church, Sunday School, the Bible, or Jesus Christ - but, yet, the religion is not explicitly established as being a part of their personality. This probably comes up the most during a Christmas or Easter episode, but does not necessarily have to be the case.

In short, "being a Christian" is not one of the character's defining traits - and, in fact, the references may only come up once or a few times.

For example, a conversation may go like this.

Bob: Hey, Alice, how about going for pancakes at Carol's Bakery?
Alice: Oh, I really love that place. I go there every Sunday, before church.
Bob: Cool, then let's go there. How about tomorrow?

And then that's the only reference in the entire episode that suggests that Alice may be a Christian.

Is this tropeable?
Community Feedback Replies: 12
  • April 3, 2012
    I would say that in television in the West, every character is probably Christian unless mentioned to be otherwise, so this is likely People Sit On Chairs.
  • April 3, 2012
    Gonna have to agree. I'd say that almost everyone is [insert local religion] in any given place. Not really anything special.
  • April 4, 2012
    Well technically there is no such thing as too common to trope. The real question is does this communicate anything to the viewer? Unfortunately in the quote presented, going to church is just another weekly ritual without any specific meaning.
  • April 4, 2012
    This exists in that "ambiguous" space between "No Such Thing As Too Common To Trope" and People Sit On Chairs. I don't think it's tropeworthy. It technically doesn't have to be unique to the west, but I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a non-western example outside of anime or manga (which have heavily influenced and been influenced by the west). Taking religion out of the question, other similar assumptions are made about characters in most western works, such as the assumption that characters don't have a criminal record, unless specifically stated or implied; sit com families are assumed to be middle class, unless otherwise stated or shown to be exceptionally wealthy, working class, or low to no income; outside of a few specific genres, literary characters in western fiction are assumed to be Caucasian unless otherwise stated.
  • April 6, 2012
    Well, I can't really argue with you guys. I was just thinking of how we had a trope called Ambiguously Jewish, and then got to thinking of if there was a Christian counterpart.

    Perhaps, we could modify the trope a bit - and call it Christian Unless Otherwise Specified. Would that work, by any chance?

    Also, I'm thinking the trope could maybe be applied to people who exude the stereotypes of being a Christian - but are never explicitly mentioned to be such. For instance, Edna Strickland from the game series of Back To The Future.
  • April 6, 2012
    Christian Unless Otherwise Specified sounds like a promising page, though it would not be a counterpart to Ambiguously Jewish.
  • April 6, 2012
    I'd argue that assuming people are Christian unless otherwise specified is more American than "Western" in general. I can't speak for every country but don't think Christianity is such a natural assumption in the UK, it's like, that or Atheism/Agnosticism are equally likely.

    That said, I get what you mean that this is difficult to identify in fictional worlds. What about a trope called something like Religion Drop that could act like Title Drop but as the moment a character's religion is codified within the work?

    e.g. in the first episode of Skins, we see Anwar in a Mosque, or the episode of Arrested Development where Ann Veal invites George Michael to a Christian Music Burning Party (or the Christmas party with four hours of silent prayer, obviously whichever came first)?
  • April 6, 2012
    Something I think is important to remember, which also is true of Informed Judaism /Ambiguously Jewish, is that it's kind of rare to have very religious characters in media (at least as main characters) and to a certain extent, that's probably a pretty good reflection of reality.

    Which is to say that the idea that a character's religion only comes up when it comes to a major religious holiday or ceremony, that actually mirrors reality pretty well (not sure what the Christian equivalent is, but American Jews will talk about someone who is "only Jewish on Yom Kippur and Passover:).

  • April 6, 2012
    I would say Ann Veal certainly doesn't count, since her religious background is a big part of her character.
  • April 6, 2012
    @Jordan, for Christians it's "Christmas and Easter".

    Yes, Religion Drop (or some better title) sounds like more of a tropable thing, as it is a storytelling/characterization device. "I'll just have Alice make the Sign of the Cross before going into battle, that'll let the audience know she's Catholic without me having to spend precious screen time on the subject."
  • April 6, 2012
    Twin Bird: I meant it in the sense that that's the scene that establishes her faith. But I mean, I was pretty vague so maybe you could have a trope for the only time a character's religion is mentioned... or something?

    SKJAM: Erm... I could ykttw the Religion Drop idea? Or anyone could, really.
  • April 6, 2012
    Yea, I like the religion drop idea. I'll give an example,yes