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"Paul announces Jesus Christ risen from the dead. And [the text] says 'Most people laughed at him and walked away.' Welcome to YouTube!"

Robert Emmet Barron is an American prelate of the Catholic Church and a YouTuber. He served as rector at Mundelein Seminary from 2012 to 2015 and as auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles from 2015 to 2022. He's now bishop of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester since 2022.

As the leader of Word on Fire ministries, Bishop Barron has sought to answer John Paul II's call for a new evangelization by using online mediums like Web Video and Podcasts to reach people who he could never reach from the pulpit. To attract these audiences, Bishop Barron comments on notable events in political, intellectual, and, most importantly for the purpose of this page, popular culture. In his videos, podcasts, and articles dealing with media, Bishop Barron often delves into what are essentially conversations on tropes in the context of their relationship to Christianity and The Four Gospels.

His most popular outlet is his YouTube channel, where he posts many commentaries a year that are about ten minutes long on a variety of topics. He also co-hosts a podcast with Brandon Vogt, "The Word On Fire Show," where the two of them discuss the role of the Church in the modern day. He also has the Word On Fire website to host his articles and homilies.

    Works Commented On 

Bishop Barron's works provide examples of:

  • Balance Between Good and Evil: Bishop Barron always likes to point out when movies portray Good and Evil as complete equals in need of balance, which is usually followed by a Shout-Out to the Force from Star Wars. The problem Barron has with that morality is that it either ignores God or reduces Him to a magical tool that people can manipulate.
  • Bumbling Dad: In what he calls "The Homer Simpson Effect," fiction like The Simpsons and Family Guy depicts fathers as boorish, stupid, and unvirtuous as opposed to the beautiful and amazing women of the families. While he understands this as a Deconstruction of patriarchal norms, the Bishop cites Aristotle to argue that women can be virtuous without relegating good fathers to the trash heap.
  • Children Are a Waste: The moral made by the TIME Magazine article "The Childfree Life" is observed by Barron to focus exclusively on the private preferences of couples, as if choosing to have a child or not was like choosing to eat an apple or an orange. What the Bishop laments is not that couples aren't having kids, it's that they aren't doing so because they value their freedom over the value of their community, their family, and the truth.
    Bishop Barron: Your life is finally not about you, and that's what makes life really worth living.
  • Confession Cam: The practice of having people come up and confess their wrong-doings, often of a sexual nature, on Reality TV strikes the Bishop because the popularity of these "judgement shows" (think Judge Judy and Dr. Phil) correlated with an overnight drop in the amount of people going to the Confessional.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: The Bishop opens his commentary on Last Days In The Desert by praising it for its massive accomplishment: managing to make what he finds the most captivating human in all of history, Jesus Christ, "colossally dull."
  • Damsel in Distress: Barron cites the unfairness and omnipresence of helpless females in older action stories as the reason why more male-negative tropes like Bumbling Dad and Women Are Wiser appeared on the scene. The Bishop argues both types of tropes are unfair and imply that men and women are trapped in a Nietzchean power struggle where one must dominate the other.
  • Death by Origin Story: The commentary on The Dark Knight makes it clear that the violence in superhero origin stories taint their desires for justice with a desire for revenge, forcing them to indulge in the same violence that they attempt to stop.
  • Demythification: Drawing on N.T. Wright, Bishop Barron identifies this trope as the essence of the overarching narrative of the modern day. This meta-narrative can be seen in 300, Agora, Star Trek Into Darkness, Clash of the Titans, and even something like The Rock's Hercules movie, which turns every Greek monster into some disguised soldiers and makes the demigod Hercules a normal human who is a hero by virtue of believing in himself. The only great challenge to this meta-narrative, in Barron's view, is the Christian one which holds Christ's crucifixion to be the climax of human history.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: Referenced In-Universe; an Episcopalian Bishop interpreted an exorcism in Acts of the Apostles as an act of intolerance against a demon who was charitably giving a slave girl unique spiritual gifts. Bishop Barron uses this absurd anecdote to distinguish an all-inclusive, never-challenging love with the Christian love that requires intolerance. That is, intolerance for Satan.
    "Up until last month in Venezuela, the entire Christian interpretive tradition read that passage as an account of deliverance, as the story of the liberation of a young woman who had been enslaved both to dark spiritual powers and to the nefarious human beings who had exploited her."
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: The films from the nineties on have increasingly featured what Barron calls the "Monster Mentor," a mentor who gets results with insanely harsh methods. Examples can be found in Full Metal Jacket and Kill Bill, but the most "arresting instance of this character" is found in J. K. Simmons's character from Whiplash.
  • Easily Forgiven: Impossible; in his video "On the Charleston Tragedy and Forgiveness," Barron reads biblical forgiveness not as dismissing that evil was done, but loving someone in spite of all the horrible things they did, no matter if they deserve that love or not. The problem is that this is not done "easily," it is the most difficult thing imaginable.
  • End of an Age: "Shakespeare and the Fading of the Catholic World" focuses on the various Shakespeare productions that focus on the rather somber end of long-standing traditions. Barron attributes the longing and grief for the past to the artificial destruction of English Catholicism by the suddenly-Protestant monarchy.
  • Enfant Terrible: In reaction to a comedian who said "Babies scare me more than anything else," the Bishop proposes that this desire for "The Childfree Life" is one of the reasons so many monstrous children appear in recent horror films, because modern people view children more as demons than angels.
  • Expospeak Gag: Borrowing from Thomas Aquinas, Barron will often explain the theology behind something and then reveal that he was talking about something quite well known:
    • Barron describes Aquinas's idea that since every person has an innate, natural desire for "a supernatural condition that grounds perfect fulfillment and happiness". The existence of this desire in every person from birth proves the condition exists just as hunger proves the existence of food. Only after outlining this logic does Barron drop the Wham Line that this condition is what "people generally refer to as 'God.'"
    • The Barron lines out Aristotle's argument for the existence of a "first unmoved mover," and once the argument is lined out, makes it clear this "first unmoved mover" is called God.
    • In his video on the Doctor Strange movie, he mentions that the film can help introduce skeptics to what Father Robert Spitzer calls the “trans-physical consciousness." He offhandedly mentions some people call this "the soul."
  • Forgiveness: In his commentary "On the Charleston Tragedy and Forgiveness," Barron describes the families of Charleston as the ultimate icons of God's forgiveness and love as described in The Four Gospels, precisely because they did so when it was difficult.
  • For Want Of A Nail: "Stephen Colbert and Providence" demonstrates the way God can work to create incredible effects from small things by following an intergenerational chain of thought.
    1. Barron begins by tracing the joy Stephen Colbert found in faith after the accident that killed his two brothers and father to this quote, "Are not all of God's punishments also gifts?"
    2. He traces that quote back to an obscure letter by J. R. R. Tolkien about death in his writing.
    3. Tolkien in turn only had that wisdom because the orphan Tolkien was taken in and educated by a priest named Father Morgan.
    4. Yet Morgan only knew that God's punishments could be gifts because he was educated in the Birmingham Oratory, founded by John Henry Newman.
    5. John Henry Newman was an Anglican priest who was rejected by English society when he converted to Catholicism and kept at arms-lengths by wary cradle Catholics. Alone in the world, Newman discovered an abandoned oratory and began to educate there, using his experience of rejection to teach people to find joy in pain. In summary, without Newman's lesson, Tolkien would never be able to take his spirituality to create the world of The Lord of the Rings which would never be able to comfort a young Stephen Colbert, whose comedy could never comfort and save people maybe not even born yet.
  • Genre Roulette: The Bishop notes that The Bible, when taken as a whole, is an example of this trope. After all, there're histories like the Books of Samuel, poems like the Book of Job, and legal codes like Leviticus. The failure to recognize this is one of Barron's sharpest criticisms of his favorite atheist author, Christopher Hitchens, and also Bill Maher.
    "The Bible is not a book, the Bible is a library. So the question is 'Do you take the library literally?' Well, it depends on what section you're in!"
  • Green Aesop:
    • The commentary "on Pope Francis' Encyclical 'Laudato Si'" traces the value of nature and the importance of the non-human cosmos back through the Christian tradition to figures like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jerome, St. Augustine, Irenaeus, St. Bonaventure, Thomas Aquinas, and especially St. Francis of Assisi.
    • Barron takes issues with mother! (2017)'s theme that God's love for humanity excludes his love for "mother earth," which is not anywhere found in The Bible.
  • Hell: Belief in Hell is affirmed by the Bishop even in light of criticisms of comedians like George Carlin. While Carlin assumes damnation is an action by God, Barron argues that if God is love and allows for human freedom, humans must be free to reject and totally separate themselves from God's love for eternity, which results in a state like torment and fire that is called Hell.
  • The Hero's Journey: In his commentary on Last Days in the Desert, he describes Campbell's vision as "Man's Quest for God" and makes it clear that the story of Jesus is something entirely different: "God's Quest for Man."
  • Jesus Was Way Cool: Last Days in the Desert fails to interest Robert Barron because it portrays Jesus as some decent dude from Palestine with no sign of his divinity. Barron compares him to a polite guy from Church, who you like well enough, but you wouldn't make a movie about him. Making Jesus only divine or, in the case of most Jesus movies, only human makes him really uninteresting.
    "Would you ever be tempted to say 'Oh, here's clearly the person upon which most of Western civilization is predicated. Here's someone who had this explosive earthquake effect on the whole human race.' You would never guess it from a movie like this!"
  • Messianic Archetype: Barron often discusses superheroes in their roles as Christ-archetypes.
    • The popularity of Spider-Man is attributed to his role as a Savior-Hybrid, a low man like us while still having a superhuman nature allowing him to thwart evil humanity cannot. Barron singles out the acting of Andrew Garfield in playing both man and savior without compromise as a reason for why Spider-Man continues to endure among the savior-superheroes.
    • Bishop Barron recognizes the loving self-sacrifices of saviors like Batman in The Dark Knight Rises as an icon of Christ in a culture that has largely ignored Him.
      "The Christ archetype haunts Western Culture, both the higher culture and the popular culture. I think you can see it in movie after movie."
  • Never Trust a Title: "Bishop Barron on The Doritos Commercial" is more centrally about the philosophy behind abortion, the separation of truth and will in the thought of people from William of Occam to Renee Descartes, and the dangers of those views as explained by The Pope Benedict XVI in his Regensburg Address.
  • Political Overcorrectness:
    • Bishop Barron criticizes an unchallenging conception of "inclusivity" held by an Episcopalian Bishop as un-Christian. For context, this Bishop preached that Saint Paul was a bigot for exorcising a demon. Barron compared it to a New Yorker cartoon where a preacher handed the pulpit to Satan in the spirit of appreciating each point of view.
      "When inclusivity and toleration emerge as the supreme goods—as they have in much of our society today—then love devolves into something vague, sentimental and finally dangerous. How dangerous? Well, we might begin to see the devil himself as beautiful and holy."
    • In one of his most exasperated videos, the Bishop spends his commentary on "The Doritos Commercial" describing how absurd a philosophy must be to require taking offense at a commercial about how babies want to eat doritos.
  • Satan: "The most frightening religious painting in the world," according to the commentary on The Devil, is a fresco which depicts The Antichrist speaking before a crowd with the Devil whispering to him. The invoked Nightmare Fuel in the fresco is the Devil's hands, which he has put through the Anti-Christ's robes and out of his sleeves so the Devil's hand just appear to be those of another human.
    "It's a very clever way of influence us. Indirectly, clandestinely, by insinuation. In such a way that, heck, it looks like our activities, yet it's the dark powers having invaded."
  • Science Is Bad: Barron comments on how this theme connects The Amazing Spider-Man and the Book of Genesis, not in the sense that attempting to gain knowledge is itself bad, but doing so hubristically will inevitably destroy you. As Adam denies God's command, gains Knowledge of Good and Evil, and dies, Spider-Man's Villain of the Week attempts to restore his missing arm without any moral restraint and turns himself into a literal monster. His motives weren't bad and his goal wasn't bad, but the complete dismissal of boundaries is what turns the pursuit of knowledge into a grave.
    "The result of this grasping at a knowledge that will solve our problems results in disaster."
  • Sentient Cosmic Force: Barron speaks favorably of including supernatural elements in movies, but cautions that the easily manipulated cosmic forces Star Wars and Doctor Strange are not the God of Christianity. He identifies them with the heresy of Pantheism, but still, he finds it easier to talk to someone who is open to the existence of something supernatural than to a staunch materialist.
  • Sinister Minister: Barron illustrates how priests go bad in his commentary on "David and the Priesthood." He compares David's one lazy day to any time a priest fails to work for God's glory. In David's story, he commits adultery with Bathsheba and kills Uriel, and priests can fall into similar excesses of lust, greed, and gluttony.
  • Sistine Steal: The page image for his article on Science and Religion sees the Sistine Chapel ceiling illustration of God pointing towards and creating the Big Bang, which takes the place of Adam.
  • Special Edition Title:
    • The episode on Bob Dylan opens without the normal theme music and instead begins with "Blowin' In The Wind," a song Bishop Barron dissects in the rest of the video.
    • To highlight the seriousness of its subject, the episode "On the Charleston Tragedy and Forgiveness" is the only one to open without any theme music.
  • Superhero Paradox: The inability for superheroes to stop evil is best explained in the commentary on The Dark Knight, where the Bishop makes the point that the violence of the Joker feeds off the violence of Batman and Harvey Dent. The only way to escape this constant reflection of violence is to avoid "fighting it on its own terms," in the passive, Heroic Sacrifice of Jesus.
  • There Are No Coincidences: ... For people of faith. The point of the video "On Stephen Colbert and Providence" is that the world is not random, but that every single random event is just a part of God's plan not fully understood. The whole thing is summarized in a world-rocking quote by The Pope John Paul II and one of Bishop Barron's many references to Bob Dylan. And yes, he got all this from reading an interview with Stephen Colbert.
    "You know Bob Dylan said 'We're hanging in the balance of a perfect finished plan, like every sparrow fallen like every grain of sand.' We're in the balance of a perfect finished plan, but we don't see it."
  • Totalitarian Utilitarian: In his commentary on Man of Steel, Bishop Barron identifies the film's antagonist with Karl Popper's view that all state control is evil, whether the state in control is The Republic laid out by Plato or Nazi Germany. Barron is troubled by the state represented by General Zod, but he also finds the absolute freedom represented by Superman to be just as problematic from a Biblical perspective.
  • Übermensch: In his commentary on Man of Steel, Bishop Barron connects Zack Snyder's Superman with the original superman, that of Friedrich Nietzsche. Barron points out that Superman's view of freedom as the greatest good is idolatrous, making freedom God at the expense of the real God who knows us better than ourselves. The Bishop has no problem with the autonomous Superman refusing to bend the knee to the totalitarian General Zod, but it is his refusal to bend the knee to God that is problematic.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: According to these commentaries, Uncle Ben's message can be traced back to The Four Gospels, when Jesus refused to use his power to create bread in the desert.
  • Women Are Wiser: Barron identifies this trope as the "All-Conquering Female," where a female character is underestimated by all the men around her, but inevitably proves herself to be greater than all of them. He recognizes it's a correction to the Damsel in Distress, but he finds reversing the situation to make men universally inferior as a submission to Friedrich Nietzsche's idea of an inevitable power struggle rather than any notion of equality.