I just finished watching / listening to (most of) Daily Wire’s “Terror on the Prairie“. So I want to do a movie-review, even though that’s not what this page is primarily about, because I think this movie raises several issues that Christians need to think through. So, in this review, I’m going to engage with what I think are the main spiritual issues that need our consideration.
First, let me say that I watched to see if it would be suitable for my wife and I to watch together because I really enjoy classic westerns. I was excited to see the Daily Wire producing a new western because I think there’s so much potential for wholesome entertainment in that genre. So I started this movie both eager and excited to see what the DW would do.
Second, let me also give this full disclaimer: I wasn’t able to finish the movie or watch most of the movie’s action scenes because they are excessively violent. I put the movie into the background and listened through those scenes that were too violent to watch. By the end of the movie I was just too disgusted by all the violence that I quit watching with about 10 minutes left to go.
Needless to say there will be some spoilers in this review.
“Terror on the Prairie” centers around a frontier woman and her family on the Montana plains, who must protect themselves against a ruthless gang of outlaws led by a Confederate captain hell-bent on revenge.
The Daily Wire picked up Gina Carano after Disney canceled her. So perhaps the controversial political context from which this movie originated accounts for the film’s insistence on being “edgy”. You can tell that the film intentionally defies modern political correctness as much as possible, but not so much that the film feels like political commentary. Instead they opt for more nuance.
This pioneer family is struggling on the harsh Montana plains to make their dream to build a life for themselves on their own land possible. The husband was a Confederate soldier when the war started, but defected to the Union when he realized “it was the right thing to do“. Instead of portraying him as some kind of dirty low-life, he is a hard working man, a strong and loving father, and a faithful husband. So when life gets too overwhelming for Carano’s character, he goes into town to make enough money to send his wife back home. While in town, he is solicited by prostitutes and turns them down. And I really enjoyed this portrayal because husbands / fathers are almost always depicted negatively. And the wife, though overwhelmed, is both loyal to her husband and strong. She is shrewd, insightful, and capable. And it is her courage that ultimately wins the day.
Something I really appreciated about the film was how they opted for creative writing rather than cheap solutions. Usually in Hollywood the heroes can hit a fly in mid-air with a pea-shooter from 100 yards away, while the villains can’t hit the broad side of a barn from 10 feet away. But, in “Terror on the Prairie”, Carano’s character is clearly unskilled with guns and can’t aim. This even features comedically when she misses some of the gang members with a shot-gun from no more than 15 feet away, to which they comment “she can’t shoot for ****”. This forces the writers to opt for real narrative solutions rather than having the heroes just fly through the air blasting 15 people with 3 bullets, which is something I appreciated.
Another thing I liked was the beautiful setting. The film showed off Montana’s majestic scenery with absolutely stunning backdrops. One of my favorite things about classic westerns are their rustic settings. And this movie does not disappoint in this respect.
On the whole, this movie had an engaging plot and incredible attention to detail that gave it everything needed to be a new classic western!
All that being said, I was sorely disappointed. Not every evil deed committed under the sun needs to be portrayed. And not every deranged psychopath needs to be the object of our entertainment. Opting to portray in graphic detail extreme acts of violence rather than to leave them inferred, this film has an unhealthy obsession with violence that I believe is spiritually toxic.
I don’t think I really need to defend my above comments after yet another string of public shootings like we’ve just had. In fact, Ben Shapiro himself just featured an interview with Bill Maher in which they both agreed that our culture’s obsession with violence in media is one of the leading factors contributing to this problem. I can’t help but point out just how much hypocrisy it takes to draw those conclusions and then still produce this kind of violent movie.
When people feed themselves on violence like this they become more violent. This does not mean that everyone who watches these kinds of movies necessarily becomes a serial killer, but, instead, and just as deadly from a spiritual standpoint, a steady diet of this kind of violence desensitizes us to evil, which is the very thing that our adversary – the devil – wants! Hearts and minds that become desensitized to evil and suffering are not capable of responding to the Holy Spirit, who pours out compassion and grace on people’s suffering.
The reason our society is becoming so cold and calloused is precisely because we feed on this kind of violence!Tweet
Violent movies also predispose our minds towards violent solutions when facing evil. Someone who watches these kinds of movies often will be unable to be an effective “peacemaker” in the manner of Jesus Christ, even when it relates to resolving non-violent conflicts like those that occur at the relationship-level.
Our steady diet of violence makes us more aggressive, more hostile, and more tense overall.Tweet
Lastly, all the main plot lines in this film center around using weapons in self-defense against evil people. And, although this is seen as a political issue in our day, it is first and foremost a spiritual issue because Jesus called his disciples to “love their enemies“, and forbid them from “resisting evil people“, realities that Jesus interpreted and practiced literally. These movies predispose us to think that killing our enemies is both “good” and the only “reasonable” response to this kind of evil. They make it very difficult to think through one of Jesus’ most difficult callings by making this kind of violence seem “heroic” and “noble”. The end result is that it becomes almost impossible for Christians to consider how they are supposed to be peacemakers among violent people.
2 Thessalonians 2:9-10 (CSB) – 9 The coming of the lawless one is based on Satan’s working, with every kind of miracle, both signs and wonders serving the lie, 10 and with every wicked deception among those who are perishing. They perish because they did not accept the love of the truth and so be saved.
I am very concerned by the degree of spiritual deception permeating the Church in the West right now. How little discernment we seem to have. Do we not understand the times? Do we not know the schemes of our adversary?
The Daily Wire is being heralded by those who are supposed to be “conserving values” as supposedly “championing” the return of “wholesome content”. They are marketing themselves as producing “movies that share your values”. And Christians are consuming their content like crazy. But what “values” does “Terror on the Prairie” teach? Have Christians become so dull in the West that they think “marriage” is the only value that matters? This movie nods at spiritually benign values in order to seduce us with a spirit of violence!
What is wrong with people?
I know some might scoff at me for this and say that I’m just too sensitive.
Romans 16:19 (CSB) – …I want you to be wise about what is good, and yet innocent about what is evil.
Watching this kind of movie will corrupt your conscience and desensitize you to evil, which is the very thing that our adversary – the devil – wants!
Christians should be sensitive to evil! “Innocence” is a thing to be cherished and prized by Christians, not condescendingly discarded as if being desensitized to these kinds of horrors was some kind of sign of strength! Jesus teaches us that we are supposed to be like children.
Considering how wildly popular this movie is right now, I believe those who love the truth would be wise to walk circumspectly; consider why we are fascinated with this kind of violence, and why Christians are justifying this kind of content in the name of “conservatism”? Could it be that “conservatism” has become our religion and we have forsaken Christ to follow Washington?
Christians should not watch this movie. And do not be deceived: we aren’t free to walk however we wish. Be careful what you allow to fill your heart because the biggest spiritual threat of watching something like this is not that you will go out and become a deranged murderer – for most of us that is unlikely – but that you will cease to be bothered by such things, and so become DEAF to the Holy Spirit!