April 18, 2009
Michael J. Fox and The 700 Club.
I was particularly intrigued by the chapter on "faith". While it's more or less what you'd expect from a Hollywood celebrity, it still has some interesting tidbits, such as Fox's description of himself as a lapsed Protestant who now attends a Reform Jewish synagogue with his wife and kids, or his references to the evangelists and Christian musicians he met or knew in Vancouver while growing up here; I'm only nine years younger than Fox, and I grew up in the evangelical milieu here myself, so I can't help wondering if I may have crossed paths with any of these people, too.
Fox also makes at least two references to The 700 Club, in contexts that suggest he probably isn't all that interested in watching the show or being one of its guests -- but one thing he doesn't mention, at least not that I noticed, is that he once co-starred in a prime-time TV special produced by The 700 Club in the early 1980s. You can see a fragment of that performance above.
The reason I remember Fox's appearance in this special is that, in a weird sort of way, it helped me to get more involved in "secular" pop culture when I was still in my early teens. No doubt Pat Robertson and his cohorts hired people like Fox to appear in this special as a way of luring "secular" audience members in to hear their message -- yet for kids like me, who grew up in the evangelical ghetto and rarely watched prime-time TV, shows like this opened us up to the wider world of mainstream entertainment. When I finally began to watch Family Ties a year or two after this special aired, I could tell myself it was probably okay partly because Fox had played a part, however small, in a Christian TV show. (The fact that Family Ties co-star Michael Gross had gone even further and proclaimed his faith on The 700 Club itself also came into play there somewhere.)
Thankfully, I haven't felt the need to "justify" my interest in popular culture like that in a long, long time. I do, however, still wonder sometimes about those places where the "secular" culture and the evangelical culture bleed into one another. For example, I think the VeggieTales videos are reasonably amusing and morally instructive, but I cannot help but wonder how old I should let my kids get before I clue them in to the fact that some of the gags in those videos come from R-rated films like Scarface and The Blues Brothers.