WHY WE CARE


Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live. Through reviews, articles and discussions, we want to spark intellectual thought, spiritual growth and a desire to follow the command of Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."

YOUR STORIES


Family uses Plugged In as a ‘significant compass’

"I am at a loss for words to adequately express how much it means to my husband and me to know that there is an organization like Focus that is rooting for us. Just today I was reading Psalm 37 and thinking about how your ministry provides ways to 'dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.' We have two teenagers and an 8-year-old in our household...Plugged In has become a significant compass for our family. All three of our kids are dedicated to their walk with Christ but they still encounter challenges. Thanks for all of your research and persistence in helping us navigate through stormy waters."

Plugged In helps college student stand-up for his belief

"Thanks for the great job you do in posting movie and television reviews online. I’m a college freshman and I recently had a confrontational disagreement with my English professor regarding an R-rated film. It is her favorite movie and she wanted to show it in class. I went to your Web site to research the film’s content. Although I had not seen the movie myself, I was able to make an educated argument against it based on the concerns you outlined. The prof said that she was impressed by my stand and decided to poll the whole class and give us a choice. We overwhelmingly voted to watch a G-rated movie instead! I’ve learned that I can trust your site and I will be using it a lot in the future.”

Plugged In brings ‘Sanity and Order’ to Non-believer

“Even though I don’t consider myself a Christian, I find your Plugged In Web site useful and thought-provoking. No one reviews movies like you do. Instead of being judgmental, you put entertainment ‘on trial.’ After presenting the evidence, you allow the jury of your readers to decide for themselves what they should do. In my opinion, you bring sanity and order to the wild world of modern day entertainment. Keep up the good work!”

Mom thinks Plugged In is the ‘BEST Christian media review site’

"Our family doesn't go to the movies until we go online and check out your assessment of a given film. I think this is the BEST Christian media review website that I've found, and I recommend it to my family and friends. Keep up the good work!"

SUPPORT THE WORK OF PLUGGED IN

Our hope is that whether you're a parent, youth leader or teen, the information and tools at Plugged In will help you and your family make appropriate media decisions. We are privileged to do the work we do, and are continually thankful for the generosity and support from you, our loyal readers, listeners and friends.

TV Series Review

It's never been easy to catch a killer.

But imagine trying to catch 'em before DNA evidence. Before our cell phones tracked our every move and dutifully catalogued every text. Before even fingerprints were accepted evidence.

And that assumes the police even want to find the murderer. In the case of poor Georgio Santorelli, a 13-year-old boy who worked as a prostitute in New York's meanest of mean streets in 1896, that seems unlikely. Some folks argue the boy deserved his cruel fate.

No, if Georgio is to find justice, Dr. Laszlo Kreiszler and his brave band of helpmates will have to find his killer. And they'll have to do it the really old-fashioned way.

In 19th-Century New York, No One Can Hear You Scream

Laszlo is a psychologist, or "alienist" as they were called back in the day. This TNT series tells us that they were so called because their patients were thought to be "alienated from their own true natures." Laszlo has a particular interest in criminal psychology, which makes him a forerunner to today's criminal profiler.

But you could argue that Laszlo—at least in this show’s understanding—is a bit of an alien from 19th-century culture himself. He trusts women. He trusts forensic evidence. He doesn't trust religion one little whit. And he'd certainly be in favor of a more, um, liberal attitude toward sex than was typical back in Victorian-era America. Why, it's almost as if a politically correct time machine traveled to 2018, nabbed a suitably enlightened denizen of our time and dropped him into 1896 New York City. Because really, what gritty, realistic period drama couldn't be improved with a little 21st-century paternalistic air of superiority?

And indeed, if Laszlo has a fault, it's that he seems to believe himself faultless.

But Laszlo may have found his match in Sara Howard, who serves as secretary to none other than Theodore Roosevelt, New York's police commissioner at the time. It's possible that she, too, is less a product of her time and more of that same time machine: Strong and able, she wants to make a career for herself and has little time for the era’s rampant sexism—whether it be the leering ogles of folks in the police department or the misguided gallantry of her friend and associate John Moore.

The three of them, along with police inspectors Marcus and Lucius Isaacson, are determined to apprehend what we'd call a serial killer today—a man with a penchant for torturing, murdering and mutilating young boys. And therein we begin our significant litany of issues with this show.

A Chest Burster Ain't Got Nothing on This

First, the violence. The Alienist, based on a best-selling book by Caleb Carr, is as gruesome and as brutal as anything I've seen this side of premium cable, and well into R-rated territory if it had landed in movie houses instead. Viewers see horrifically mutilated bodies and terrible evidence of disease. The Atlantic said that it's a "veritable grab bag of triggering visuals and nauseating images." The Parents Television Council used the show as an opportunity to plead for à la carte television. "Those who want to watch explicit content like The Alienist should be able to choose to pay for it," PTC President Tim Winter said in a statement. "But it is unconscionable that those who are offended by it must also underwrite it."

But, lest we forget, the victims of these brutal acts are boys—boys who have been perhaps abused and brutalized for years as, essentially, prostitutes in New York's most unsavory districts. These pubescent sex workers wear women's clothing (and often skimpy clothing at that) and call each other by female names, and they cater to a presumably same-sex clientele. While The Alienist implies that most are forced into the industry, it also suggests that most of these underage prostitutes are beaten into it because of their own same-sex leanings: In the show's telling, the brothels where these boys work and the clients who pay them are less complicit in their corruption than their intolerant moms and dads.

Indeed, it seems that faith and religion are as much societal enemies as serial killers in The Alienist. A Catholic priest is seen serenely watching police beat a man nearly to death. In the second episode, a man berates Laszlo for his apparent lack of faith, then says flatly that the 13-year-old boy—mutilated almost beyond recognition—"had it coming."

The Alienist seems determined to lump religion in with racism, sexism, poverty and indifference as the greatest social ills present at the turn of the century. This despite the fact that, in those days before pervasive social programs, the Church was about the only place that the abused and poverty-stricken could turn to for help. I'm sure that Christianity had its share of bigots and jerks back then, just as it does now. But this series’ depiction of the faith so far is disappointingly one-sided. For all of Laszlo's enlightened tolerance for those of different races, genders and sexual orientations, the show itself seems to harbor a vitriolic bias against Christianity.

The Alienist depicts its share of graphic and lewd sexual encounters between adults as well. Drinks are quaffed, cigars smoked and, while the language does stay a bit cleaner (and more period-appropriate) than you might expect given all the other problems, it can still stray into the foul, too.

TNT's The Alienist is as dirty, messy and brutal as the streets from which it pulls its story. And even while its intrepid, enlightened heroes track down a killer, the show itself hacks away at its viewers' mind, heart and soul.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

The Alienist: Feb. 19, 2018 "Hildebrandt's Starling"
The Alienist: Jan. 29, 2018 "A Fruitful Partnership"

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Daniel Brühl as Dr. Laszlo Kreizler; Dakota Fanning as Sara Howard; Luke Evans as John Moore; Brian Geraghty as Theodore Roosevelt; Robert Ray Wisdom as Cyrus Montrose; Douglas Smith as Marcus Isaacson; Matthew Shear as Lucius Isaacson; Q'orianka Kilcher as Mary Palmer; Matt Lintz as Stevie Taggert

Director

Distributor

Network

TNT

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

Released

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Get weekly e-news, Culture Clips & more!