Small Town Preacher Blames Teens for Their Own Illness from Toxic Waste in CW Drama

The entertainment industry enjoys portraying clergy and churches in the worst possible light. Unfortunately, a Canadian dramatic television series on the CW, Burden of Truth, has fallen for the usual lazy trope of painting a church minister as overly zealous. He tries to punish a bunch of teenage girls, including his own daughter, for becoming ill from a neurological disease.

In Burden of Truth, the town of Millwood is coping with a mysterious illness afflicting several high school girls. Lawyer Joanna Hanley (Kristin Kreuk), a Millwood native, returns to her hometown to represent a big pharmaceutical company that is trying to hold off a class action lawsuit from parents who think the illness has been brought on by vaccines. The cause of the sickness is not from vaccines, as it turns out, but likely from exposure to toxic chemicals used by the local steel mill (because Hollywood also loves the "greedy corporations poisoning people" trope). Several barrels are found buried on the school’s athletic field and all of the girls are soccer players. The barrels have been leaking onto the school property for years.

Meanwhile, the townspeople are not doing very well in the coping department. In the episode airing on August 22 titled “Witch Hunt,” the local church pastor, whose own daughter is afflicted, decides to lecture his flock that the girls are ill, not from toxic chemicals but from a lack of purity. He says they are sick because they have been led astray by the toxicity of the modern world, implying they are lying.


Pastor: Now in this day and age, we must be vigilant. Our youth... are being bombarded by hedonistic influences. And we must prepare them for battle. Never has a generation had such a mighty enemy to overcome in its path to purity, and I stand here today to challenge you. Our community leaders, our schools, our parents, I challenge you to help these sick girls who have been led astray. Now, we were told that it was poison that made our girls sick. And I do believe that they were poisoned, but not by Matheson Steel, but by the toxicity of this modern world. Now, I want you all to think long and hard about this lawsuit, and then focus more on our own decisions, things that are in our control. For some problems cannot be solved in a courtroom. Beware of silver tongues and those who would willingly lead us astray. And remember... that the devil comes in many forms.

Instead of showing grace and compassion, as a real-life minister would do, this one blames the ill teenagers for their affliction, not the steel mill that dumped the barrels of toxic waste. The steel mill is the town’s largest employer and the mill workers are quite hostile to Joanna and her partner, in this case, local lawyer Billy Crawford (Peter Mooney). His niece also has the illness. Their storefront law office is attacked with drive-by vandalism, like rocks thrown from a truck speeding by, and Joanna begins to receive death threats on her phone.

This was episode five of the series. I hope the writers become a bit more original and clever with the rest of the season. Tired, old stereotypes of small-town preachers and evil, muderous corporations have been played out.

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