Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pop Culture Resources

I was recently asked by a friend for a recommendation of some resources to read on popular culture so I thought I would share a few here. I am including links to these books on Amazon over on the right if anyone wants to check them out further. These are works that not everyone will agree on, but all are provocative in their own way.

Godawa, Brian. Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films with Wisdom and Discernment.

I have found this to be one of the better books on religion and film. Godawa explores the different kinds of religious worldviews that undergird many Holllywood productions. He also includes an appendix titled "Sex, Violence, and Profanity in the Bible."

Johnson, Steven. Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter.

As the title indicates, Johnson argues that popular culture today has become increasingly complex and requires increasing amounts of intellectual engagement in order to make sense of it. He addresses video games, film and television, and the Internet. In the last part of the book, he gets into neuroscience, which I am in no way qualified to evaluate, but in the first part of the book, he makes a very convincing case.

Jones, Gerard. Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Superheroes, and Make-Believe Violence.

This is a fascinating and unique take on the issue of violence in the media and its effect on youth. Drawing both from testimony from developmental psychologists and his own experience as a comic-book writer who holds workshops for children, Jones argues that fantasy violence in particular can be not only beneficial to the development of children but even essential. Whether you agree or not, it represents an important voice in the debate and one that not often gets heard.

Romanowski, William. Pop Culture Wars: Religion and the Role of Entertainment in American Life.

This book is more of a history of American entertainment. He shows how many contemporary Christian reactions to popular culture are nothing new, but have a long history, including for instance reactions to William Shakespeare and the Davy Crockett Almanacs (a precursor of the comic book).

Stevenson, Gregory. Televised Morality: The Case of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

It may sound arrogant to recommend your own book, but hey, I wouldn't have written it if I didn't think it would be helpful. Although dealing with Buffy the Vampire Slayer specifically, this book is actually designed as a study of moral discourse in popular culture. So even if you are not a fan of that show, it is my intention that the principles of interpretation laid out in the book apply to any serialized television narrative. In particular, I think the first three chapters and the last chapter would be helpful in terms of laying out those principles.

Those are my current recommendations. I do have another book on popular culture that I hope to write, but that will be at least a couple years away (I have a book on Revelation I have to finish first). For those who are interested in Revelation and popular culture, though, Sheffield-Phoenix Press will be putting out a series of books on "The Apocalypse in Popular Culture" sometime next year. I am writing an essay currently titled "The Metaphor of Apocalyptic Warfare in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Supernatural, and Battlestar Galactica" that will appear in their volume on television, currently titled: Small Screen Revelations: Apocalypse and Prophecy in Contemporary Television. I am also working on another essay on the influence of Revelation on comic books that will be in their currently untitled volume on literature.