Religion on the Television (Part 1)

1 Nashville REV

A recent article in the online journal Religious Dispatches discusses the Southern Christian presence, or lack thereof, on the hit television show Nashville. In an intriguing analysis, writer Carrie Allen Tipton points to the popular “spirituality” the show displays instead of the evangelical piety one would expect to find in a program situated in the Bible Belt and devoted to the culture of country of music. Perhaps the a-religiosity of the show can be attributed to the presumed proliferation of the unaffiliated—the “nones” so visible in the press of late. In any case, church going, if it is mentioned at all, seems a matter of nostalgia for Nashville’s leading characters. The church choir of long ago is recalled with affection, but those sacred precincts of yesteryear have been replaced for the show’s heroes with new sanctuaries: the Bluebird Café, in particular, and the famous Ryman Auditorium. Continue reading

Competing Representations

Nicole Goulet

T. Nicole Goulet is a Sessional Instructor at the University of Manitoba and Brandon University.  Having completed her Ph.D. at the University of Manitoba on textual representations of Sarada Devi, Dr. Goulet continues her research on the intersection of colonial politics and religious practice in India, with special reference to gender. After an online conversation about the recent Doniger/Penguin affair it was evident that she had something new to say about this episode and so we invited this post.

In the past few weeks, various groups, including scholars, media outlets, and members of the population at large, have weighed in on the Wendy Doniger/Penguin Publications case.  For those not in the know, Doniger’s almost 800 page tome, The Hindus, An Alternative History, will no longer be published by Penguin Books India nor sold in Indian book stores.  This after a four year legal battle with the Hindu nationalist group Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti (Save Education Movement) spear-headed by Dinanath Batra, ended with the capitulation by Penguin Books before any court ruling was made. Media coverage has tended to focus on  the issue of freedom of speech in India, and the state of the publishing industry and liberal scholarship in general. Some Penguin authors currently published in India have requested their contracts be voided and their own publications pulped in similar fashion to The Hindus as protest. And on February 17th, the University of Chicago Divinity School sent a letter to the New York Times, signed by 43 various and unnamed scholars, as a defence of Doniger’s right to “freedom of scholarship and expression.” Continue reading

Relative Authenticity

attack on titanBy Micah Davis

Micah Davis is a nineteen year-old sophomore majoring in philosophy at the University of Alabama. He is also a Religious Studies minor.

Attack on Titan is a current production anime that began airing in 2013 in Japan based on a manga created in 2009. There is a new live action movie adaptation which is set to release in 2015. If you YouTube “Attack on Titan live action movie,” you will find a couple of different versions of the advertisement for the movie (which is actually a Subaru commercial, but features the titans), but the overwhelming number of videos are reaction videos of fans airing their opinions on the authenticity of the movie. This makes me wonder, “To what are they comparing these things to determine whether they are authentic?”

Authenticity is a widely used word usually chosen to express the originality, validity, and/or accuracy of almost anything imaginable. Generally, people believe this word to be a qualifier in and of itself. However, it seems to be more of a game of comparisons than a factual observation.

Relative authenticity is extremely common in pop culture. The “authenticity” of a band’s new album is subject to opinion (which CD was the band’s “authentic” sound?). The authenticity of a movie based on a book is judged based on how the story, characters, and ending relate to the book. The newly announced live action adaptation of the anime Attack on Titan comes to mind when thinking about relative authenticity.

After all, Attack on Titan was a manga series four years before it was an anime series, yet many of the videos I watched referenced the anime and not necessarily the manga. Is keeping with the anime more authentic than keeping with the manga? Not to mention, the story is (with much generalization) about a kid trying to kill giants. So, is the manga the ultimate decider of authenticity? What if you decided to test why the manga is authentic by checking the story of Jack and the Beanstalk? How would Jack and the Beanstalk compare in authenticity to Polyphemus and Odysseus in The Odyssey? Is the story of David and Goliath the most relevant source for authentic giant killer stories?

What determines authenticity when authenticity seems to be an endless number of comparisons? Does something have to bear the name of something else and the two be compared only to each other? How does that work with Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend and the closest movie adaptation named The Last Man on Earth? The question of authenticity seems to be an endless one.

Picture credit: yuni282 on deviantart.com Some rights reserved. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License, cropped by post author.

Grand Theft Auto Anyone?

By Seth Cox

Seth Cox is double majoring in Religious Studies and Philosophy. He is interested in the interactions between practitioners of historically Asian religions and the rest of the world. This post originally appeared at Monks and Nones, the blog of REL 371.

Controversy. It doesn’t matter which side of a controversy you are on, if the controversy is big enough it will catch public attention. Grand Theft Auto V (or GTAV) is the fastest game to reach 1 billion dollar in sales revenue ever. GTAV is a violent video game (it wouldn’t be a stretch to call it THE violent video game) that thrives on bad news reviews claiming it is a proponent to school shootings and good gaming reviews that say it is merely an outlet for stress. Regardless of your opinions on this game it does have some clever satirical moments and themes, some of which even apply to our class.

The game has its own radio stations in-game, and no radio station is complete without its own commercials. One of these commercials was for a Yoga studio that claimed to finally have “authentic” American Yoga. Unfortunately, this brand of American Yoga apparently has blood and violence and is about as peaceful as a monster truck rally (if the announcer’s tone of voice was any indication). The history of Yoga in the West is quite interesting and, needless to say, what most Americans now know as Yoga is only a small facet of what Yoga actually has been historically. The Theosophists of the late 19th century had a huge impact on contemporary Yoga. Originally the craze was all meditation Yoga, only later did it become into the physical exercise it is today. If you take the opinions of GTA developers seriously, then a qualification of being an authentic American activity involves violence, which is pretty interesting in and of itself. I think that the creators of GTA were spoofing the development of Yoga in their portrayal of it being violent. Yoga developed from an “Eastern” activity that primarily focused on meditation and breathing into a more “Western” activity that centers primarily on physical activity. The next step, according to GTA, is for it to become progressively more violent. The idea is that a Westernized Eastern tradition such as Yoga becomes American only when it becomes violent is something to think about.

Mind the Gap

HamletBy Andie Alexander
Andie Alexander earned her B.A. in Religious Studies and History in 2012. She currently works as a staff member in the Department as a Student Liaison and filmmaker. Andie also works as the online Curator for the Culture on the Edge blog.

While scrolling through Facebook the other day, I came across this video that discussed the benefit of performing Shakespeare’s plays in their “Original Pronunciation,” or “OP.” Take a look… Continue reading

Stars Upon Thars

“This so-called real world is the same place we’ve always been, of course….”

So said Greg Johnson, in the close to his public lecture the other day (read the conclusion to his paper here). This is an exceedingly important point, I think; the university as a whole, and of course the Humanities in particular, are often accused of being disengaged from this real world; the privileged, “ivory tower” (a phrase we get from the Song of Solomon–hardly a working class text itself, but I digress) that we in the university inhabit is thought somehow to be secluded, and thereby protected, from the rest of the world. This otherworldly realm of merely immaterial ideas (as it is characterized) is therefore something apart from the material world of matters that matter. Continue reading