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The Inclusive Vision

Essays in Honor of Larry Gross

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Edited By Paul Messaris and David W. Park

Larry Gross is one of the most influential figures in the history of media studies. In this collection of original essays, his former students reflect on his groundbreaking contributions to three major developments: the emergence of visual studies as a distinct field of media theory and research; the analysis of media fiction as a symbol of power structures and a perpetuator of social inequalities; and the growing scholarly attention to the relationships between mass media and sexual minorities.

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7. Conjuring Religion in the Media Age and in Media Scholarship (Stewart M. Hoover)

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7. Conjuring Religion in the Media Age and in Media Scholarship

STEWART M. HOOVER

Twenty-Five years ago, on October 3, 1992, the Irish singer Sinead O’Connor shocked a Saturday Night Live audience with what proved to be an act so scandalous that it earned her widespread and loud condemnation. It also signaled a profound shift in the geography of American religion, a shift that had long been underway, largely unnoticed, and continues to the present. That shift is a recentering of religious authority and meaning-making away from its traditional sources in history, doctrine and clerical authority and toward a diffuse and dispersed circulation of “the religious” in the visual and material cultures of the media.

Sinead’s gesture was simple. During her last slot on the show that night she sang Bob Marley’s “War,” ending it with a stark visual display. Holding up a color photograph of then-Pope John Paul II, she declared, “fight the real enemy,” and tore the photo to pieces. The reaction was immediate and stark. There was no applause. The next day the press covered the incident intensely. The following week’s host on SNL, the actor Joe Pesci, devoted his monologue to a misogynist tirade against O’Connor. Several weeks later, at a major star-studded concert in New York honoring Bob Dylan, she was booed off the stage. Her record sales plummeted. Her segment did not appear in the reruns of SNL. Her argument against...

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