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Religion and Popular Culture

A Hyper-Real Testament


Adam Possamai

Popular culture can no longer be exclusively seen as a source of escapism. It can amuse, entertain, instruct, and relax people, but what if it provides inspiration for religion?
The Church of All Worlds, the Church of Satan and Jediism from the Star Wars series are but three examples of new religious groups that have been greatly inspired by popular culture to (re)create a religious message. These are hyper-real religions, that is a simulacrum of a religion partly created out of popular culture which provides inspiration for believers/consumers. These postmodern expressions of religion are likely to be consumed and individualised, and thus have more relevance to the self than to a community and/or congregation. On the other hand, religious fundamentalist groups tend, at times, to resist this synergy between popular culture and religion, and at other times, re-appropriate popular culture to promote their own religion. Examples of this re-appropriation are Christian super-hero comics and role playing games, Bible-based PC games, and ‘White Metal’ music.
To explore these new phenomena, this book views itself as the ‘hyper-real testament’ of these new religious phenomena by addressing the theories, among many others, of Baudrillard, Jameson and Lipovetsky, and by exploring the use of fictions such as those from Harry Potter, The Matrix, Star Trek, Buffy and The Lord of the Rings.


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Introduction 15


Introduction In Milo Manara's graphic novel, H.P. and Giuseppe Bergman, Giuseppe is sent by a corporation to get out and live the Adventure. Taking his task to pleasure, and leaving his place and partner in Venice, he goes out full of excitement for the Adventure. He travels in a van through the political turmoil of the heated Italian political demonstra- tions of the 1960s, and then sails to South America. Under the mentor- ing of the Adventure expert, H.P. — who gives hardly any guidance - Giuseppe faces a range of disappointing experiences. He fails to save a woman who has been lost as a sexual object at a poker game; is cap- tured, pants down, by Indians from the Amazon; escapes them awk- wardly to be then recaptured even more awkwardly by a South Ameri- can revolutionary soldier; falls gravely ill; and is decapitated "heroical- ly" — finally — by an Indian. Until his death, Giuseppe viewed his adventure as a real failure because he was not living it the "proper heroic way". He failed in everything that he did; he did not have control of any situation; he met sumptuous women and did not have sex with them the way a hero from the period between the distribution of the pill and the discovery of AIDS would have had. Only his death gave him a feeling of accomplishment to his Adventure. After his death, Giuseppe "psychedelically" returns to Venice and wakes up on a crowded vaporetto. He first wonders if he...

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