Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Religion in the Simpsons

For our first case study we will be looking at religion in the context of The Simpsons, the longest running cartoon series on TV. Since it's inception The Simpsons has dealt with themes related to religion dedicating numerous episodes to issues of personal crisis of faith, science verse religion, the afterlife and organized religion. Notable character's whose faith plays an important part in their cartoon life include Rev Lovejoy-Pastor of a "American Reformed Presbylutheranism" church, Apu who is Hindu and manager of the Kwik-E-Mart, Krusty the "Jewish" clown and the terminally cheerful evangelical Ned Flanders.

The Simpsons have also been the topic of much religious debate and theological reflection. Notable is Marin Pinsky's book, The Gospel According the the Simpsons. Please read the Christian Century article from 2001, Simpsons have Soul and reflect on possibilities and challenges offered by the Simpson's narrative of religion.

In class we will be viewing the episode Bart Sells His Soul where Bart casually sells his soul to his friend Millhouse for $5 because he does not really believe the soul exist. This leads to a troubled journey and Bart's self-reflection of his own spiritual/eternal state. Come prepared to discuss the examples of religious imagery & narratives about religion that appear in this episode, as well as what this example might teach us about how popular media might view religion in larger society.

Case Study Reflection Questions:

-According to this episode how might "religion be defined? How does this definition relate to or differ from your understanding of religion as indicated in the belief-o-matic quiz?

-Consider the "media as social institution" perspective described by Ferre...What role do the TV writers/producer play in shaping Audience understanding of religion in The Simpsons? What role does the audience play in the process?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Consider your own perceptions of religion...

A main thrust of this course is to investigate how religious groups view and respond to the mass media as well as how community discourse shapes the kind of media technologies they use and the ways the implement them. Beginning such an investigation requires self-reflection, considering how personal views of the media, religion and popular culture influence our own perceptions.

"For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are." - C. S. Lewis in The Magician's Nephew

According to this quote it is important to be aware of who you are and what you believe... as it affect how you interact with the rest of the world. This is especially important when dealing with issues related to religion and mass media. In order to help you begin on this process of self-reflection, to become aware of how your own beliefs effect how you see other, start by taking the Belief-o-matic quiz and come prepared to discuss your results in the next class.

Consider the relationship between Religion & Media

One of the key questions we will explore in this class is relationship between mass media and religion, or How does the Mass media frame religion? Another common questions asked the media anti-religious?

Consider the reflection of Paulist Priest Father Jeffery and his video podcast on GodTube that explores this question:

So how does he answer this question? What factors seems to influence his response? What points might you challenge in his explaination?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Welcome to COMM 480!

Welcome to COMM 480. In this course we will explore three key areas of religious communication

(1) the relationship between mass media and the coverage of religion

(2) the relationship between religious communities and the media and

(3) how mass media shape perceptions of popular religion.

This will involve studying how religious communities and institutions respond to and utilize different forms of media, as well as how media outlets present religious groups and ideas in various media products which shape ideas about popular religion.

This blog is a space for you to share your thoughts on issues and ideas raised in class. It is also a space where additional information and readings will be posted regarding in-class case studies. I am looking forward to reading what you learn!