Friday, 14 January 2011

engaging with popular culture: how? part 2

The second thing that I think it's helpful to do when engaging with popular culture is to try to figure out what sort of world we've stepped in to. Questions like:

'What are the values of the world that's represented here?'
'What major themes dominate in this work?'
'What symbols, metaphors, connections are used?'
'What makes relationships work/not work in this world?'
'What does this world say that people need in order to be happy/to have meaning?'
'What is important and what's not important to people?'

How do we figure these things out? Sometimes they will be explicitly stated and be obvious. Other times we answer these questions by seeing things like how the characters are developed, what language, maybe even what music and camera shots are used, what comment does the writer insert in to the piece on what we should take from their piece of work, and so on.

This bit isn't rocket science, but it can take a bit of work to get to what the person is saying. It's also worth saying that it's not always as obvious as we might hope for – it's a matter of interpretation based on the evidence you have. That's part of the point of lots of forms of art - we can often interpret different things from it. However, given that, though some of the points being made are more subtle and open to interpretation, we can usually extract some meaning, values etc from popular culture.

Let me give you an example... but not a particularly profound one!

I've just clicked through to the 'Hello' website and this was the front page article.

What's some of the underlying values/assumptions of this article? Here are a few:

- human life has value
- death is a tragedy, and (perhaps) there's something about death that isn't right/natural
- charity is a good thing
- family is precious and important
- the birth of a child is a gift
- the birth of a child is the best gift

Even in that very short article, I'm sure you can see already lots of points which Christianity has something to say about.

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