As both a longtime youth minister and assistant research professor at the University of Colorado's School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Lynn Schofield Clark is able to present a nuanced look at today's young fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Harry Potter in her new book, From Angels to Aliens: Teenagers, the Media, and the Supernatural (Oxford Univ. Press, 2003). Having interviewed 100 young people and 169 adults, Clark presents a theory of different ways that young people "incorporate, dismiss, play with, reject, and wonder about what they see in the media."
But along with her analysis comes a charge. Clark contends that evangelicals, by warning teens against the allure of the occult and its depiction in the media, end up achieving the opposite—inciting them to experiment with the supernatural. In a recent telephone interview, Christianity Today associate editor Agnieszka Tennant asked Clark about this claim.
You write in your book that teens find it easier to discuss their media interests rather than their own life experiences. What does young people's participation in popular culture tell us about their spirituality?
It tells us that many different myths are competing for young people's attention right now. A lot of people have focused attention on some of the most popular television shows and films, like American Idol, the Survivor series, and Temptation Island because they've gotten a lot of large teenage audiences, as well as some films that feature young people in starring roles that are really all about celebrity and consumption. Those have been called the myths of the Mook and the Midriff. The Mook is the person who is willing to make a fool of himself in front of lots of people to gain fame, and the Midriff ...1
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