Is It God, or Is It Us?

We talked about God a lot this year in pop culture, but not the same way.
Is It God, or Is It Us?
Image: Paramount Pictures
Russell Crowe in 'Noah'

See the introduction to this series on religious themes pop culture explored in 2014, and the posts on memory and justice and on evil.

Any series on pop culture getting religion is going to have to think, at some point, about the supernatural, and especially God. This is appropriate in thinking of 2014, a year in which we were given to telling stories about the supernatural, from films explicitly aimed at faith audiences to movies and shows made by non-believers that nonetheless told stories of the miraculous.

Early this year, at The AV Club, Todd VanDerWerff explored how dark TV dramas like Fargo, The Americans, and Hannibal were interested in God, who was “is either a cause, an absentee landlord, or a writer, but he’s very much in the details. His presence—or the lack thereof—is something all three series wrestle with and in ways that are more complex than TV’s usual 'skeptic/believer' dynamic.” (I followed this up by looking at the Amazon Original pilot Hand of God.) And the question of the supernatural is raised, and unanswered, on other shows, most notably True Detective. (The more I write about this topic, the more I realize that a brutal, graphic HBO miniseries may have been the most religious show of the year on TV.)

Nonetheless, the supernatural at large and God in particular were of interest in our pop culture. I'm thinking of “the supernatural” this in literal terms: things that come from beyond the realm where they can be explained scientifically—miracles, happenings, strange occurrences. Do things exist beyond the world that we can see, taste, and touch? That is long the contention of many organized religions, while others tend to doubt ...

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Watch This Way
How we watch matters at least as much as what we watch. TV and movies are more than entertainment: they teach us how to live and how to love one another, for better or worse. And they both mirror and shape our culture.
Alissa Wilkinson
Alissa Wilkinson is Christianity Today's chief film critic and assistant professor of English and humanities at The King's College in New York City. She lives in Brooklyn.
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