Religion in American Film

analytical Essay
3859 words
3859 words

Religion in American Film

American’s nation-wide did a disbelieving double take when they were heard that Jim Carrey was going to be playing the role of God in Universal Pictures summer 2001 movie Bruce Almighty. Millions of American’s have found themselves near-obsessed with the engrossing epic Lord of the Rings, Dogma has been welcomed into the Cult Films Hall of Fame, and Mel Gibson’s The Passion stirred an overwhelming amount of religious, cultural, and ethnic criticism. When looking at the recent array of films that either present or suggest religious themes – whether it be allegorically, evangelically, or satirically – we find ourselves asking the question “why now?” Is the reason for this upsurge sociological, psychological, philosophical, or historical? Is there perhaps a political or economic reason as to why American’s today are so eagerly consuming films that are looking at the timeless battle between good & evil, questioning organized belief systems, or presenting religion in new and contemporary ways? From critical analysis and research done on this subject, as well as much pondering and theorizing, it could be said that the question of “why now” is more philosophical, and value oriented, than anything else. The religious content that is present in modern American films is indicative of a more general discussion & questioning of values and resonates with the post-modern, religiously pluralistic mindset that American’s have come to embody.

It is a common mis-conception that films are merely entertainment, and serve no other purpose than to provide for the viewer a two-hour escape from reality. This is a serious under-estimation of the power, purpose, and potential of film, because film, upon reflection, revea...

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...garet R. Seeing and Believing: Religion and Values in the Movies. Boston: Beacon Press, 1996.

Johnston, Robert K. Reel Spirituality: Theology and Film in Dialogue. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2000.

Stone, Bryan P. Faith and Film: Theological Themes at the Cinema. St.Louis: Chalice Press, 2000.

Valenti, F. Miguel. More Than a Movie : Ethics in Entertainment. Colorado: Westview Press, 2000

Detweiler, Craig, and Barry Taylor. A Matrix of Meanings: Finding God in Pop Culture. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003.

Putnam, Robert D. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000

For the purposes of this study, it is helpful to look specifically at the way in which Christ and Christianity are being presented, through the various methods, in contemporary film.

In this essay, the author

  • Opines that the question of "why now" is more philosophical, and value oriented, than anything else.
  • Argues that film is a legitimate medium of sociological analysis, and that the creators of media research and explore ways to exploit anxieties to ensure profits and revenues.
  • Analyzes how christian and religious themes abound in the films. aragorn's strength, perseverance, and trust in man and middle-earth keep the fellowship alive.
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