Sunday, August 23, 2009

Three Article Reviews

By Daniel Dixon

U2 is their Religion, Bono is their God: Religious Dimensions of Rock and Pop Music as Illustrated by U2 in the light of Rene Girard’s Mimetic Theory.

By Brigitte Dorner

In this article, Brigitte Dorner discusses rock and pop music as a theological issue, using the band U2 as an example. Using Rene Girard’s mimetic theory, Dorner argues that rock music contains distinctly religious elements and can even act as a substitute for religion. Girard’s mimetic theory contains three key features:

  • desiring what others desire,
  • a scapegoat mechanism,
  • and the differentiation between myths and the Christian gospels

but ultimately the theory describes the desire to imitate.

Dorner believes that the culture of rock and roll, particularly rock concerts, demonstrates several key features which are comparable to religious events. The rock star behaving like a priest or cult leader, the audience’s pilgrimage to the venue and mass participation during the concert, ultimately lead to audience ecstasy and transcendence above everyday life. The emotional impact of the concert can profoundly affect participants on both an individual and group level.

Terming U2 as ‘different’ from typical rock bands because of their social consciousness, ethics, and vocal message (all rooted in Christianity) Dorner believes that potential mimicry of U2’s philosophy of non-violence is a positive thing. This is a direct application of Girard’s mimetic theory, manifested in rock music.

Dorner considers lyrical content to be of spiritual importance to the audience, although the authenticity of the message can be questionable. She discusses Bono’s often explicitly theological lyrics, and their impact on the audience, commenting that “…many fans feel these lyrics strike a chord in them … certain words may provide comfort, hope, healing and the feelings of solidarity.”

The connections which Dorner makes between religious institutions and rock music are valid and demonstrating these connections with U2 is entirely appropriate given the group’s popularity and explicitly religious connections. However, the article is relatively short, and this has led to several broad generalisations regarding the spiritual experience the consumers of music undergo. However, Dorner utilises relatively few sources and focuses on the band U2, who are perhaps too suitable an example for the argument which she makes.


Dorner, B. 2007. U2 is their Religion, Bono is their God. Tectum Verlag.

“Kicking Ass is Comfort Food”: Buffy as a Third Wave Feminist Icon

By Patricia Pender

In this article, Patricia Pender examines feminist themes in the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and argues that the show’s seventh and final season is a compelling example of the potential and predicaments encountered in third wave feminism. Pender sees third wave feminism as the continuation of the fight against misogynist violence and the movement’s “ … demands for individual and collective empowerment.” Pender also addresses how issues of race, American imperialism and social status are dealt with in Buffy.

The celebration of Buffy as a feminist tract is analysed by Pender. She argues that there is a distinct feminist appeal in the story which is a reworking of the traditional “…blondes wandered into dark alleys and got murdered by some creature. (Whedon quoted in Fudge par. 2).” Pender cites several scholars who have discussed the feminist aspects of Buffy, including a message of fighting sexual violence as well as the female rebellion against patriarchal constraints. Pender focuses on an event in the seventh season in which a large group of girls across the world are called upon to defeat an evil supernatural power. This event is interpreted as being representative of transnational feminist activism, yet the use of racial stereotypes and American imperialism (in the American heroes leading the group) are also taken into account.

Ultimately, Buffy’s fight against supernatural evil is seen as pure metaphor for the feminist struggle. Pender may get a little taken up with recounting the story and legitimising and reinforcing the series’ feminist agenda, but she adeptly explains the cultural weaknesses and strengths which appear in Buffy. In the article, Pender demonstrates that Buffy is an important feminist phenomenon in popular culture and, despite flaws, is a smart, self-reflective television show.


Pender, P. 2004. “Kicking Ass is Comfort Food”: Buffy as a Third Wave Feminist Icon. Third Wave Feminism: A Critical Exploration, eds. Stacy Gillis, Gillian Howie and Rebecca Munford. Palgrave Macmillian.

Culture Industry Reconsidered

By Theodor Adorno

In this article Theodor Adorno contemplates the state of the culture industry in modern times. He describes the culture industry as containing “… products which are tailored for consumption by the masses, and which to a great extent determine the nature of that consumption …”

The expression ‘industry’ Adorno explains, refers to the standardisation of the process itself. According to Adorno, as the cultural process becomes more dehumanised and exploitative it is further propagated and becomes more and more successful. Adorno believes that almost nothing good comes of this endless procedure, saying that it is inherent in the industry as an entity, that it behaves parasitically and feels no obligation to the consumer, only focusing on its own progress.

Adorno protests the suggestion that what is provided by the culture industry is simply there to meet the consumers’ demands, insisting that the behaviour of the public is simply conformist. Dorner sees individuals simply going along for the ride, and as a result, losing their consciousness.

Adorno sees the culture industry as manipulative, creating an illusion that the customer is king, while reinforcing a mentality of rampant consumerism for its own benefit. He believes that there is a danger that the culture industry is creating mindless consuming masses, stunting the judgement of individuals and severely damaging cultural enlightenment and progress. Adorno’s criticism of the culture industry is incisive, yet he doesn’t appear to look for any positives in the situation. His tone and attitude seem blinded by his abhorrence of the consumer culture, and he particularly fails to recognise that many consumers are indeed propagators of the culture themselves.


Adorno, T. 1991. Culture Industry Reconsidered. The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture. Routledge.

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