Thursday, August 26, 2010

Critical Essay: Reading Analysis

Jessica Duncan

The following is a critical examination of three different readings from the first four weeks of the course. I aim to overview each of them, as well as compare them based on their content of information, the clarity of their argument, and the usefulness they provide into understanding more about media, film and religion.

Constructing a Distinct Other: Harry Potter and the Enchantment of the Future
by Ph.D. Pierre Wiktorin

In his article Construction a Distinct Other: Harry Potter and the Enchantment of the Future, Wiktorin aims to prove that “the Harry Potter series could function as a critique or commentary to the ordinary contemporary society.”(Page 1) He continues, “Rowling’s construction of the Wizard world bears resemblance to a distinct Other, which is frequently used by the tourist industry and various religious traditions.” Wiktorin uses the tourist industry as an analogy to discuss the distinct Other early in the article. However, I could not completely understand what was meant by it. As I understand it, he argues that the tourist industry offers the same kind of escape to the fantastical Other that Rowling does in her books. Wiktorin also demonstrates (using various examples from the series) Rowling’s attempt to “hold a mirror up” to British society, highlighting its falsities, hypocrisies and short-comings. Rowling demonstrates her beliefs on society and the Other by portraying characters’ interaction with each other and society. How these characters are represented is key to how Rowling feels about the issues addressed. For example, Lord Voldemort and his allies (Death Eaters) act out the same craving for a pure-blood society (a society that contains witches and wizards with all magical blood) as the Nazis did. The kindest and most highly thought of characters are those who strive for morality, equality and the knowledge of what is right. Because of these representations, Wiktorin argues that the Harry Potter series highlights the plight of the Other, encouraging mutual understanding between race, religion and ethnicity. It also demonstrates correct and valuable moral consistent with, but not exclusive to, religion. Wiktorin provides the least informative article on the media and religion. Whilst Harry Potter is a useful example to use to construct an image of society and the Other, it does not look in depth the series’ religious or spiritual aspects. This article is useful as a groundwork for further exploration into the construct of the Other in society, be it a religious or cultural one.

Culture Industry Reconsidered
by Theodor W. Adorno

In his article, Culture Industry Reconsidered, Adorno offers a clear and concise articulation of the workings of mass media, and how it influences and infiltrates society. Adorno argues that media has an immense power to control the way people think and respond to social issues. The commodification of media leads to an unthinking and uncritical society. One is often feel that Adorno has overestimated the “brainwashing” power of media. He does not take into account the many other influences that construct one’s beliefs and opinions on social (and religious) issues. His article is the only work (in this comparison) not using popular culture to demonstrate its arguments. It does not require this, though refererances to incidences would be helpful (though they would now be somewhat dated). Though this article speaks nothing of religion and its representation in the media, it does effectively give views on how culture is nothing more than a commodity when it comes to the production of mass media. Adorno provides a useful look at the construction of mass media and its interaction with society. Knowing Adorno’s opinions on the various facets of media, one has the ability to form an understanding of religion’s place in a world of media. A correct understanding of the media is essential in order to appropriately assess its role in the representation of religion.

Religion, Philosophy, and convergence culture online: ABC’s Lost as a study of the process of mediatization
by Lynn Schofield Clark

Schofield Clark’s aim in this article is further prove Henry Jenkins’ argument “that online fan discussions contribute to ‘collective intelligence’ that then feeds into the creative processes of the media industries”(Page 143) using Lost as an example. According to Schofield Clark, mediatization “refers to both the process by which social organization, structures or industries take on the form of the media, and the processes by which genres of popular culture become central to the narratives of social phenomena.”(Page 146) A television programme with as many religious, spiritual and philosophical references as Lost warrants analysis, though can be quite an overwhelming task. Some may argue, as Schofield Clark does, that these references, and the discussion stemming from them, create not only knowledge of religion and philosophy, but tolerance and understanding also. This programme also an efficient example of the new styles of mediatization. Once, slight religious references and doctrines were found in children’s fantasy novels like Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia. Now, religion and philosophy is invading the online world, encourage people to discuss and share their knowledge of religion. Lost perfectly promotes this through the religious subtext of the programme. Schofield Clark does well at attempting to provide simple arguments and explanations to a subject (Lost) which is often incredibly confusing. Although I have never watched Lost, it did give me an understanding of the religious aspects of the programme, as well as its attempt to bring religion, spirituality and philosophy to the masses through media.

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