Thursday, August 26, 2010

‘Lost’ in Translation: The Mediatisation of Religion in Television

Nidean Dickson

The inherent nature of religion and philosophy within popular culture formulates the concept of mediatisation which Lynn Clark explicitly explores in ABC’s television series, Lost. Clark explores the mediatisation of religion by incorporating the ideology of collective intelligence to influence the way media and popular culture are affected by religious subtext. This is identified by exploring several elements within the show surrounding the plot lines, including character analysis, explicit and implicit symbolism and underlying religious themes. A vast amount of the religious and philosophical observations in the series were discussed at lengths in thousands of forums which encourages a common understanding of religious, cultural and spiritual awareness across towns, countries and continents as a direct influence from the media. Thus, the mediatisation of religion within Lost provides knowledge for difference highlighting certain ideologies that are easily accepted or known, as well as initiating the opportunity for other religious customs and rituals to be openly discussed by the public.

Clarke (2008, p.145) aims to “argue that popular culture may contribute to the mediatisation of religion not only because religion and philosophy are increasingly represented in media or are increasingly discussed in our collective lives as a result of fan activities, but because through public online forums, people come to recognise and act within certain norms when it comes to religion or philosophy.” This is corroborated by Hjarvard (2006, p.5) who states that “the media facilitates changes in the amount, content and direction of religious messages in society, at the same time as they transform religious representations and challenge and replace the authority of the institutional religions.” Evidently, a simple search within the internet database around Lost provides a variety of blogs, forums and discussion boards based around the theories and evolutions, discoveries and themes interpreted by the audience members.
The article identifies several symbolic gestures in regards to various world religions that are evident in the show. The majority of the article comprises of direct examples taken from Lost which strongly reiterates the religious symbolism within context. Amongst the many religious references are several others which bloggers discussed, however, the closing scenes of the series subtly summarised the incorporation of religion within Lost through the imagery of recognisable religious symbols.

It is evident, that this article clearly identifies the significance of the intimate relationship between religion and popular culture. Popular culture in Lost developed an understanding and awareness for various religions evoking recognisable symbolism by incorporating historical religious events into a modern context. This allows religion to seep into society outside fundamental institutions and groups, therefore exemplifying the mediatisation of religion.

Reference List
Clark, LS 2008, ‘Religion, philosophy and religious convergence online: ABC’s Lost as a study of the process of mediatisation’, Northern Lights, vol.6, pp.143-160.
Hjarvard, S, 2006,’The Mediatisation of Religion: A theory of the media as an agent of religious change’, paper presented to the 5th International Conference on Media, Religion and Culture, Uppsala, 6-8 July.

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