The ‘real’ situation
Hate crimes in the UK have increased 43% within the years of 2013/14 and 2014/15. Following ‘brexit’ these hate crimes have increased a further 41%. In America, 17% of hate crimes were anti-religious.
‘Religion and spirituality seem ever more obvious in popular music, television, film and in books. Media figures have become publicly identified with religious and spiritual ideas of various kinds. Religion seems increasingly ‘on the agenda’ in public culture, though it is often in varieties and forms that seem to defy the label’ (Hoover 2006: 19).
Stereotypes are often used to present religious people, such as; The Vicar’s Wife, ‘Islamist’ terrorist or radical, British Muslim, American ‘bible belt’ Christian, The Nun, Migrant, Jewish mother and so on.
Religion is often presented as a source for social problems. It is easy for writers to use religion to increase tension, drama or conflict in texts. Islam is often associated with negative things e.g. ‘terrorism’ – a cause for fear. Many religious people feel they are mis-represented or under-represented in the media. The Non-Abrahamic religions are largely under-represented in Western media. New religious movements (e.g. scientology) are often represented negatively.
There are a lot of signs within religion e.g. The Cross, Star of David.
Semiotics – Types of sign (Peirce): icon (close connection), index (partial connection), symbol (arbitrary connection – e.g. language is mostly arbitrary).
Broadcasters need to ensure that media is not harmful. In general, people accept that religion will be spoken about and represented on TV and they do not mind unless the text tries to promote a religion to the point of saying that they must change their beliefs. Broadcasting content that does this is not allowed. Additionally, people who are susceptible to abuse, such as children, are not allowed to be shown certain programming because they are unable to form mature judgements.
Supernatural – religious imagery, folklore, inter-textual references.
Doctor Who – regeneration/resurrection/reincarnation; questions of the afterlife; the Doctor as a saviour, a higher being, a lonely God, a Christ figure; our universe needs a saviour.
- Religion is an easy source of conflict (good vs evil)
- Religion and the supernatural: exotic, fantastical, something we don’t know much about, we cannot see God etc.
- Horror plays on human fears and cultural shifts.
- Early characters’ religion not defined.
- Dot Cotton from Eastenders: her faith is questioned/tested but she never abandons it.
- Vicars often tempted by sex.
- Older characters experience religion as a maintained practise. Younger characters experience religion as a fad.
South Park – emphasises religion as an individual pursuit.
Absolutely Fabulous – Buddhism is presented as a fad for the character Edina.
Rev, Vicar of Dibley and Father Ted – sympathetic to religious leaders whilst ‘mocking’. They also show how these individuals are human and live normal lives.
- ‘it paints a picture of Muslims that supports Islamophobic narratives and stereotypes’ (Ahmed 2013: 91)
The Simpsons – Ned Flanders as an Evangelical Christian and a sincere character; Rev. Lovejoy as hypocritical; The Simpsons as struggling with life and faith.