Some concern has been expressed from the Hindu community that the forthcoming Mike Myers movie, The Love Guru, is disrespectful of the Hindu faith. A recent story on DailyIndia.com is heartening in that people of faiths other than Hinduism are expressing concern as well.
This is hardly an isolated incident of how religious images, symbols, and language are appropriated within a popular culture context, usually for entertainment purposes. Several members of R.E.M. joined up with Warren Zevon before he died to record an album under the name of the “Hindu Love Gods.” Meanwhile, zen has for quite some time now been represented in popular culture in ways that have little to do with Buddhist meditation: think of books with titles like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance or Zen and the Art of Making a Living.
Lest we think that westerners are just colonizing eastern spiritual culture, remember how Madonna came roaring onto the pop culture landscape, bedecked with crucifixes and rosaries — basically using Catholic paraphernalia to forge her quite secular image.
Is this some sort of postmodern thing, where the externalities of religion have become fodder for a self-referential civilization bent on using any kind of cultural detritus to forge meaning, identity, or entertainment? Or is something more sinister at work: how market forces in a consumerist economy relentlessly deconstruct anything in pursuit of a quick laugh or a startling image, all in the pursuit of nothing more noble than ratings or dollars?