Even though Christ and Pop Culture is only a few months old, we’ve already had some wonderful conversations about popular culture and how we as believers should interact with it. To start off the year, I thought I would give my list of the pop culture events that I am looking forward to most in 2008. Over the next 12 months I hope to revisit each of these events as they unfold and as we continue to explore the way our faith speaks to every aspect of our lives–even pop culture.
The Details: In Fall, 2008 Lucas will debut his first attempt at a TV series (lets just forget Young Indiana Jones). The all-CGI show will focus on the events that took place during the Clone Wars and will span 100 episodes. Currently the series does not have a network to carry it.
What I’m Excited About: The word is that Lucas has really been putting a lot of effort to make this show a success. One of the reasons, or so I’ve heard, that the show hasn’t been picked up by a station is that it’s targeted to teens and adults. The networks can schedule adult cartoon comedies and kid’s cartoons, but an adult cartoon drama is difficult to place. The good news is that it won’t be another Droids. The show promises to be dark, dramatic, and epic.
What I‘m Afraid of: Lets not kid ourselves here, Lucas hasn’t really pulled off a good Star Wars story since Return of the Jedi. The last thing I want to watch is CGI, Space CNN. In addition to the potential the show has of being a dialogue and plot galactic train wreck, there’s the issue of CGI graphics. Shouldn’t computer graphics allow us to get beyond blocky, Christmas-Special-claymation style character models? I understand that Lucas had to stylize the characters to make them work with as CGI, but there has to have been a better style than what they came up with.
The Details: On May 16th we get the second installment in Disney/Walden Media’s Chronicles of Narnia adaptation which promises to be darker, more epic, and have more battles (including an all-new battle scene created just for the film!).
What I’m Excited About: What excites me most about this entire series being adapted is the prospect of millions of people reading Lewis who wouldn’t otherwise. Even when he’s writing for children, Lewis’s wisdom and understanding of the Christian faith is astounding and tremendously beneficial to readers of all ages.
What I‘m Afraid of: As much as I don’t want to be a crusty old English major, I keep coming back the stance that most books are better off as books. I felt The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe presented Aslan, and therefore Christ, as a grandfatherly god who only the evil, bad guys feared, unlike the Aslan of Lewis’s novel who quite rightly strikes the fear of the LORD in all people. I’m very much afraid that this next installment will continue to present a very human, although heroic, Aslan while over emphasizing the action/adventure portions of the story. Those that read the book will be introduced to Lewis’s stunning portrayal of our relationship to an almighty God, but those who only watch the film might only see Aslan as an otherworldly hero–which scares me.
The Details: On November, 4th the elections for the next president will be held. The top contenders are Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards for the Democrats and Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, and Mitt Romney for the Republicans.
What I’m Excited About: I’m most excited about getting a new president. I’ve never been as torn up and confused about the abilities and honesty of a president as Bush. Without getting into a debate about the war or Bush’s record as a president, there are certain issues that are very important to me that I want the next president to address, for example: Global Warming, even if there is debate about whether or not the earth is getting hotter and why, I believe that as good (and extremely wealth) stewards we should do the wise thing and do whatever we reasonably can to protect the environment–even if we have to drive less or ride the bus; Iraq, I have no solutions, but something needs to be done there ASAP; and Globalization, I want a better policy of rewarding countries who don’t violate human rights and who do support the rights of workers.
What I‘m Afraid of: I have no idea who to vote for.
The Details: Okay, so he hasn’t officially announced a new album yet, but since he didn’t release a Christmas EP this year, we know he’s busy working on something. Potential candidates for the next entry in his 50 states series (which will probably never be finished) are Oregon, Rhode Island, California, and Minnesota.
What I’m Excited About: Hands down, Stevens is the one musician making music from a Christian worldview who I believe really does it right. The music is played well, the arrangements are moving, complex, lush, and original; the lyrics are well-written and witty; and the singing is sincere. As believers I firmly believe that we should be supporting people like Sufjan Stevens who strive (and succeed) at making excellent art to the glory of God.
What I’m Afraid of: While Stevens makes amazing music, I do believe that at times he is more in love with the strangeness of his music than anything else. He seems, at times, to oscillate between intimate, sincere story telling and utterly detached musical experiments. Experimental music which is made just to be experimental is a pet peeve of mine. One of my biggest fears is that he’ll release an album that favors the experimentation over the sincerity of, say, Illinoise.
The Details: As with Stevens, we don’t have an official announcement that McCarthy will release anything this year, but I think it highly likely. First, we have the New York Times blurb last July stating that the author signed a new two-novel deal with Alfred A. Knopf. Second, he released a novel in 2005 and both an novel and play in 2006, and given his age it seems like he’s trying to get as much out while he still can.
What I’m Excited About: Having read and study McCarthy extensively, I’ve always noticed Christian themes, imagery, and ideas in his works, but in his last two, The Road and The Sunset Limited, he has directly engaged the question of God’s existence, particularly in relation to the inherent meaningfulness of relationships we have in this life and how they seem to reflect some transcendent Truth. In addition, his writing style has gotten less and less difficult, which means that more people have been able to read and engage McCarthy. It’s my hope that his next two novels will continue to develop these Christian themes and thereby encourage other people to ponder the more important questions in life.
What I’m Afraid of: McCarthy will turn 75 this July, and while we have not heard any indication that he is in poor health, old age is catching up with him. One of my biggest fears is that McCarthy will pass away before he edits and publishes his last two works. I’m not very concerned that these novels will be sub par; he has yet to disappoint me.
The Details: To be released in Fall of 2008, Fallout 3 is an RPG by Bethesda Game Studios (the developer who created the very successful Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion), which presents the story of a character who wakes up in post-apocalypse American. You begin the game in a sealed fallout shelter and journey to find your father in the wastelands outside of the vault.
What I’m Excited About: Oblivion was an amazing open-world game which allowed you to truly feel as if you were exploring and interacting with a living world. But the art style felt like circa 1982 D&D with the walking skeletons, goblins, and evil enemies that look like they were taken off of the cover of a bad heavy metal band. Fallout 3 promises to give the open-world game play of Oblivion with an art direction that highly appeals to me with its representations of a fallen world. But perhaps the most exciting aspect of the game is the prospect of a post-apocalypse American. The nature of post-apocalyptic tales is to take us out of our comfort zone and to force us to question what is meaningful in life and whether or not our society is just. Such tales form the perfect setting for exploring human nature in all its corruption. If properly done, this game could be both entertaining and intellectually compelling.
What I’m Afraid of: While games such as Bioshock have shown that video games can both entertain us and cause us to question our own sense of morality, Bethesda is not know for its clever plots. My guess is that Fallout 3 will be an extremely interesting and addictive game, but will fall short of asking players to question things like human nature.
2008 looks to be an interesting year on all fronts, and I look forward to discussing these things with all of you throughout the year. In the comments, I’d love to hear what pop culture events you’re most looking forward to this year.