Entertainment Weekly can go get ‘Lost’

I have my share of friends who have consumed a bit too much Kool-Aid, when it comes to their devotion to “Lost.” I tried to watch an episode or two (and enjoyed those wonderful “Lost” in eight minutes features), but I just don’t have the commitment to hang in there for the long haul.

Frankly, I do hope that all of the characters are dead and that the whole show has been a life-in-purgatory kind of thing. I think that would freak out the world-weary youngsters who write and edit Entertainment Weekly these days, something that would be good in and of itself.

Anyway, this brings us to the artwork with this post — which is an ABC promotional photograph that is all over the place (along with the tweaked alternative visions). People seem to think that this image, like the show, has some great spiritual meaning.

Thus, at USA Today we read:

Many pop-culture institutions have participated in Last Supper-inspired photos: The Sopranos pic was highly publicized and over-analyzed. A shot of the Battlestar Galactica cast posed around the table had fans buzzing. And then there’s Robert Altman’s MASH — perhaps the flick that inspired it all — with its terrific scene inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece.

The latest Supper snap? Lost, of course. In a new promotional photo, Locke, Kate, Jack, Hurley and the rest — well, sans Walt, Juliet, Rose and Bernard — pose at a makeshift table with a smorgasbord of Dharma products. (It’s being dubbed the “Lost Supper.”)

What clues can be found? Fans have noted these things so far:

– The table is made out of an airplane wing;

– Locke appears to be seated in the Jesus position. …

And so forth and so on, world without end (maybe). Amen.

I am not sure that this is journalism, but I understand — as a guy who enjoys writing about pop culture — that newspapers and magazines need to dig into these kinds of issues. People care deeply about entertainment, these days, which says a lot about our culture, me thinks.

I also, of course, enjoy writing about religion and popular culture, as do several other of your GetReligionistas. It is crucial, however, to always remember that you have to keep your religion facts straight, when you venture into pop religion territory. There are millions of people who take religion pretty seriously and they can get angry when their faith is twisted or trashed.

For example, please read the following commentary on the “Lost Supper” from Entertainment Weekly:

FUN FACT! The Last Supper – Jesus’ final meal with his disciples before his crucifixion — is commemorated by Christians through the sacrament of Communion, the eating of bread and drinking of wine in remembrance of Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection. Some Christians believe that when you eat the bread and drink the wine, the stuff actually converts into the body and blood of Jesus during digestion, although their appearances remain the same. (Which explains the weird carpentry aftertaste.) This miraculous conversion is known by a fancy term: Transubstantiation, ”the conversion of one substance into another.” Example sentence: ”If Jack’s ”Jughead” plans works, he and the castaways will be transubstantiated into a new reality.”

After reading this, please express your opinion on the following: The entertainment-magazine journalists who wrote and edited this tidbit were:

(a) Ignorant.

(b) Unprofessional.

(c) Silly and childish.

(d) Intentionally setting out to blaspheme a doctrine of ancient Christianity and, thus, to insult millions of believers.

(e) Counting on the fact that Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox believers and Anglo-Catholics would not blow up their building.

(f) All of the above.

Thank you for your time. Many GetReligion readers will now want to go outside and scream.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • tipi tim

    my guess is “f” with an emphasis on “b” and “e” or maybe just ill-informed protestants.

  • Deacon Michael D. Harmon

    I am reminded that “Lost” has a theological definition, too.

  • T Stanton

    a, b, c, and e.

    Kyrie Eleison

  • James

    f. All of the above, but not “ignorant” should be spelled “ignert” in this case.

    (Texans will know what I mean, but I’ll explain. “Ignorant” means I simply don’t know–there is a hole in my knowledge. “Ignert” means I may have had opportunities know, but have chosen to maintain my ignorance out of laziness.

  • James

    Sorry about the parenthesis. Typo!

  • Jerry N

    I have to say this before my head explodes: transubstantiation occurs at consecration, not during digestion!

  • Dave G.

    d and e, but missing one reason: publicity. There may have been a time when insulting the Christian faith was bad for you, but today, it’s almost gone to the point where unintended insults go by unnoticed. You have to make it flagrant, and then hopefully there will be an outcry. I remember when Weeds came out, and there wasn’t a big uproar. I read an article in the AP Entertainment section saying that the producers were really, really banking on some uproar for that free publicity. This is probably some of the same. Any publicity is good publicity, and they’re imagining this might pull in some freebies.

  • http://www.thechurchofnopeople.com Matt @ The Church of No People

    Oh, it’s definately F. Unless they’re counting on Christians not reading their publication at all. After all, they’re much too cool for any stodgy religious types anyway…

  • Chris Bolinger

    (g) Who cares? It’s Entertainment Weekly.

  • http://matdonna.shawwebspace.ca Donna Farley

    I don’t read EW so I guess I have no business speculating on why they wrote the way they did …but yes, I want to scream!

  • Martha

    I’d be more inclined for (a), with maybe (h) – trying to be funny in a cool, post-modern, ironic way on a deadline.

    I don’t think it’s necessarily malicious, though that bit about the “weird carpentry aftertaste” deserves a clip round the ear.

    They get transubstantiation badly wrong, though; Catholics believe it happens before reception, and is not dependent upon the faith of the recipient. What they have there sounds either like a mangled confusion with consubstantiation, or maybe the only definition they remember is from an episode of “Tales of the City” years ago, when High-Church Anglicanism in one episode is defined as “more Catholic than the Catholics; they don’t believe it becomes Jesus until after the host goes in your mouth” (or something like that).

  • Jane

    F, with emphasis on D and E.

  • Rebecca

    The EW explanation of transubstantiation is pretty close to the explanations I got at my Evangelical Protestant middle school medieval history class. You should’ve heard what they said about stylites though.

  • Chris

    How can one be “(h) – trying to be funny in a cool, post-modern, ironic way on a deadline”, while apparently lacking rudimentary internet access (eg: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transubstantiation)? If the author had done a little research, he/she might have been able to write something amusing.

  • Stoo

    To an outsider transubstantiation sounds pretty crazy. Apart from the claim made (“this is flesh and blood in a means conveniently undetectable to science”), it’s people… eating their saviour?!?

    Of course i’m some jerk from the peanut gallery and not a writer for a major publication. So is that Entertainment Weekly thing silly and disrespectful? Sure. I’m not familiar enough with that particular news source to know if it’s consistent with their general setup.(biting and satirical? sober and sensible?)

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Stoo:

    So you are their target audience? Why do they need to attack religion, in this case? What’s the gain, the constructive motive?

  • Jay H. Steele

    Matt,

    I think it is fair to say that for a certain, and maybe growing, population Christians and other believers are “in season” right now. It is interesting how much this kind of attack sounds like the mockery that early Christians faced for their unusual beliefs. We are definitely moving into a post-Christian era in the west. And for the health of our faith I for one think that is a good place for us to be.

  • http://www.pilgrimage.subcreators.com Lori Pieper

    I think the confused statement about transubstantiation among evangelicals (and obviously EW) might come from a confused understanding about something Catholics say: that the consecrated host is no longer the body and blood of Christ once the accidents disappear — that is, when the external appearance, taste, smell, etc of the bread disappear during digestion. I know because I’m Catholic and have heard this explanation, but don’t know if the Church officially teaches it.

    It means, of course, that the magazine writers took the beginning for the end, which is not too surprising for people who don’t know which end is up when it comes to religion (of course I could have put it in cruder ways, but let’s stop there).

  • Brian Walden

    To an outsider transubstantiation sounds pretty crazy. Apart from the claim made (“this is flesh and blood in a means conveniently undetectable to science”), it’s people… eating their saviour?!?

  • Brian Walden

    sorry, I mean to say:

    To an outsider transubstantiation sounds pretty crazy. Apart from the claim made (“this is flesh and blood in a means conveniently undetectable to science”), it’s people… eating their saviour?!?

    The doctrine of transubstantiation is older than the natural sciences; it’s definition didn’t change at all after the invention of the scientific method. So it might be more proper to say that it’s convenient for materialists that science is unable to disprove transubstantiation.

    I can’t refute that the claim is pretty crazy. I don’t mind them taking a dig a at strange Christian beliefs, but if you’re gonna specifically define one of those beliefs at least define it right.

    If only one of the historical Christian Churches had a book summarizing their beliefs so that reporters could quickly and easily look up such esoteric terms…

  • Stoo

    Being older than the sciences doesn’t mean it gets a free pass when coming under scrutiny from them. Not sure what you’re trying to get at there?

    tmatt:
    It’s poking fun, it’s not meant to have a constructive motive. The question is whether or not religion should be fair game for fun-poking.

  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    Stoo:

    The question is whether you want to insult believers across the board and whether your magazine wants a broad base of readers.

    Can you imagine a similar insult at Islam in EW? Yes or no. Then answer why.

  • Peter

    Can you imagine a similar insult at Islam in EW? Yes or no. Then answer why.

    Islam doesn’t permeate American culture, to the point artwork depicting it have become iconic.

    I think places like EW tweak Christians precisely because of your prickly reaction. Like humorless feminists who are so often tweaked because they rise to offense, “Christians” are the new humorless, politically correct scolds.

  • Stoo

    At what point are you drawing the line between teasing and insulting?

    To answer your question, probably not.

    It’s easy to leap to fears of reprisal as the reason. Although to go along with that I’d also suggest that amongst most of us western secular types there’s a sense that xtianity is a product of our culture. Even if one we don’t ourselves partake in. And thus more fair game for joking about than something from a completely different culture.

    I mean would EW dig at Hinduism? And no-one’s worried about them blowing stuff up.

  • Stoo

    Peter mentions another good point – if you’re going to make a religious joke, make one a decent sized portion of the audience is actually going to get.

  • http://ingles.homeunix.net/ Ray Ingles

    Um… all the choices except “e” seem to have negative connotations. Are you saying that EW editors should be worried “that Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox believers and Anglo-Catholics” might “blow up their building”?

  • Julia

    People don’t study philosophy 101 any more in college.

    Transubstatiation is an explanation derived from Aristotelean language and reality. There was this idea that the substance of some thing might not be what the externals (indicate).

    So – in transubstantiation the bread and wine still look like bread and wine, but the intrinsic substance has changed. It has nothing to do with digestion.

    As a Catholic, I think this explanation should be dropped because even educated people no longer understand Aristotle’s terminology. There is a lot of Platonic language in Catholic theology that also goes over people’s heads, too.

    I graduated from a Jesuit university back in the day when we were all required to have a philosophy minor.

    Interestingly, many comedians have philosophy majors. Monty Python would not be what it is without its members philosophy and history backgrounds. I think Steve Martin and Robin Williams both had philosophy majors. There are many more. That kind of background makes the incongruities of life very easy to spot – feeding the comedian’s imagination.

  • Julia

    Sorry about all the typos.

    There was this idea that the substance of some thing might not be what the externals (accidentals) indicated.

  • MichaelV

    What’s really sad about that little sidebar is that it came so close to being a good thing. If it had got its facts correct (ditching the digestion thing, maybe explaining who believes in the Real Presence – I think those Christians who don’t are the exception to the rule, but that may be my own bias), and hadn’t been so infuriatingly disrespectful – I would have been happy to see them even bothering to touch on the issue. Taking a skeptical, “wow Christians believe weird things!” attitude wouldn’t have bothered me. But if your goal is to provide a “fun fact” maybe you should do it in a way that doesn’t piss off a large segment of your audience. I’m not saying all humor should be nice – though I’m starting to outgrow the idea that a thing can be funny merely by being offensive – but it’s kind of a jerk move to blindside readers like that. If I rent a George Carlin DVD, I ought to expect it. A pop culture rag, not so much.

    I’m not sure one draws the line between teasing and insulting, maybe at the point where one’s goal shifts from making the target happy to them unhappy.

  • Brian Walden

    “Being older than the sciences doesn’t mean it gets a free pass when coming under scrutiny from them. Not sure what you’re trying to get at there?”

    Being older than the science doesn’t give it a free pass from scientific scrutiny, but being a claim that is outside the realm of science does. Transubstantiation isn’t something that can be measured empirically, therefore science can’t say anything definitive about whether it occurs or not (other than confirming that no empirical change takes place in the bread and wine during consecration).

    I inferred from your original statement that you were saying transubstatiation was purposely defined in a way that can’t be measured by science. If I read something into your statement that you never meant to imply, I apologize.

  • Julia

    There wasn’t any attempt to purposely define transubstantiation in “a way that can’t be measured by science”.

    The thing about transubstantiation was first described using the terms of the time – Aristotle was the gold standard back then for describing nature and the material world. Science was still based on observations and logical speculations; there wasn’t any modern scientific method yet. Using the Aristotelian language of substances and accidents and the like did fit the science of the time – as far as describing things was concerned.

    I think the Orthodox just say it’s a mystery. Works for me.


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