Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: Star Wars and Reincarnation

MadameAce: After the release of The Force Awakens, many of us were left wondering just who the hell Rey is. She’s powerful in the Force and certainly an important enough person in their universe to warrant being the star of three movies. So what’s the deal? Is she Obi-Wan’s granddaughter? Luke’s child? Or something else altogether? A less common theory says that she’s Anakin Skywalker reincarnated. The theory posits that due to Anakin’s crimes, he was sent back to the world as Rey to live on a desert planet. There are a number of things wrong with that—being a girl is not actually a punishment, for one thing—but while I disagree with the original poster regarding why Anakin may or may not have been reincarnated, could reincarnation even be possible within the Star Wars universe?

Well, yes. Regardless of whether or not this theory is true, it can easily fit into the narrative, and Lady Geek Girl and I are about to explain why.

(image via overmental)

Lady Geek Girl: Star Wars borrows heavily from Eastern religions, particularly Buddhism, which does incorporate reincarnation, though many people in the Western world misunderstand what reincarnation is actually about. According to Buddhist teachings, people are stuck in an endless cycle of suffering, death, and rebirth called saṃsāra. This cycle is not a good thing, because it means being stuck in a cycle of suffering. However, one can break out of this cycle by achieving enlightenment. One can only do this by following the Middle Way, aka Buddhism. Through meditation, one can achieve insight about the truth of life and extinguish desire, which allows one to escape suffering and end the cycle of rebirth. The ultimate goal of Buddhism is to achieve enlightenment and break that cycle. But just because Star Wars borrows from Buddhism, that doesn’t mean it follows it strictly. While there is no direct evidence that reincarnation exists in the Star Wars universe, it could certainly be a possibility.

Continue reading

Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: Chirrut Îmwe and Faith Expression

I love Star Wars. Other than Harry Potter, it is probably one of the things that has most influenced my young nerdy life. As a young religious girl I loved the idea of the Force and the Jedi and how their faith in the Force gave them power. Then, like many people, I was dismayed over how the Force and the Jedi were portrayed in the prequels. Maybe it was because of my own issues with my faith, but I very much disliked how overly regimented the Jedi were shown to be and how it seemed to take some of the mystery out of the Force. With the most recent movies, like The Force Awakens and Rogue One, all of the things that I loved about the Force and the Jedi in the original movies were back, and I have to say that Chirrut Îmwe is one of the absolute best examples of someone of faith that I have seen in a long time. And more specifically, it was great seeing a beautiful faith expression that was more reflective of Buddhist and Taoist beliefs.

Continue reading

Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: The Tenuous Relationship Between Buddhism & Doctor Strange

dr-strange

I love it when any piece of pop culture incorporates some kind of religion that isn’t Christianity, because despite the fact that Christian themes are everywhere in Western media, not everyone is Christian. It’s nice to see media embrace themes from other faiths and show more religious diversity. However, sadly this tends to be a very exotified, watered down, and often inaccurate depiction, especially when it comes to Eastern religions.

Marvel’s latest hit, Doctor Strange, is based on a comic that relies heavily on Eastern religions, particularly Buddhism. However, the orientalism displayed in the comics, as well as the culturally appropriative nature of the comics in general, means that the portrayal of Buddhism in the movie tends to be a rather problematic one.

Continue reading

Oh, My Pop Culture Monks: The Jedi Order and Monasticism

Jedi Star WarsStar Wars’s next episode is almost here, you guys! Well, it’s a couple months away, but still, I’m excited, and I’m feeling all Star Wars-y today because of it.

So in order to celebrate, let’s talk about Jedi, monks, and monasticism. The Jedi are warrior monks, who spend their days either meditating or kicking Sith ass. They live minimalistic lives and belong to a spiritual order charged with keeping the peace. The Jedi and their way of life, like many other things in Star Wars, are based off Eastern cultures and religions, but the story is told from a Western lens. As such, the story, especially in the prequels, doesn’t really do all that well representing the way of life it borrows from.

Continue reading

Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: Firefly and Diversity of Belief

If you have been on this blog for more than a second you can probably already guess that diversity is something that is important to us. And that is true even when it comes to belief. It is important to have wide representation of people of faith. We need characters who are Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, etc in our media. But within those categories we need characters who are devout in their faith, question their faith, are eclectic in their faith, etc. And even beyond that, we need characters who are strongly religious, atheist, agnostic, spiritual but not religious, etc. Basically, we need to show as many varieties of belief as we see in human beings because this is something that really matters to real people.

Shepherd BookFirefly has always been one of my favorite shows despite it being tragically canceled, and I think one of the main reasons I enjoyed the show so much is the wide diversity of belief we see with the cast. It’s rare that shows discuss belief, and it’s even rare that a show does it across a decently broad spectrum.

Continue reading

Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: Monks in Geek Culture

monk mene funny

image via funnyjunk

Last year I wrote an article about nuns in geek culture. Nuns and religious sisters of all stripes have such great potential as iconic feminist characters, but writers spend more time casting them as evil sexy sirens in black and white costumes. But what about the nun’s male counterpart, the monk? Monks are men who take vows of virtue and live apart from society (usually in a community with other monks). They’re mainstays of both Western and Eastern religions. Monks challenge popular stereotypes of what real masculinity looks like. And yet monks face a problem similar to nuns: we can’t seem to break them out of a handful of inaccurate stereotypes.

Spoilers for Doctor Who and Avatar: The Last Airbender after the jump.

Continue reading

Angel Beats!: An Anime About The Afterlife Influenced By Different Religions

Angel Beats! Title CardAs I continue brooding about life and true happiness, I can’t help but think about the anime series Angel Beats! After re-watching the show for the eighth time, I realized just how often the characters’ thoughts about religion (and the afterlife) affect what happens in the plot. While the story occurs in a world considered the afterlife, how they choose to pass on (or stay in limbo) is affected greatly on different belief systems. From Buddhism to Christianity, the characters believe in different icons or principles from these religions and make a lot of assumptions about this world because of their beliefs.

Spoilers after the jump! Continue reading