Oh, My Pop Culture Jesus: “It’s Not a Religious Show”

Helena Orphan BlackNot too long ago, Syng wrote a very interesting post about a missed opportunity for faith-based redemption in Orphan Black. It’s really good and you should definitely go read it. Since I have not watched Orphan Black yet, I’m not going to discuss any of the themes there; instead I would like to discuss a comment we received on Tumblr in response to that post—specifically this part: 

As for there being a lack of religious representation in the show, that’s true, but this is a self-labeled science fiction show, not a religious show. There are religious characters on the show, like Alison, but her religion is not focused on because it is not pertinent. When it became pertinent, such as her life crisis being obvious to friends and family, they introduce her religion as a natural course of action that would happen in the situation and environment that she’s in. Helena’s religious background is pertinent because there is a current police investigation going on and religion is one of the known motivators for serial killers, but also because her actions are so outlandish that it’s necessary to delve into her current frame of mind.

NemetonThis was a very well articulated comment that made me think about whether religion and religious themes can be portrayed in a show that isn’t necessarily religious. This comes up a lot, and not just with issues of religion. When we critique anything on this site, from race-related issues, to gender issues, to everything in between, we are told, “Well, that isn’t what the show/story/movie is about.” Jeff Davis, creator of Teen Wolf, even responded to allegations of racism by saying that Teen Wolf isn’t an “issues” show. As if simply stating that means it’s okay not to worry about minority representation. Or just because something is an action-packed science fiction show that means religion can’t play a vital role.

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