Cartoons & Sacred Truths: Good Bedfellows?

July 1, 2010

July 1, 2010

Since people first began gathering around a fire at the end of a long day to recount the exploits of the day's hunt, storytelling has been an integral part of who we are as human beings. Stories pass along vital lessons and insights from one generation to the next, they provide models for living a good life, and in the case of religious traditions stories often serve as vehicles for the disclosure of great sacred truths. But what happens when important stories are repackaged by the "new media" into forms such as cartoons, anime and manga? As the saying goes, is something lost in translation?

As Vamsee Juluri, Professor of Media Studies at the University of San Francisco, puts it in his recent Huffington Post article "Mythology, Media and the Future of Hinduism," how the media retells the great religious stories and mythologies is "a matter of some consequence." While Juluri's piece primarily discusses Hinduism we can easily expand the scope of his argument to include new media's portrayal of any of the religions of the world. For as Juluri rightly points out, for many people religious stories are not simply fairy tales, rather they function as "templates for our lives... We see them as more than entertainment."

This is certainly not to suggest that the old ways are the best ways when it comes to retelling the great religious "myths." Instead, perhaps it is simply a chance for us to discuss your thoughts regarding the best and worst ways to share religious stories. To get us started consider the video below. Have you ever read the epic Hindu tale, the Ramayana? Whether you have or not tell us what you think of this storytelling form. Enjoy parts 1 and 2 of Sita Sings the Blues! (Hang in there until 5:15 when the story gets rolling)

(Personally, I think this video is brilliant and it will definitely appear in my courses "REL 1007 Hinduism" & "REL 2037 Religions of South Asia" at High Point University.)

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