Over the past decade, the entertainment industry has seen an incredible increase in contemporary versions of Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Norse mythology. Aimed at the teen age group, these forms of entertainment inspect ageold religions in more modern settings and storylines. They explore the tales of mythology in accessible and creative ways, making them more appealing for younger audiences. However, when the line between history and propaganda becomes blurred, risks for more vulnerable audiences can develop.
The fan-favorite series Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan explores this relationship between modern and mythical plot lines. The main character Percy Jackson gets caught between the world of Greek gods and mortals, as he is half-god, half-human. He finds friends and foes in the world of gods, and along with the reader, learns the basic but essential knowledge of Greek myths. This foundational information not only educates the reader but helps them to comprehend the complex storyline of Percy Jackson. The fivebook series includes interactions with nearly every Greek god and covers the more elementary Greek myths. Similarly, The Kane Chronicles, also written by Riordan, find an equally appropriate balance between an amusing but educational plotline. The main characters, Sadie and Carter Kane, interact with the dangers of Egyptian myths while they trample down a similar storyline to Percy Jackson. Both series are highly acclaimed by teens for their engaging mythology-inspired fantasy.
Unconventional takes on mythology and religion can also be seen in teen-favorite horror movies, such as The Omen, directed by Richard Donner, and The Conjuring, directed by James Wan and Michael Chaves. However, these movies have a darker message hidden behind the seemingly mainstream plot. They follow a similar theme to general horror cinema, and contain faith-based, worship-centered plot. The Omen follows a little boy who is said to be an “Antichrist,” as everyone around him seems to die. Resembling The Omen, The Conjuring also includes a rather biased depiction of Christianity. Most horror plots start with someone becoming possessed by demons then being saved by priestlike characters. While these movies don’t target younger, more vulnerable audiences, the religious perspective can still unintentionally influence viewers.
The danger of propaganda trails closely beside religiously influenced entertainment; the line between history and propaganda can quickly become mixed. Particularly affecting mainstream or box office movies, religious propaganda can be hidden in the commercial promotion of the movie. When these movies are made to target younger audiences, the influence they have is impeccable as children absorb the media around them with less skepticism and rejection than teens and adults. Religion is inherently intertwined with supernatural elements, making it an attractive basis for modern fiction. This doesn’t have to be a negative thing, but when religious motives are hidden behind popular plot lines and mainstream movies, viewers are less likely to be aware of the information they internalize and where it comes from.
Finding educational value in our entertainment is critical since it has consumed our everyday activities. With a large increase in media usage, series such as Percy Jackson and The Kane Chronicles are quite beneficial, especially since they cover topics not largely taught in school. Mixing mythology and fiction both entertains and grips many young readers, allowing them to learn mythology in unconventional and creative ways. Due to the complexity of entertainment inspired by myth or religion, it is almost impossible to pinpoint direct implications of propaganda or specific intentions. However, it is important to draw a line between explicitly incorporating mythological or religious elements into storylines for educational purposes, and subtly emphasizing religious ideologies that will impact the audience in unknown ways.