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Nathan Bierma


Resistance Movement

Looking beneath the surface of pop culture

David Dark's Everyday Apocalypse: The Sacred Revealed in Radiohead, The Simpsons, and Other Pop Culture Icons is not only a model for enjoyment and discernment of the most thoughtful popular culture (which turns out not to be an oxymoron, after all). It is also an inspiring call to live in the world with what Walter Brueggemann would call "exilic consciousness"—the realization that we're exiled in a culture whose worldview we must not tolerate, even as we must coexist with it. So numbed are we by our social norms and institutions, Dark writes, that we forget we are living in a pseudo-world, one "founded upon the reduction of nature, creativity, and human life itself to whatever will benefit and perpetuate 'market forces.'"

Dark invokes The Truman Show, whose creepy sovereign, executive producer Christof, says, "We accept the reality of the world with which we're presented." Truly, we need the apocalyptic genre to awaken us to "question the reigning takes on reality." We usually interpret "apocalypse" as suggesting dramatic destruction, Dark says, but the word actually means revelation and epiphany. Apocalyptic art "testifies concerning a world both beyond and presently among the world of appearances."

Such testimony can be found in wildly diverse sources: Flannery O'Connor, The Simpsons, the music of Radiohead, the films of Joel and Ethan Coen, makers of Fargo and O Brother, Where Art Thou? Dark's commentary on these and others satisfies the reader with both the knowledgeable command of the English teacher he is at Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville and the contagious pleasure of a lover of illuminating storytelling. To pull this off requires a rejection of the most familiar religious impulse toward popular culture, which Dark identifies as a pious condescension. "It's as if such religious faith has no greater calling than counting bad words, spotting the sexual innuendo, and walking away in a loud, well-publicized huff."

Dark hints at the dark irony in this professed ...

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