How Pop Culture becomes Mythology

Aghama2 In my previous post, I discussed how older mythology shows up in pop culture. However that's not the only mythology that's present in pop culture. Pop culture creates its own mythology, or rather the various people that interact with pop culture help to create new mythology, rooted in the cultural artifacts produced in this era. This mythology of the modern era is found in the stories that are told through modern media, such as comics, movies, television, radio, and the internet. What makes these stories mythological is how people interact with them, how the characters come to life and what those interactions mean to the people having them.

Pop culture creates myths for the modern time, based in contemporary culture, providing people in this culture something they can relate to because of the context to their lives, and yet nonetheless also an offering of something more. What that something more is depends on the person. For example, I find that pop culture mythology provides me a connection to the spirits of this era, and while these spirits may be birthed in Fiction, they nonetheless have a reality to them created by the needs that they embody for people. Other people will frame the mythology in terms of psychological terms and yet others will dismiss it altogether, arguing for specific standards and definitions based on their own biases about what constitutes a spirit.

In my experience of working with pop culture characters, I found that what makes them into mythology and for that matter what makes them spirits is the intent of the interaction. For example, in working with Thiede from the Wraeththu series, I found that what made him real was my recognition that in fact there is a spiritual resonance I share with the character. I could identify with the character and that identification helped to move the interaction from reading into actual spiritual work where I encountered him as a specific being within my pantheon. Continuing to work with him created a deeper relationship, which has continued to develop as I integrate him into my spiritual work. I imagine the same is true for anyone else working with a pop culture character. At some point, as continued spiritual work is done, the character becomes more than just a character. And that change shifts everything because the identification you have with that character calls for an investment on your part that allows the character to be real, regardless of what the origin of the character is.

Another example I can think of is Batman. For me, Batman is part of my mythology, moreso than Superman or some of the other heroes, in large part because what makes Batman so interesting is that he doesn't have any powers. He's rich, but his intelligence and his other skills are things he's had to hone and work with over a long period of time. More than that though is the actual calculation of the character in choosing in his fictional world to become a mythological being, utilizing the emotional responses to him as part of his way of creating such a mythology. The way the writers of the series have written about him, specifically in relationship to the mythological aspects he embodies in his fictional reality, shows a meta narrative that evokes that mythology into this reality because of the character's awareness of myth and his choice to make himself into a myth in the minds of the people who interact with him (both in the fiction world and in the mind of the readers/viewers). That kind of intention on the part of the character demonstrates to me a presence of being that moves beyond the narrow limitations and definitions humans try to impose on what is or isn't mythological.

If we open ourselves to the idea that pop culture can be mythological, then we also open ourselves to having meaningful interactions with the spirits of this time. We allow ourselves to work with those spirits, and in that process enter into a different relationship with this era and culture, one that may ultimately be more healing for us. The relationship we have with this culture and with what is important to us in it, is just as important as any relationship we have with older cultures and the spiritual forces of those cultures.

Book Review: The Secret Tradition of the Soul by Patrick Harpur

In his latest book, Harpur explores the connection of the soul to identity, daimonic reality and sacred imagination. Much like his previous works, he draws together a wide variety of sources to offer readers a multitude of perspectives on the subject area. What I enjoyed most about this book is how the author deftly explores the soul in context to the various traditions he refers to, defining in the process what the soul is and what role it plays in our lives. He also does a good job of building on his previous works while also differentiating this book from those works. If you are mystically inclined or want to understand the nature of the soul this book will be a thought-provoking read that will inspire your own spiritual work.

Book Review: Spreadable Media by Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green

This book examines the concept of viral media and argues for a different paradigm based on participatory culture and fandom, where people choose to spread ideas and their interests to other people. It's a fascinating book that presents an alternative perspective on marketing, but also on pop culture studies, bringing those studies to the 21st century by focusing on the role of social media within pop culture. If you are interested in pop culture, you'll find this book useful for understanding how pop culture spreads and if you are interested in marketing this book will provide a different perspective to the prevailing wisdom of the time.