Beyond that, while the best this book has to offer, such as a sense of history and points for discussion/action are rooted in an attempt at fairness and objectivity, some of his perspectives are limited and odd. His discussion of fashion, for example, provides only his own outlook on tattoos and piercings, along with nudity and revealing clothing. As someone interested in the art of tattoos who has friends that have them, I found his explanation of “this is my body” territory-marking to be inaccurate. I’m not offended he has this position, but I’m not sure how he was unable to find people with tattoos to interview for their perspective. It’s in places like this, where he tells us what other people are thinking rather than asking them, that the writing lacks.
The same could be said of the chapter on people of faith in television and movies. None can doubt his findings, that faith is either ignored or ridiculed in media, but he mostly argues this is due to ignorance on secular Hollywood’s part. He eases into the fact that the animosity had to come from somewhere and at the end he challenges the Christian viewer to ask how much truth the criticisms in these shows and movies contain. Still, he seems to operate on the level that Christians should never criticize our own because the secular world does such a “good” job of that already. I couldn’t help but wonder what an interview with Tony Hale would be like, asking his thoughts on Arrested Development’s pointed religious satire, or with Steve Colbert on why he (as a Christian) mocks Christians on The Colbert Report. And was Steve Turner aware that one of the movies he listed as an example of Christians shown badly (Wise Blood) was based on a novel written by Flannery O’Connor, a Christian? Turner includes some helpful quotes from Patricia Heaton (on celebrity) and Susan Isaacs (on comedy), but these snippets left me wanting more. I couldn’t help but feel more story wasn’t being told.
Thankfully, PopCultured ends on a strong note as the author contemplates what it means for a Christian to consume, critique, and create pop culture. He contends Christian artists and critics have something to say, and adds they need to be immersed in more than the plan of salvation to do so. Like his chapter on movies, this chapter wisely argues that worldview can exist in strong storytelling without needing to tack on an altar call. He says as Christians, we need to have understanding of what comes next; then and only then can we be expected to create compelling art.
I have many conservative Christian friends who, unlike me, stayed that way. I would recommend this to them if only because it starts a necessary conversation on what it means for a person of faith to engage in a culture that already surrounds us. It shows that it’s possible to write for Rolling Stone and still take your Biblical faith seriously, which is no small feat by itself. Steve Turner’s PopCultured is far from perfect, or comprehensive, and the perspective was frustratingly limited in places, but for a conservative Christian audience it’s a good start.