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 teenage age group, these forms of entertainment take a look at secular religions in more modern settings and scenarios. They explore the tales of mythology in an accessible and creative way, making them more appealing to a younger audience. However, when the line between history and propaganda blurs, risks can arise for more vulnerable audiences.
Rick Riordan’s fan-favorite Percy Jackson series explores this relationship between modern and mythical storylines. The main character Percy Jackson is caught between the world of Greek gods and mortals because he is half god, half human. He finds friends and enemies in the world of the gods and, together with the reader, learns the basic but essential knowledge of Greek myths. This basic information not only educates the reader, but helps him understand the complex story of Percy Jackson. The five-book series includes interactions with almost all of the Greek gods and covers the most basic Greek myths. Likewise, The Kane Chronicles, also written by Riordan, strikes an equally appropriate balance between a fun yet educational plot. The main characters, Sadie and Carter Kane, interact with the dangers of Egyptian myths while trampling on a scenario similar to that of Percy Jackson. Both series are highly acclaimed by teens for their captivating fantasy inspired by mythology.
Unconventional interpretations of mythology and religion can also be seen in teenage favorite horror films, such as The Omen, directed by Richard Donner, and The Conjuring, directed by James Wan and Michael Chaves. However, these films have a darker message hidden behind the seemingly dominant plot. They follow a theme similar to general horror cinema and contain a faith-based, cult-centered plot. The omen follows a little boy who is said to be an “Antichrist”, as everyone around him appears to be dying. Resembling The Omen, The Conjuring also includes a rather biased portrayal of Christianity. Most horror storylines begin with a person who is possessed by demons and then rescued by priest-like characters. While these films do not target a younger, more vulnerable audience, the religious perspective can still unintentionally sway viewers.
The danger of propaganda is closely associated with entertainment influenced by religion; the line between history and propaganda can quickly become confused. Particularly affecting mainstream or box office films, religious propaganda may be hidden in the commercial promotion of the film. When these films are designed to target a younger audience, the influence they have is impeccable as children absorb the media around them with less skepticism and rejection than teens and adults. Religion is intrinsically linked to supernatural elements, which makes it an attractive basis for modern fiction. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a negative thing, but when religious motives are hidden behind popular storylines and mainstream movies, viewers are less likely to be aware of the news they are internalizing and where it comes from.
Finding educational value in our entertainment is essential as it has consumed our daily activities. With a surge in media usage, series such as Percy Jackson and The Kane Chronicles are quite beneficial, especially since they cover topics little taught in school. Mixing mythology and fiction both entertains and captivates 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 identify the direct implications of the propaganda or specific intentions. However, it is important to draw a line between the explicit incorporation of mythological or religious elements into scenarios for educational purposes and the subtle emphasis on religious ideologies that will impact audiences in ways unknown.