cover image Entertaining Judgment: The Afterlife in Popular Imagination

Entertaining Judgment: The Afterlife in Popular Imagination

Greg Garrett. Oxford Univ., $27.95 (264p) ISBN 978-0-19-933590-9

In contemporary America, concern about the afterlife threads through popular books, TV shows, and movies, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to The Hunger Games. Garrett (The Gospel According to Hollywood) offers a comprehensive survey, spanning decades of pop culture and touching on several key themes: angels, demons, and the devil; heaven, hell, and purgatory; and those living in between (the undead). Popular culture offers a meeting place for traditional and contemporary ideas about the afterlife to mingle and create meaning for audiences today. TV and movies especially offer some alternative traditions by way of time-traveling doctors, animated foul-mouthed children, billionaire vigilantes, etc., to augment traditional stories, such as the biblical book of Job, that may no longer hold the same power they once did. Garrett suggests that even without theology to answer these questions, popular stories will continue to be produced in order to imagine an ambiguous hereafter. Though not groundbreaking, Garrett’s book is nonetheless an entertaining and highly readable addition to the field of popular culture studies. (Jan.)