Monday, July 4, 2011

Mythology and Truth

The jury has been in for some time concerning the impact of media on culture. I’m sure on some level we all would agree that today’s media is not only shaping our society but is also having an enormous impact on each of us on a personal level. We may not be sure how it impacts us, but it does.

Today’s media makers and filmmakers have recognized the influence and the manipulative nature of images. By using a certain pattern of images, they are capable of creating new meanings by tapping into our subconscious, which leads to the formation of new mythologies.

What are Images?

Images are pictures. However, in our culture, pictures have become tools used to elicit specific and planned emotional reactions in the people who see them.

• The images are created to give us pleasure when we watch them. They are also created to make us feel anxious.

• Images work best when they are vivid and emotionally saturated. For example, the American flag depicts very powerful emotions. The flag works as an image because it suggests a long list of stories and myths that are buried inside of us.

• Picture images that evoke deep memories can be very powerful and also very spiritual.

• By calling up these deep emotions and memories, today’s image makers are using images to take on new meaning and have created new myths that are shrouded, often deliberately, by those deeper memories.

The New Myths

Traditionally, a myth has been defined as a story or idea that explains culture or customs of a people. Myths are the motivating stories or ideas that help to define cultural practices. Often they motivate daily behavior.

The key to recognizing the new myths of today’s modern media culture is to think of them as ideas that emerge from long exposure to certain patterns of images. In fact, these myths are unconvincing unless one thinks of them as emerging from a huge array of images, which come from many sources, including advertising, entertainment and news.

Today’s images must be read on two levels in order to understand how new myths are created in our society. Myths are generally something that is not completely true but are accepted by society as truth. For example: your body is not good enough; the good life consists of buying possessions which cost lots of money; and happiness, satisfaction and sex appeal are readily available at the next consumer purchase.

• First, we have an immediate emotional response wherein we recognize, for example, the image of a flag, a cross, a sunset, or a house, which leads us to react in a way that taps into our inner emotions, past stories and experiences.

• Second, we view that image within the context of hundreds of other similar images. By doing this, the new myth that the image is communicating is clearly seen. Otherwise, it cannot stand apart because it would be obscured by powerful stories and the emotional connections that are used to sell the image.


As people of faith, we’re not interested in half-truths or mythology. Our mission is to be a witness for Christ and to convey His story. How do we do that by using images and pictures? Can we tap into the conscious and subconscious and lead people to the truth? I believe there are twelve core beliefs that are buried deep inside of each of us. If we can access these core beliefs, I’m convinced they can be used to lead people into a relationship with Christ.

How we view these core beliefs—sacrifice, respect, romantic love, justice, success, community, responsibility, hope, freedom, redemption, religion and family—goes a long way in determining our relationship with God.

As people of faith, we need to create media that illustrates these core beliefs. Our audience will either have a positive or a negative view on each belief. By tapping into their positive beliefs, we can further illustrate God’s love and forgiveness. By modeling what God has to say about each core belief, especially for those who have a negative view, viewers can see what God actually intended. Either way, we are using images and pictures not to create mythology but to reinforce Biblical truth.

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