Caucasianization of Jesus: Hollywood Transforming Christianity into a Racially Hierarchical Discourse

  • Author(s): Catherine Jones, Atsushi Tajima
  • When: 2015-11
  • Where: Journal of Religion and Popular Culture
  • This essay explores the racial representation of Jesus Christ by Hollywood and the resulting ideological implications. Because historical documentation lacks depictions of Christ’s phenotype, filmmakers can freely conceptualize his physical appearance. Hollywood blockbusters, however, have predominantly depicted Jesus as a white man, his most popular American conception. Hollywood consequently contributes to an active transformation process— the Caucasianization of Christ—which perpetuates the dominant hierarchical racial ideology. Redefining Jesus as “white” suggests that Caucasians are superior, a message Hollywood then distributes worldwide. Furthermore, Hollywood’s reinforcement of racial hierarchy through Christian imagery undermines Christianity’s communicative capacity. As Hollywood’s global influence continuously expands, filmmakers must consider the implications of this practice, as well as alternative depictions of Christ.

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