Visions of the End. Secular Apocalypse in Recent Hollywood Film

  • Author(s): Conrad Ostwalt
  • When: 1998-04
  • Where: Journal of Religion and Film
  • In response to John Lyden's paper, "To Commend or Critique? The Question of Religion and Film Studies," (JRF vol. 1, no. 2) this paper explores how contemporary popular culture and traditional religion interact. I argue that films and other popular cultural forms can both commend and critique social and religious norms when they themselves function religiously. To illustrate this, I turn to the apocalyptic imagination as it is appropriated in two popular, American films, Waterworld and Twelve Monkeys. With these two films, we can see that popular culture has taken a traditional religious concept (the apocalypse) and secularized it for a contemporary, popular audience. That these films find the idea of the apocalypse somehow meaningful suggests that they are functioning religiously.

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