“The Fairy Tale is True”: Social Technologies of the Religious Supernatural in Film and New Media

  • Author(s): Diana Walsh Pasulka
  • When: 2016-04
  • Where: Journal of the American Academy of Religion
  • Informed by cognitive science of film and virtual environments, this essay extends the concept of the dispositif, or social technology, to North American mainstream films and digital productions about religion and the religious supernatural. Social technology, a concept that emerged within the discipline of film theory, has been used to describe relationships of power created and sustained by certain social institutions. Examples include prisons, professional disciplines, and cinema. This essay focuses on how cinematic and new media social technologies foster a unique form of spectatorship that influences belief in religion and the religious supernatural. While spectators of productions about the religious supernatural are consciously aware that they are watching a movie or other fictionalized narrative, cognitive science reveals that they are processing the narrative as real. Ethnographic research and the lore surrounding these productions confirm this assessment. This essay identifies these social technologies and examines implications for religious belief.

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