Another week and I have once again found myself floundering without a committed topic. Essentially, my issue is that I have far too many interests and things that I would potentially love to write about. Initially, I considered something in the field of adaptation, which I am super interested in outside of my University studies, but my issue with that lay in trying to find a topic that I could write about in only 3000 words.
Then late last week, as I drove home, a Lana Del Rey song came on the radio and I started thinking about the media backlash against her when the media discovered her real name was Elizabeth Grant, and that she had previously released music under her real name which was totally unsuccessful. It was only after rebranding herself as Lana Del Rey and creating this Lolita-esque persona that she attained success. As a fan, I followed the controversy as it was played out and found it incredibly interesting that she was being critiqued for her branding in an industry that has previously seen people with strong brands that are removed from their ‘authentic’ identities like Madonna and Prince, and more recently Lady GaGa. This topic interests me greatly, however I am a bit hesitant about it as I don’t know very much about branding and public relations and I am struggling to find a way to narrow this into a research topic.
And finally, there’s the topic that is dearest to my heart, and that is the appropriation of religious symbolism in the media. My interest in this topic stems from my love of television drama Supernatural, which heavily borrows from the Book of Revelation and Milton’s Paradise Lost as a basis for their storytelling. I read a fascinating article on the portrayal of religion on the show that was written after it’s first 3 seasons aired, that came to the conclusion that the show reinforced Catholic hegemony. However the show is now into it’s 9th season and I can’t help but disagree with that reading. Interviews with the creator, Eric Kripke, reveal that he holds a Humanistic worldview and believes that the show does too. Additionally, the representation of Angels in the show has changed dramatically. They are not the sweet Cherubs, guiding our way. They are heavily aligned with the demons in the show, and their behaviour constantly calls into question the idea of the ‘good’ angel.
I read through the Journal of Media and Religion in the hopes of narrowing down a potential research topic and found several interesting articles that may help, although they may have also just have made things harder for me. One article discussed the framing of religion by journalists, and the nature of the process by which journalists present religion to their audiences. Whilst Supernatural isn’t journalism, it made me think, why can’t these same questions be applied to TV writers and producers? Additionally, another article on Religion in advertising brought up issues about the secularisation of religion in the media. I pulled this quote out of the article which struck me as relevant: “Innocent advertisements appear to have given way to more daring approaches employing God, the devil, angels, exorcism, live births in nativity plays and darker overtones hinting at violence and pedophilia. Both media and cultural trends appear to underlie this shift in tone.”
However I feel like I am thinking far too big with this topic. There is no way I could successfully study a show that has run for 9 seasons in a 3000 word essay without glossing over a great deal of stuff. I thought about focusing just on the presentation and corruption of Angels in the show but I still feel like I’m trying to bite off more than I can chew. However I then thought what if I forget about Supernatural for the time being and just look at the appropriation of religious symbolism for secular purposes in the media in general. I came across the Philedelphia Cream Cheese series of advertisements that all show some form of heaven and Angelic being serving a woman some cream cheese product. Perhaps I could make a study of just that series of ads? Trying to narrow down and focus a research proposal is hard.
Either way, I’m still just as confused as I was before, however I need to continue knuckling down to try and sort it out by thursday. I daresay it will probably be a middle-of-the-night epiphany that will decide my topic for me, but until then, I need to keep researching.