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St. Michael's College Courses
Jennifer Harris

Kanye West- Jesus Walks Said how important his faith was to get him through the recovery of his car accident This car accident gave him the subject matter for his first album Griot- a figure found in west Africa, they are historians and praised poets who invite people to learn about historic subject matter through songs What his faith means is not for us to determine, but it is what he claims Posed as Jesus on the Rolling Stone magazine cover He is a bit of an erratic character The song Jesus walks is from his debut album College Dropout Written by West and Jay Smith It was a popular single when it released Peaked at number 11 on the billboard charts And received a Grammy in 2005 for favourite rap song Ranked one of the best songs of the decade in 2000- 2010 in rolling stone The song generated 3 videos First one by the record company The first video that was commissioned for him he did not like it So he commissioned a second video by Chris Mill He worked with west to help construct the narrative West still didn’t like it so he commissioned a third video and paid for it with his own video and basically filmed it himself Third video is basically him and Jesus walking around Video Jesus Walks- Kanye West The power of the video, words, images Striking images or words March of the prisoners walking through the desert This is still the case, prisoners can be taken out in the streets to work on road sides etc. Might be biblical over tones with the slaves All of the figures in this are dressed in white to signify their innocence The member of the KKK was also wearing white so this is an exclusion to this Desire for a very personal connection with god but recognizing that this is often a very difficult experience In the hall way you see a light around Kanye West’s head Saints are depicted with halos, in some ways he is trying to draw on this identity The line from psalm 23 of David- I walk through the shadow of the death Doves coming out of the cocaine in the trunk Doves signifying the holy spirit and peace etc. Very significant images that seem to stress the images Points to the underclass- they are not innocents though ‘ hustlers, killers, murderers, drug dealers’ It does depict a story Fundamental Christian message- no matter what you have done, Jesus walks with you Subversion- the innocents are in jail and the guilty- the racists puts on his white cloak and bears the cross Those who claim innocent end up burning, those who arent innocent end up doing the burning Racial intentions in the united states The image of the man who is in the KKK runs all the way through the video So in some sense it is the pivotal narrative that is being told here It is been stressed physically and even aurally He sets his cross on fire, it falls down in the wind and he runs after it and then the heavens open and it starts to rain and he is saved from his own ill deed Tied all the way through it is this man who is willfully engaged in racist activity Yet he is the one at the end who receives a kind of blessed shower A clip that is easily missed when the rain starts to fall and he looks up and there is an intercut of a picture of a man at the bottom of the cross so he is being placed side by side to jesus The hardest message is even a KKK member- Jesus walks with him The KKK cross actually becomes the real cross in the intercut Have to look at the production, product and reception A brief history of Christianity and Popular Culture Ancient spectacle Go back 2000 years and think about popular culture Can only go back 2000 years because that was when Christianity was born Born into the Roman Empire Vast reality that extended across all of modern day Europe, Africa, the near east etc It assimilated the culture reality of many of the people that get conquered Many of the spectacles of the roman Empire were continued spectacles from the Greek culture as well Kinds of games that were created for mass consumption They were created for popular culture Popular culture existed in the kinds of cultic practices that were deeply religious Many festivals that were celebrated Popular culture was very much rooted in religion at the time It was also very much rooted in the regimes of power at the time For the ancient world the spectacles- the Olympics, the coliseum were spectacles of great popularity that were meant to assert te power of the empire culturally, politically and so on Venues for these very sports were spread throughout the roman empire so where ever you went the idea of spectacle were everywhere State sponsored spectacles Also privately funded as well Christianity was born into this roman empire and the earliest Christians as it were had to negotiate their place in this regime Christianity experience the roman popular culture right from the outset The pivotal event that is to say the crucifixion was to say a form of popular culture All crucifixion were spectacles of power Display them as warnings on the cross to those who might break laws etc. These were to ensure that you don’t rise up against Rome Those who did belong to Rome would attend these events Many mass executions Crucifixion was a punishment normally for non citizens but also those who broke the laws etc as well From the popular culture of Rome the crucifixion of Jesus itself- once it was banned by Christians it became an object of use on personal goods like little boxes etc. Christianity was of first of course in the empire an illegal activity and Christians were sporadically persecuted for their practices and so on Once in 313- the empire Constantine of the roman empire decided to legalize Christianity Later on another empire said that not only should it be legal but it should be the religion of the state th After the legalization and requirement of Christianity in the empire in the 4 century Christianity began to transform the popular practices of the empire One of the ways to do this was to take the festivals and Christianize them Saturnalia: the pagan roots of Christmas Took the saturnalia and turned it into a Christian festival There were sacrifices at the temple of Saturn Public banqueting, private gift giving, dramas, games Decided would be a good time to celebrate Jesus’ birth Just one of the ways Christianity appropriated popular culture for its own rights Christian festivals Victorian Christmas The person who popularized Christmas was Charles Dickens in the Christmas Carol Classic vision of what Christmas should look like Spawned a huge greeting card industry Commercialization of Christmas has been spawned by the assimilation Film we think of is one of the preeminent media in popular culture First films were silent One of the ways of making them effective was telling stories people already knew The earliest jesus movies were like the tableau of plays that existed in the past Radio was sort of the next big explosive medium in popular culture In effect early broadcast radio was effectively created by Christians because many saw the upside to broadcasting messages to people Like radio which was the first broadcast medium, television was adopted by Chri
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