I’m going to sound like a crank about NPR.

The purpose of this blog, as it says at the top, is to focus on media, religion, and culture, and specifically at how media cultures articulate “the religious.”  This has become more and more of a fraught task in the past decades.  Think 9/11, Pope Francis, Beyoncé, Religion in the Trump election, etc.

Hulu Handmaid

George Kraychyk/Hulu

The way journalism treats these things is an essential part of the story.  It is not just about journalism as “public information,” though an informed public is of course an important democratic goal.  It is also about how the coverage of religion comes to contribute to the meaning of religion in an era where so much happens in and to “publics.”

By any measure, NPR is a central voice in American journalism.  It is not marginal, but arguably a thought, opinion, and–most important–practice leader.  What it does matters, and monitoring it is important in a number of ways.

So, I’ve devoted two recent posts to NPR coverage, and now am at it again. This time, it’s NPR’s review of the celebrated HULU adaptation of “Handmaid’s Tale.”  By all accounts, it is an impressive production, and an impressive reading of Margaret Atwood’s cautionary 1983 novel.  But, a very fine review in the April 25 Religion Dispatches by Christopher Douglas suggests an important lacuna around race.  Douglas’s argument–the one significant here–is that Atwood’s was a very smart and provocative telling of a tale of gender and race modulated to historic themes in American conservative Christianity.  The series is fairly explicit about gender, but muffs race, to put his argument simply.

His analysis is smart, historically-grounded and sound, and points very directly to important frame religion must hold in the logic of the “Tale” and its significance and meaning today.

So, what was wrong with the NPR review? Well, Eric Deggans somehow manages to review the series without even mentioning religion.

I’m sorry, that is simply not good enough.

 

 

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