Pop Culture Can Shape Our Reality | Sojourners

Pop Culture Can Shape Our Reality

Our stories can profoundly influence how we see the world — and make it a more just place.
Illustration of Pamela R. Lightsey, a black lesbian Methodist elder. She has a shaved head and is smiling with red lipstick. She wears a black shirt, red earrings, and red bangles with black stripes. She is framed by a rainbow circle and yellow lilies.
Pamela R. Lightsey, the first out Black lesbian elder ordained in the United Methodist Church, is a scholar, speaker, and author of Our Lives Matter: A Womanist Queer Theology. / Illustration by Kim Thompson

POPULAR CULTURE PLAYS an important role in shaping our view of the possible. Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of Between the World and Me, for years wrote Marvel’s Black Panther and Captain America comics. “I think we don’t always realize the extent to which the culture actually interacts with politics,” Coates said on Ezra Klein’s podcast. “I could advocate for all of the policies in the world ... but it really, really occurred to me that there’s a generation that is being formed right now that’s deciding what they will allow to be possible, what they will be capable of imagining. And the root of that isn’t necessarily the kind of journalism that I love that I was doing, the root of that is the stories we tell.”

In this issue, sojo.net associate news editor Mitchell Atencio looks at some of those stories — in particular, superhero comics — and explores what is not being told, and how pop culture often avoids grappling with the way our country approaches issues such as policing and incarceration. That failure has consequences far beyond the DC and Marvel universes.

The cover image for the May 2023 issue of Sojourners, featuring an illustration of blue disembodied hands pulling white strings in various directions in the shape of the Enneagram symbol. The background is a mixture of bright colors of the rainbow.
This appears in the June 2023 issue of Sojourners