Our host, Dan Hummel, raises the conversation on faith, pop culture, and storytelling in our modern world and media. In this episode, they explore the relationship between Christianity and pop culture with our honored guest, John Anthony Dunne, associate professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Bethel University and a thought leader on integrating theology with pop culture narratives. John offers a unique take on how Christians should navigate the vast expanse of media, ranging from Hollywood to horror and everything in between.

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đź”— Links 

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https://www.bethel.edu/academics/faculty/john-dunne

https://www.thetwocities.com

 

Transcript

John Anthony Dunne [00:00:00]:

You, as, as Christians, we, we bring a certain story, a certain, you know, meta narrative to all these other stories that, that we are engaging and we should, we should reflect on, you know, is the author critiquing something about how we understand the world? And, and is that. Is that something that we need to reflect on further? Sometimes I really value a good critique from an outside voice posture of faith that is devoid of discipleship. I think. I think that's what they're critiquing. And I just think, wow, rather than be like, no, this is sacrilegious. This is blasphemous. You how much of Christianity falls into this kind of celebrity superstar sort of mindset that they're rightly critical of, that we should be critical of, too, and we should be reflective of. How are we falling into this trap? Can't stop being a Christian.

John Anthony Dunne [00:01:07]:

When we engage pop culture, when we listen to music, we're always a Christian. And that doesn't mean, oh, I need to critique everything that I hear. That's not what I mean by we never stop being christian. What I mean is we are holistic people. We are people who should be thinking integratively about our faith with our lives and our interests and our hobbies and whatever, rather than compartmentalize these things.

Dan Hummel [00:01:45]:

Hello and welcome to the Upwards podcast. I'm Dan, one of your hosts. I'm here today with John Anthony Dunn, who's an associate professor of biblical and theological studies at Bethel Seminary in the Twin Cities, where he's also the director of the Demon program there. John is a New Testament scholar who's published on all types of topics, including the Book of Galatians, the Book of Esther, ecclesiology in the early centuries of the church, and much more. And he's also someone who's published widely on popular culture from a christian perspective, looking at such films and TV shows as Black Mirror and Potter. And as he mentions at the end here, he says some stuff coming out on stranger things and Dune and other things that probably many of us are familiar with. So this is a fascinating conversation with a scholar who also is a scholar of the Bible, who's also quite invested in engaging popular culture from a christian perspective and encouraging Christians to be more thoughtful in how they engage with that culture. So please join this conversation with John Anthony Dunn.

Dan Hummel [00:02:56]:

Welcome back to the Upwards podcast and excited to be here with John Anthony Dunn. John, how's it going?

John Anthony Dunne [00:03:04]:

It's going great. Thanks for having me.

Dan Hummel [00:03:06]:

Yeah, well, we just met a few weeks ago through mutual friend Janine Brown who teaches with you at Bethel Seminary. And John was nice enough to come to Madison, actually, for an evening of rollicking fun at a pub where we talked about a number of things, but the primary thing we talked about was the phenomenon of Jesus films. So films and TV shows that focus on the life of Jesus, and that got us talking and wanted to have John on the podcast to talk about a bigger topic around which Jesus films are a part, which is how Christians should engage with contemporary culture, particularly more popular forms of culture. So before going further on that, though, I thought I'd ask a few questions to you, John, about who you are, what drew you into being interested in these types of topics. First of all, just tell us, what do you do at Bethel Seminary in the Twin Cities?

John Anthony Dunne [00:04:03]:

Yeah, so I teach New Testament. I'm an associate professor of New Testament and I direct the doctor of ministry program as well. And it's been six and a half.

Dan Hummel [00:04:16]:

So you're primarily responsible, I gather, for New Testament courses. What else do you teach at Bethel?

John Anthony Dunne [00:04:25]:

Yeah, so I teach beginning Greek, intermediate Greek, greek exegesis. So mostly greek courses and then New Testament survey exegesis courses and then electives. And that's really sort of my favorite set of courses to teach, largely because I connect them to things I'm working on researching. And so it's been fun to kind of get feedback on things that I'm working on, see how ideas land with students and develop them further. And so I just use it as a kind of creative outlet, try to teach a fresh new elective. Every time I offer one, it's a blast.

Dan Hummel [00:05:05]:

And so I gather a number of these electives are around more popular culture, films, TV shows, novels, stuff like that.

John Anthony Dunne [00:05:15]:

A few of them have been, yeah, so I taught one class called faith, hope and love, and the idea behind that class was, let's talk about these theological virtues and how they are refracted in culture. And so basically we had them read a number of theological books on each of those virtues, but also had them watch certain films or TV shows, particular episodes, and have them do a kind of integrative sort of dialogue between the pop culture that they're engaging and the theological texts that they're reading. How would you sort of bring these two into conversation with each other? And sort of the main thesis of the course is that what we think about faith, hope and love is much more informed by cultural expressions than biblical affirmations or the christian tradition, and sort of just kind of tracing that out and fleshing that out a bit, taught another course on technology, which was a very practical course, but the sort of main impetus for that was a book that I co edited on the TV show Black Mirror, which is a technological dystopian anthology show on Netflix, and really kind of used that in a similar way as the kind of inroad into the conversation about what should our tech practices and tech habits look like in our technological age.

Dan Hummel [00:06:44]:

Yeah. And I'm guessing something like Black Mirror gives you an entryway with students and with readers, that if you just did a sort of stale. Not stale in a bad way, but just sort of a vanilla engagement with that topic, would be a different way of doing it than if you had this pretty popular Netflix series as the entryway. Also, maybe some shared stories that you.

John Anthony Dunne [00:07:06]:

Can draw to talk about it. Exactly. Yeah. It's a shared text, defined broadly, but it's a shared text that we can talk about. One of my favorite writers in the space of technology is a historian at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Uval Noah Harari. And he says in one of his essays in 21 lessons for the 21st century that basically a good science fiction story is worth way more than an article in science or nature. And I agree with that in the sense that it's what is going to reach the masses, it's what is going to captivate, how people think about artificial intelligence, how people think about digitally downloading our minds into a kind of digital afterlife. These types of questions that transhumanists and different tech entrepreneurs are dreaming up in Silicon Valley or whatever, where people are first engaging those ideas is through science fiction.

John Anthony Dunne [00:08:10]:

And so being able to incorporate that, and I always bring up, I'm not so interested in whether these things will materialize, whether these things are scientifically, biologically, psychologically, neuroscientifically possible. But why do we want them? Why do we desire them? Why are our habits drawn in these directions? And I think because films and TV shows are so focused on the affective side of our holistic beings, we're able to have, I think, more interesting conversations than a purely cerebral or intellectual one. And so that was a blast of a course, and it transfers well. I've taught it at churches as well. Twice this year at two different churches, multi week courses where basically socratic dialogue over a black mirror episode with the focus on using the mirror metaphor. What is the show reflecting back to us about our tech habits? And how do we want to think critically and self reflectively about our tech habits in light of what the show kind of exposes?

Dan Hummel [00:09:23]:

It sounds a lot like parables to me, too. Yes, those are used even by Jesus in the Bible to get at deeper truths, but through story, as opposed to 100%.

John Anthony Dunne [00:09:35]:

Yeah, 100%. I mean, that's one of the things I try to emphasize, is that one of the benefits of doing this kind of pop cultural engagement is that it's reflected back to us in scripture. We see stories in Bible. Most of the Bible, genre wise, is narrative. Jesus uses parables to teach. But also, you think about the prophetic synapse of the prophets and even Jesus himself. Kind of theatrical performance, rather than just a simple message. Right.

John Anthony Dunne [00:10:05]:

Obviously, they had messages, but they also acted out their messages. There's a kind of story shape to their message in performance, in the theatrical performance. And so it's reflected back to us in scripture. We see scripture doing this sort of thing, using stories for these purposes, and perhaps connecting in ways that a pure message might not. But also, I really think that the more we engage story, because the Bible is suffused with stories, it actually helps us become better readers of scripture as a result. Michael Heiser, a good UW Madison gretch, he said once I heard him say on his Naked Bible podcast, if we read the Bible like it was fiction, or if we read the Bible like we read fiction, we would be better readers of Bible. And I totally agree with that. And he's not denigrating the historicity of it or anything like that.

John Anthony Dunne [00:11:09]:

It's an orientation of posture, a way of reading types of questions and things that we ask when we read fiction or the things that we are operating with when we're engaging stories. We need to think about how that transfers over to scripture, because sometimes there's a disconnect. And I think actually being better readers of fiction can help us be better readers of scripture. And I think there's just a lot of benefits to that.

Dan Hummel [00:11:34]:

Yeah, I do, too. It makes me think of also the way that I've really appreciated in my own learning about the Bible, the role of literary scholars and people like Robert Alter. Way back. Yes, certainly plenty of other ones more recently, who bring to the text just a literary sensibility that shows you the way themes and characterization and even particular words really shape meaning in a way that one, I'm less informed on those things, so I need someone to at least guide me, but also a more literary approach to the text, which doesn't really pinge on if you think it's inerrant or not. That's a different conversation. I think anyone can come to the text and appreciate the deep literary nature of it. And then a lot of the meaning is actually embedded in those thematic and other literary components of the text. Anyway, it's a really fruitful way, I think, to engage the Bible.

Dan Hummel [00:12:37]:

That brings me to ask you, what drew you to study the Bible? What made you interested in making that a big part of your life and your career?

John Anthony Dunne [00:12:46]:

Yeah, well, I mean, the short story is I was raised in a christian family. Yeah, Vegas is home. Grew up in Las Vegas. So I like to say that my sense of what's normal and mundane is calibrated to Vegas. I grew up in a more fundamentalist setting, which is perhaps ironic or strange considering that it's Las Vegas. But there are a lot of Christians here, a lot of churches here, but there's a strong kind of separatist vibe amongst a lot of Christians in Las Vegas. And so I grew up in that sort of, you know, a lot of the pop cultural stuff that we're talking about wasn't on my radar because it was taboo. It was bad.

John Anthony Dunne [00:13:31]:

We didn't touch it. But I was interested in the Bible and voracious. I went to a christian school, so I had Bible courses and I was really into it, but I never thought about it vocationally. Actually, what happened was I was very interested in Mormonism and Mormon theology. There's a lot of Mormons in Las Vegas. And I remember I first read Walter Martin's keenula of the cults when I was in 7th grade. And the chapter on Mormonism captivated me largely because it was like I knew Mormons, right? And so it's like I want to know what they think and what they believe. And so I just became super fascinated by Mormonism.

John Anthony Dunne [00:14:17]:

And when it came time to start thinking about college, I wasn't really interested in the idea because I was a guitar player in a metal band. And that's really all I wanted to do. I wanted to just pursue music. But when I started to think about college, okay, where should I go? I didn't know what I would study, what I would do, so all I really cared about was music. I didn't think about studying music, but I had the idea that maybe I should think about schools in California. I was really passionate about international missions as well. And I found out that Viola had the largest student London missions organization in the world. And that as part of that, they sent out teams of students to Utah regularly for interfaith dialogue with Mormon faculty and students at BYU and different institutes of religion all around Utah.

John Anthony Dunne [00:15:06]:

And I was like, I cannot believe there are other people like me at this school. I need to go to Biola. I had no idea what I wanted to study. I just knew I wanted to be a part of that ministry. And so actually it was the study of Mormon theology that made me want to become a Bible major. And it's just know nonstop ever.

Dan Hummel [00:15:27]:

Great. That's a fun story. And I actually have a sister who went to Biola just a few years.

John Anthony Dunne [00:15:33]:

Oh, right, yeah.

Dan Hummel [00:15:34]:

And graduated a few years ago. And she was in that same program that's still running now. She spent some breaks and then actually ended up spending a couple of years in Provo.

John Anthony Dunne [00:15:47]:

Wow.

Dan Hummel [00:15:48]:

Her time at Biola, that is fantastic.

John Anthony Dunne [00:15:50]:

Yeah. I spent every summer of my undergrad taking classes at BYU and working at a church out. So that's, that's a really cool.

Dan Hummel [00:16:00]:

Yeah, yeah. And then another small one is growing up, I grew up in Colorado Springs for a good amount of time, and a lot of Mormons in Colorado as well. And one of my best friends was a Mormon at the time. This was middle school, high school. And just like you, he, by far, he's very committed. And we got into these debates, theological debates or debates about history and religion. And more than almost anyone at the time, he was spurring me to want to learn more about why did I believe what I believed.

John Anthony Dunne [00:16:31]:

Right.

Dan Hummel [00:16:31]:

And was it actually something I could defend or not? So it's interesting how those interactions, anyway, interesting parts of stories that you wouldn't expect are actually contributing to what you end up wanting to make a big part of your life.

John Anthony Dunne [00:16:49]:

Right.

Dan Hummel [00:16:51]:

What drew you to the pop culture side of things? So maybe that's embedded in your story as well. But I can imagine there's obviously tons of people who want to study the Bible, and then a smaller number of people who want to get a graduate degree in that study, and then an even smaller number who want to make know their career as a professor. And most New Testament professors don't necessarily know, talk about black Mirror and Harry Potter and other things. So what makes you interested in bridging those two worlds?

John Anthony Dunne [00:17:24]:

Right? Well, it was actually Harry Potter, but the thing is that I had no interest in stories, really reading fiction because of the fundamentals, context in which I grew up. We didn't read fiction. And if we did, it was not the quote unquote classics. It was stuff that, you know, the Bob Jones curriculum and Pensacola what they drew. Like, it was like this box ticking sort of thing where it was not know, we're going to read the classics because these have been handed down to us and there's this tradition, and we want to know these cultural references and also benefit from them, right? Sort of the practicing of virtue, as Karen Twala Pryor talks about, or the empathy building, the perspective taking, the catharsis that Aristotle talks about. None of that stuff is really factored in. It's just this sort of box ticking, like, well, students in America take literature courses, so let's write literature for these kids. And it's garbage, frankly.

John Anthony Dunne [00:18:33]:

And I didn't want to read it. And oftentimes I didn't read it. I just tried to guess on the quizzes. I was an a student, but I was a bad student. You know what I mean? I didn't really care, and so I had no interest. And I have so many gaps in my education as a result. So many classic texts. Everyone's like, oh, we read those junior high, like, out of my school.

John Anthony Dunne [00:18:58]:

And what happened was I was about to propose to someone and bought a ring and everything. I didn't jump the gun. We've been planning it for months. But when it came time to basically propose, she had basically said she didn't want to get married anymore. And so that was really disruptive for me. And this was the summer of 2009. I just started my master's degree in New Testament. I started a semester early because of my BYU courses.

John Anthony Dunne [00:19:33]:

So I graduated early and got to start early on masters in the spring semester of 2009. And that summer, I was a really voracious student. By this time. By the time I was in grad school, I think I had become a good student. Finally, or at least I was aspiring to be a good student. And I really had lofty plans for all the things I wanted to research before the fall semester started so that I could have more robust research papers, et cetera. Right? I was that guy. But I got completely derailed.

John Anthony Dunne [00:20:08]:

Like, this was June of 2009. I got completely derailed, lost all focus, all interest. I mean, it was very depressing, right? And the thought of doing any kind of study and even really being prepared by the time the fall semester would start in August, it just seemed like such a distant, such a distant thought, really. And what entered my mind was that I should read a story. And I don't know where that came from, because I was not that kind of person. I didn't want to read fiction. I actively said I didn't like fiction. I didn't care for.

John Anthony Dunne [00:20:45]:

Whenever I heard a recommendation, I was like, no. But I had this overwhelming thought, really, like, I should read a story, and I don't know why, but I knew I didn't want to read a one off story. I felt like I wanted to read a series again. Where did this ambition come from? I really don't know. But I was just thinking, like, well, what series would it be? And then all of a sudden, I was just flooded with these memories of recommendations of Harry Potter. And this is 2009. This is two years after Deathly hollows. The last book of the series came out.

John Anthony Dunne [00:21:21]:

I was on BYU's campus when it came out, and I was like, why are all these Mormons so into Harry Potter? Because I didn't realize how much of a cultural thing it was for everyone. It was just like this huge, actually generational thing, right? But it just wasn't on my radar so much because of my background. But I remember how big it was. Summer of 2009, when that came out. Sorry, 2007, when that came out. But in 2009, I just all of a sudden was like, you know what? I should read Harry Potter. So I went to the store, I bought the box set, and I read all seven of them in the next three weeks, which I think is quite slow. I would say I'm a slow reader.

John Anthony Dunne [00:22:04]:

When I hear people talk about getting the books at midnight and reading them within a day, that's not me. I can't do that. So I didn't grow up with Harry Potter. But when I read these books in 2009, the thought I had initially, I think, was I needed an escape, right? I need to distract myself. I need to enter into a different world, forget about my concerns and problems. I think that was what my goal was. And I realized after spending a couple of weeks at Hogwarts that what I got was an education, right? My whole framework for storytelling for the benefit and the value of stories completely changed. And if you think about one of the story arcs in Harry Potter is a story of unrequited love, right? The story of Snape.

John Anthony Dunne [00:23:03]:

And a lot of people don't like Snape. He's my favorite character, and I think largely because of what I was experiencing at the time. And when Harry says in the epilogue, when Harry says to his son, Albus Severus, he says, you were named after the two best headmasters, Hogwarts. I didn't cry when Dobby died. Spoiler alert. That is when at the very end, in the epilogue, which a lot of people don't like, but I actually think is crucial. But I teared up, and there's such vindication and redemption there. And also, I think I just resonated so much with Snape and so ever since then, I have just become a huge fan of fiction, of storytelling, whether it's in TV shows, films, or fictional books as well.

John Anthony Dunne [00:24:12]:

It was a transformational summer in many respects.

Dan Hummel [00:24:17]:

That's great. I'm going to flip how we're going to do this a little. So I was going to try to open it up to a much broader discussion of pop culture from a christian perspective and then move into an example like Harry Potter. Let's flip that, and let's just keep on Harry Potter for a few minutes. So you said you started in this moment of personal crisis to read these books for escape or leisure, but they turned into something more. Do you think being a Christian, any part of that, was that part of what you were bringing to the text or. I don't know, how do you think about that? Is a christian reading Harry Potter doing something more? Should they be doing something more than just any other person reading the text?

John Anthony Dunne [00:25:05]:

Yeah, that's a great question. So I always tell my students or church groups when I'm talking about these sorts of things, is that we don't stop being a Christian when we pick up a book and read it or when we flip through Netflix or when we grab a pint at a pub.

Dan Hummel [00:25:21]:

Right.

John Anthony Dunne [00:25:21]:

Like all these things that you sort of think is like a separate space where we, like switching. We're code switching or something like that. No, we're still thoroughly christian. Right. While we're reading, when we're watching something, hanging out with friends. And so how to integratively and reflectively maintain that sense of being Christian. I think one of the things is not being passive when we engage pop culture, I think it's common to sort of kind of go for that escape or entertainment sort of posture towards popular culture. But really, we should be thinking about the arguments that are embedded in the stories, the perspectives of the author, avoid the kind of flat interpretations that miss what the author is doing with what the author is saying.

John Anthony Dunne [00:26:25]:

Right. So example I often bring up is hunger Games. I remember one time, my mom, she was like, Johnny, why do you like this story about kids killing kids? And I'm like, okay, that is such a flat interpretation. Right? Because. Yes, to use speech act theory, that's the locution. Right? That's what the story is about at the locutionary level. Right. But that's not what the story is about at the illocutionary level.

John Anthony Dunne [00:26:57]:

What is the author doing with this story? Right. It's a critique of the exploitation of resources, especially in the west, especially in America relative to the global field. Right. It's a dystopian story that is not trying to predict the future, but it is critiquing the present. And there are realities that we are inhabiting in America. We are the capital, right, to use the Hunger Games terminology. And so that resistance of a flat interpretation. But reflecting on what the author is doing, I think as Christians, we bring a certain story, a certain meta narrative to all these other stories that we are engaging and we should reflect on.

John Anthony Dunne [00:27:53]:

Is the author critiquing something about how we understand the world? And is that something that we need to reflect on further? Sometimes I really value a good critique from an outside voice and try to help my students see the benefit of not reacting. And, no, no, you're wrong. That's not true. But just wait. We need to hear this. Don't know. I like to do that with going back to Jesus films. I like to do that with Jesus Christ Superstar, right? Because there's so much about that where you could think, oh, this is sacrilegious.

John Anthony Dunne [00:28:32]:

It's critical of Jesus, or it's critical of Christianity, and it's like, wait, this is a 1970s story about Christianity in the 1970s. How have they put their finger on something really important about the kind of raw, raw. Go, Jesus. I think of that song with Simon the zealot. It's like, hey, Jesus, did you see? I waved? I believe in you and God. Tell me that you know, love me, kiss me, Jesus. Literally, that's part of the song. And then immediately in the response, jesus says, basically, he says, if you want to live, you have to die.

John Anthony Dunne [00:29:17]:

And there's this look on Simon's face, like, completely incredulous after singing this song of like, hey, look, I love you. There's something very critical there about 1970s Christianity and a real kind of posture of faith that is devoid of discipleship. I think. I think that's what they're critiquing. And I just think, wow. Rather than be like, no, this is sacrilegious. This is blasphemous. How much of Christianity falls into this kind of celebrity superstar sort of mindset that they're rightly critical of, that we should be critical of, too, and we should be reflective of, how are we falling into this trap? I think that's beautiful.

John Anthony Dunne [00:30:02]:

And there are other examples that I could mention as well. A quick one that comes to mind is a song by the band a perfect circle, the frontman of tool Maynard James Keaton. He has this side project called a perfect circle. And they have this song called Talk, talk. And it's all about the mantra, thoughts and prayers. Right? It's a song about gun violence. He says the line thoughts and prayers multiple times. And he says, adorable.

John Anthony Dunne [00:30:37]:

It's like cake in a crisis. And then he says, faith without works is dead. Faith without works is dead. It's amazing to me because I had written a blog post several years before the song came out, where I took James and I replaced faith with thoughts and know. Thoughts and prayers without works is know. And that was a critique that was sort of showing. This is how vacuous thoughts and prayers is. Right.

John Anthony Dunne [00:31:10]:

It's like what James is talking about when he's critiquing a certain type of faith, right. And then to see a non christian band use scripture to critique christian politicians and Christians who say thoughts and prayers in this kind of knee jerk, reactionary way that is devoid of action or whatever. Obviously, this is a political topic that is contentious, but it's the kind of thing that is this critical voice from the outside that I just think is so valuable. Like, listen to how they're using scripture. They're putting their finger on something light. And that's good for me. We can't stop being a Christian. When we engage pop culture, when we listen to music, we're always a Christian.

John Anthony Dunne [00:31:59]:

And that doesn't mean, oh, I need to critique everything that I hear. That's not what I mean by we never stop being Christian. What I mean is we are holistic people. We are people who should be thinking integratively about our faith with our likes and our interests and our hobbies and whatever, rather than compartmentalize these things. I just think, yeah, moving away from a passivity is an important part of that.

Dan Hummel [00:32:38]:

And I think just such a crucial question for Christians, particularly, maybe not particularly in this age, but we're in a very pluralistic society. So it's a pressing question is, how do you interact with critical voices coming from culture or politics or whatever? And I think so much of it is rooted in what you just said, but also an understanding of the meta narrative that Christians have. Right. There's a way where you can critique music or film on pretty direct, moralistic grounds. Does this comport to christian morality or something like that? But that doesn't get at maybe that deeper level question of what is the story, this person, this text, this movie is trying to tell? And how does that story line up with the story that as Christians, we inhabit as Christians? And my worry is that many Christians, and I would count myself, I grew up in a similar setting as you, though I don't think as fundamentalistic, maybe a little more on the mainstream evangelical side. But I didn't have the tools to really think of my faith as think of inhabiting a story as part of my faith. I knew a lot of Bible verses. I was a faithful awanas kid.

Dan Hummel [00:33:58]:

I had many, many Bible verses memorized. They were the foundation of my life in a lot of ways. Certainly my sense of right and wrong, my sense of obligation to my family, my community, all come out of that. But if you would have asked me at age 20, even when I was in college, what is the meta narrative? I wouldn't even know probably what that word meant at the time. But what is the story that the Christians tell about the world? I think I would have been able to piece something together, but it wouldn't have been really that robust, and then it wouldn't have been something that I could use to critique or critique in the bigger way, not just criticize, but to critique or engage with other stories out there. And so I would fall often into an evaluation of, well, is this piece of culture something that seems, on the surface, to support christian values or not? And that will be the judge of if I engage in this piece of culture or not. But as I've grown in my faith and learned to understand, oh, there's a really distinctive story that Christians tell about where the world comes from, what the world's all about, why people are valuable, why God is who he is, and why he became a human in the form of Jesus, and what all that was about. That allows you to then engage other stories that sometimes overlap, often contrast, but provide sort of the necessary fuel and friction for a good analysis opposed to what you were saying.

Dan Hummel [00:35:23]:

Sort of a simplistic engagement with it.

John Anthony Dunne [00:35:26]:

Totally. Yeah. Another example that I would share is oftentimes what we'll want is explicitly christian films or explicitly christian music or something like that, or if it's not explicitly Christian, as you were kind of saying, does it align with christian values? So, like, maybe we really like know because there's some beautiful imagery of redemption and that aligns with christian values. That's a great musical, right? But a musical that I have a much more robust spiritual response to is Sweeney Todd. And you think about a musical like that and you're like, what? It's so violent and it's gross. It's about cannibalism on the kind of locutionary level. It's about cannibalism, and this is so disgusting. And because I didn't grow up in the kind of cultured background that I would have liked in terms of watching a musical like this properly.

John Anthony Dunne [00:36:27]:

I first was exposed to the story through Tim Burton's film, right, with Johnny Depp and Heletta Bonham Carter. And when I first watched that film, I was just so overwhelmed. I was like, I want to preach a sermon about know. It's not just does the story cohere with christian values. There's also an antithetical aspect to storytelling that can be just as valuable. So Sweeney Tod shows us the twisting, distorting nature of revenge, right? That is a beautiful christian message, and yet it is not made by Christians. It doesn't quote unquote, cohere with christian values on a locutionary level. But the story, fundamentally that it's telling is so charged with anthropological claims, and an antithetical message of it shows us the opposite of the christian value.

John Anthony Dunne [00:37:46]:

And that is the point, right? Like, yes, this is awful. We don't want to be like Sweeney, right? Look at the road that this will take you down. Don't be like Sweeney Tom. So there's this kind of precautionary value. It's not about, does it just strictly cohere. Another thing I think about is, like, you think about antiheroes, right? They're really big in stories nowadays, right? And some people are, you know, we're calling white black and black white, and we're not calling a spade a spade. And we're going to get our morals mixed up because we're rooting for these bad guys or whatever. Look at Breaking Bad.

John Anthony Dunne [00:38:27]:

We're not rooting for Walter White. Right. We are seeing how pride comes before a fall, right? This is an extended story about greed and pride. Don't need to get into all the details about breaking Bad. But that's an example of how, yes, he's the protagonist in the sense that we are following his story, but it's a spiral. It's a spiral downward. It's a downfall, right? It's a tragic story, right? And it's not just antiheroes. We also have stories nowadays that are making villains very sympathetic.

John Anthony Dunne [00:39:06]:

And you could similarly be like, whoa, we're sympathizing with bad guys. This is a serious problem. Our morals are getting all mixed up. That's not the way I think we should look at it. So an example that comes to mind is Daredevil, the Netflix TV show Daredevil. The way they represent kingpin is so amazing. I've never been more sympathetic to a villain. I just think that they developed his character so well.

John Anthony Dunne [00:39:34]:

And the issue for me is not that, oh, my morals are going to get mixed up now and I'm going to sympathize with bad guys. No, if I can sympathize with a villain in a TV show, how might that help me sympathize with people I find annoying in my daily life? Right. So if I can be sympathetic towards kingpin, surely I can be sympathetic towards. Right. Like, that's. I think the value this kind know perspective taking and empathy is not that I'm going to get my morals mixed up, but I can have a little bit more grace for the people I find annoying in my life.

Dan Hummel [00:40:17]:

I think this might be one other way Christians should come to these types of cultural productions a little differently than maybe some non Christians, which is to not fall into. Because to not fall into fandom is what I was going to say. To not fall into a way of celebrating sort of outside the context of even the stories within which these characters appear, just the fact of their existing. And maybe that's too hard. I don't want to say no one. Christians can't be fans of things, but I think there's a way where the repulsiveness of Sweeney Tod's story dulled. If you go to the convention where Sweeney Tod is, one of the many intellectual properties there were dressed up as him and are just sort of reenacting parts of the story and stuff that's not doing the same thing. And in fact, that sort of could be interpreted as sort of reveling in the very narrative that's supposed to be.

Dan Hummel [00:41:18]:

And I think maybe that might be the same thing with some of these anti heroes as well, is no, narratively, we're not supposed to be rooting for Walter White or Tony Soprano.

John Anthony Dunne [00:41:28]:

Yeah.

Dan Hummel [00:41:28]:

But functionally, in the culture that is built up around that show, we functionally are rooting for them or we're even cheering when they get their way in the story as opposed to the way that narratively they shouldn't. That's actually a tragedy that they're enacting their will. And I think as Christians, you could come a little more, you could have this different set of lenses where you're still able to enjoy the story and even understand why there's fandom around these things, but also to not get caught up in that, in a way that that becomes the totalizing way you engage with this piece of culture.

John Anthony Dunne [00:42:03]:

Totally. Yeah. Discernment is needed. The kind of discernment, though, that I want to resist is the kind of discernment that I was sort of raised in, which is the kind of plugged in model. Do you know plugged in that, Matt? I know, Christian. Okay. Yes.

Dan Hummel [00:42:23]:

For the audience, it's a website that would document sort of blow by blow, every cuss word, every moment of any potential immorality in a movie. And then you go and read it. I would often have to sort of read it out loud to my parents and try to convince them. And then your gaze just lowers and lowers as you read every instance of whatever cuss word is in this movie or act violence. Anyway, that's what it is. It's a website. I don't even know if it's around anymore. But it was very popular in the 90s.

John Anthony Dunne [00:42:59]:

Yeah. For my engagement with it. It was a friend's mom who subscribed to the magazine. And so whenever we wanted to go see a movie, she would always grab the magazine, and she was like, no, there is a decapitation, three f words, and partial male nudity. You can't see it, right. And it's like, what? Again, going back to the flat interpretations, right. It's just not thinking at all artistically about filmmaking, right. And so, for example, if you're going to tell a story about war, and let's use an artistic metaphor, let's say violence is the color red, right? That's the paint that the artist is using to tell this story.

John Anthony Dunne [00:43:52]:

And what do you expect from a war story, right? I like to think of the war film. Was it last year's Oscar season? Was it all quiet on the western front? It was nominated for best picture, fantastic war film. And I think what's so fantastic about it is I don't really love war films, to be clear. But what was so great about it is you just feel how gross and disgusting war is. There's no top gun like Ra. Let's go get them kind of vibe after you watch this film, right? It's about World War I and about really kind of like the lack of ground that was sort of accrued during that battle, right. Just like, basically nobody really made progress. And the brutality, et cetera, that the filmmakers, as they use the paint to paint this picture and they're telling of the story, you feel something in particular when you watch a film like that.

John Anthony Dunne [00:45:00]:

And for me, that's one of my barometers, is, do I come away feeling something that the film wants to make me feel? And if so, then that means it's good in the sense that it's accomplishing something I don't like. When people say, oh, it's a sad movie. It's terrible. It's like, no, they want you to feel these feelings. That means it's accomplishing its goal. Right. I don't know. To me, it's kind of how I approach it in terms of what is the artist trying to do? How are they using their paint, so to speak, if they're using too much red.

John Anthony Dunne [00:45:41]:

Right. That can be a problem. To use this metaphor still, right. They're using too much red. That can be a problem. Right. Whether that paint analogy applies to the violence or the sexuality or the language or whatever, how are they deploying it? Right. It wouldn't be believable if our villains never did anything bad and didn't talk a certain way.

John Anthony Dunne [00:46:05]:

There is, I think, an important aspect of being authentic with your story that depending on the genre and depending on the level that you're aiming for, right. Who your audience is, those are important things that the artist, I think, should have the freedom to do. Now, I think as Christians, there is a kind of Romans 14 thing here, right. There's a kind of weaker brother, stronger brother, so to speak, where mileage will vary with each of us, right. Based upon our age, based upon our experiences. And I always tell people, like, this might not be for you, and don't try to make it for you. So going back to the black mirror courses that I taught, when we would have these conversations about technology, I would have what I would call the black mirror track and the non black mirror track. So instead of watching a Black Mirror episode for X topic, you can watch Wally or you can watch you name it.

John Anthony Dunne [00:47:09]:

I'd have different opportunities, different things that students could draw upon so that I wasn't forcing them to watch something that's kind of dark and intense, especially if they can't handle or don't want to engage that sort of stuff. And so, yeah, mileage will vary. We can't assume that these things are for everyone, and Christians should just be on board with it for themselves. I definitely don't think that. I do think that we need to have discernment, and that includes, will this be good for me? And that includes the reflective posture of how is this affecting my thoughts, my actions, and my sensitivities. Right. And importantly, how is this helping me love God and love others better? That point about loving others, I want to say a little bit about that because this really is kind of the crux of it for me. Why pop culture? I really love what Cutter Calloway at Fuller seminary says, he says film, and I would want to broaden this to pop culture more broadly, but he says that film is the lingua franca of the people.

John Anthony Dunne [00:48:20]:

And I just think that's so true. And to think about this linguistically, right? It's like, well, if that's the case, if this is like the language that we speak, then we got to learn the language. If we want to speak to the culture, we got to know the language that they're speaking, right? And so for me, that's how I approach pop culture. And so that idea of how is this helping you love God and love others better? What's the pop culture that my family is engaging? I should maybe want to engage that. What's the pop culture that my community, the people amongst or the people that I'm serving? What are they engaging or being engaged by? I should be interested in that. To tell a quick story, one time when I was doing my doctorate in St. Andrews, after seminar, we would all go to a know and N. T.

John Anthony Dunne [00:49:12]:

Wright was my Dr. Foster, and he was there, and a handful of other professors from St. Andrews were there. And we were all sitting know, having a pint and a chat. And at one point we started talking about pastoral ministry, and people were talking about kind of qualifications and preparation, and that was just kind of the nature of the kind of collective conversation that we were having. And somehow being a youth pastor kind of came up and people were talking about their thoughts about how you should prepare to be a youth pastor. And I said, if I was a pastor, now, this is a dated example, but sort of, this can be upgraded. But I said, if I was a pastor and somebody was applying to be a youth pastor, the first question I would ask is, have you read Twilight? And everyone just started laughing because they thought I was joking.

John Anthony Dunne [00:50:08]:

Even nt. Wright, right. He just started laughing. I was like, no, I am serious. If you want to be a youth pastor, again, this is a dated example. Upgrade accordingly. If you want to be a youth pastor and you have not read twilight, or I should say, if you're applying to be a youth pastor and you've not read Twilight, I don't think you're cut out for this job. That's how important I view pop cultural engagement.

John Anthony Dunne [00:50:34]:

We're so interested in the context of the Bible. I'm a New Testament professor, very interested in this, right. This is what I think about every day, right. Is the history and culture and linguistics, politics of the Bible, and it's variegated representation of those things across multiple centuries. Right. But we need to think just as critically about the context of the people who read the Bible, of the context of the people who are engaging the Bible, and they are in a context swimming with these pop cultural things all around them. And so for me, it's both. You got to know the context of scripture and the context of your congregation, the context of your students, the context of your coworkers, et cetera.

John Anthony Dunne [00:51:20]:

Right. And so that lingua Franca thing is so important. That's why I think about how is this helping me love God and love others as a barometer for pop cultural engagement?

Dan Hummel [00:51:32]:

You think about any other field, certainly an academic field. Maybe this stretches the youth pastor example a bit. But there's, of course, key things in any field you go into. Many of them are written. Others of them are maybe film or something else. But it would sort of be malpractice not to be familiar with those. If you were my subfield of american religious history, if you were going into that and you didn't know the top five names in the field, and you say, I've never heard of those people, people would start wondering, are you really into know, are you really cut out for this type of job? So that's interesting. I have a very young kid, so I'm not clued in on what the twilight equivalent in 23 is, but I'm sure there is one.

Dan Hummel [00:52:17]:

Okay, one more question, and then we'll get to just our final round of shorter questions.

John Anthony Dunne [00:52:21]:

Yeah.

Dan Hummel [00:52:23]:

But one other way that Christians might think about engaging with culture. I think here, as you've talked, John, there's been a lot of good insight in trying to get into the mind of the artist, trying to get into the mind of the filmmaker and what they were doing. I can't help think that there's a good chunk of pop culture today where that's always going to be there, because at least right now, people are creating all this stuff I don't even want to go into once AI is doing it. But there's a lot of pop culture that I guess you could try that analysis, but really it's there to produce commerce. It's there to. For the franchise. Totally. You almost feel like, are we putting too much weight or analysis into this next iteration of the superhero franchise or whatever? And I wonder what you think about that.

Dan Hummel [00:53:25]:

Is there a way to still engage that stuff fruitfully? Is it this lingua franca question? Is it just saying, well, this is what people are watching, so we need to be aware of it? Or is there something else you can glean from that type of pop culture that seems a little more crass and not having the depth that certainly other things do.

John Anthony Dunne [00:53:41]:

Totally, yeah. So I have probably two things that I would want to say about that. The first thing is that let me take a genre like horror for a second. So when I was in high school, all me and my friends would do is we'd go see the newest horror film, right? I was very indiscriminate. It's like, oh, this is fun. It's kind of like riding a roller coaster. And I got to a point where I started to realize how formulaic the genre is and how full of tropes and recycled sort of things. And then there's a handful of horror films that I sort of dubbed the boobs and blood subgenre.

John Anthony Dunne [00:54:21]:

Right. Where they're not really trying to do anything significant. Right. And I have no interest in those. And I started to realize, okay, if these horror films are just trying to scare me or just trying to gross me out and they're not trying to do anything interesting and they're not trying to get me to think, then I have no time or interest in them. And so that's one thing that I would say is, for me, another one of my barometers is like, is this interesting? Is this actually interesting? Do I want to talk about this? Will I talk about this with friends and family? That's an important barometer for me. Is this interesting? Does this promote conversation, promote dialogue at all? That's an important thing. But the other thing that I would want to say, and this does go back to the lingua franca thing, but it develops it just a little bit more.

John Anthony Dunne [00:55:19]:

Oftentimes there is a kind of quasi religious role that these types of mega stories play for people. And you think, whoa, what do you mean? Here's just one example, and it's going back to Harry Potter. So there's this podcast called Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, and it's wonderful. And it's produced by, well, now there is a theologian on the podcast, but it used to just be two students of Harvard divinity School, or graduates, I should say, who are humanists and non religious. Maybe a bit post religious for one of the hosts, but the idea is that they want to have a sacred text in their life. They just don't because they're not religious. And so they started to think, wait, we actually kind of do have a text that fills that role for us, and it happens to be Harry Potter. I think their initial episode, they actually reflect on how it's not actually a terribly weird thing to consider when you kind of triangulate a couple thoughts.

John Anthony Dunne [00:56:32]:

One of the things that they point out is that at Guantanamo Bay, the three most requested books in order were the Bible, the Quran, and Harry Potter. And then when you take a step back and you think about how this is the best selling book series of all time, right? Over 600 million copies worldwide. When you factor in family copies, library copies, audiobooks, et cetera, we're talking about potentially a billion people read this series. That's wild. That's religious text level importance, right? Like, globally, culturally. And so one of the things that I tell people is it doesn't matter if you think Harry Potter is dumb or uninteresting, right. Like, it's worth engaging because of its global influence. Right.

John Anthony Dunne [00:57:33]:

I feel compelled to be interested in Harry Potter largely for that alone, putting aside the fact that I actually do love it, but because of its influence. And that's just one example. But I think we could talk about the Marvel influence ad nauseam. And I think thinking of being nauseous, I think there is a bit of a Marvel fatigue, a superhero fatigue that we're experiencing. Kind of like we experienced the zombie fatigue with all of the zombie media post walking dead and all the spinoffs. Well, yes, the spinoffs within Walking Dead, but also all of the zombie stories that just started emerging all over on every network. So, yeah, I think we're kind of experiencing a Marvel fatigue. But there is something about how, phenomenologically, the way we experience these franchises and stories that is kind of akin to how people engage religious texts or religious stuff.

John Anthony Dunne [00:58:37]:

And I think that there's something for us as Christians to step into and probe, and not just to resist, but because of its influence. I think it's important for us to engage. Now, I dislike the crass, capitalistic stuff that you were pointing your finger at. Just this kind of churning out, sort of unartistic, lacking creativity. Sort of. All we're doing is making sequels and recreating old films. I do gravitate towards certain filmmakers who are off tours for this reason. I'll watch some of the silly stuff because I feel like it's, again, this kind of missional sort of impulse that within me that it matters because it matters to people, and people matter to me, right? So it's the same way I think about sports, right? Why do I care if a millionaire caught that ball? Well, I care because the city cares.

John Anthony Dunne [00:59:43]:

You know what I mean? So it's about the people. That's, for me, what it all boils down to, but I do lament the sort of crass, capitalistic sort of machine of Hollywood, and I personally gravitate towards certain filmmakers because they're doing something unique and creative. And that ultimately is what I drive the most enjoyment and find most telling and interesting. It's the stuff I want to talk about. But, yeah, that makes sense.

Dan Hummel [01:00:21]:

Just two things in response to that. One is, I think, of a book recently by the journalist Tara Isabel Burton called Sacred Rights, and she points a term in there called remixed religions. Her identification of millennial and Gen Z's approach to all types of religious and spiritual matters is that there's a lot of mixing going on. There's a lot of pulling a little from here and pulling a little from there. And she actually has a whole chapter on Harry Potter as one of the hecks that a lot of. I mean, there's the sort of extreme examples of people who actually become witches because they want to inject the world of Harry Potter, but in a much lesser way. Tons of people are deriving their moral compasses, their moral models from the different characters in the Harry Potter world and actually seeing them as paragons of good or bad and other things. So that's one thing.

Dan Hummel [01:01:18]:

And then the other is, I'm pretty sure Cs Lewis said this, that science fiction is the mythology for the 20th century. And there's something, you were saying something similar, which is in an era that is in some ways secularized, at least we don't invoke the christian religion in the same way that previous centuries did, as sort of the reality. And nor are we pagan, and we don't pray to the pantheon of gods. What fills that vacuum and what fills that vacuum in the 20th century often is science fiction. It's this utopian technology often works like magic would in fantasy. It just does whatever we need it to do. So totally, I think of that, too, and I think many people, I don't know if they think of that in an explicit way, that I am partaking in science fiction to fill the vacuum of lack of mythology in my life. I don't know if people are doing that, but certainly it's filling a need that used to be filled for many people by a religious mythology that is no longer.

John Anthony Dunne [01:02:22]:

Right, right. I've read a lot of sort of interpretations of Harry Potter and its sort of popularity. Right. Because there's a huge question of, like, why is this stuff so popular globally? And one take is a kind of reenchantment, the kind of post secular reenchantment of the world. Right. Just to agree with what you're saying, that there is that kind of sort of longing, it seems in culture for these types of stories.

Dan Hummel [01:02:54]:

Right. Okay, we'll end on two questions. They're sort of just your favorite blank questions. But the first is, do you have any christian movies or films that you like or that you would recommend to people? And by that I mean the ones that are explicitly coming from a christian perspective and are maybe even geared toward a christian eyes. This is often a genre that is derided by those that aren't already sort of bought into it, much like a hallmark movie or like genre or something like that. It's like the christian movie or christian TV show genre.

John Anthony Dunne [01:03:30]:

Oh, wow. Yeah. What a question. I don't know if I have a quick answer to that. I would probably need to be reminded of some christian films. I tend to dislike them. I mean, God's not dead and these sorts of films I am not a fan of. So I'm just trying to think, okay, is there a christian film that I appreciate? Wow.

John Anthony Dunne [01:03:59]:

They tend to be cheesy, right? They tend to lack artistic vision. And so when I think explicitly christian perspective, to be honest, I kind of want to say, well, let's talk about Terrence Malik films, which probably aren't what people are thinking of when they think of like, quote unquote, a christian film. Although, my goodness. Have you seen a secret life? Sorry, a hidden life or tree of life? My goodness. And he's working on a Jesus film at the mullet. Yeah. I am afraid I don't have a quick answer. Maybe I'll punt and say it's got to be a Jesus film.

Dan Hummel [01:04:40]:

Recommend to us. The best Jesus film. Do you have a top Jesus film?

John Anthony Dunne [01:04:44]:

Well, my favorite Jesus film, and this in order to explain why it would take a while. But my favorite Jesus film is the film, I think, from 2018, Mary Magdalene with Ronnie Mara, Joaquin Phoenix. It is quite good. And I would have to get into my whole philosophy of Jesus films and why I think it's good. I think if you're familiar with the film, you might think to yourself, that's a really boring film, or, oh, walking Phoenix is a weird Jesus. I wasn't into that or some of these other things, but that film makes me ask questions that I didn't think to ask. And then it brings me back to the text with fresh thoughts. That's fundamentally why I appreciate that film.

John Anthony Dunne [01:05:37]:

It's imaginative. It's speculative. All Jesus films are. All films are interpretative. Even the ones that claim to not be like the quote unquote Jesus film from 1979 by Christian Sykes. That's the one that's been globally distributed and translated the most. It's one of my least favorite Jesus films. Could also get into why.

John Anthony Dunne [01:06:04]:

Largely because of this lack of awareness of what it's doing and claiming that it's not really doing anything but giving you the text of Luke. Oftentimes when we approach Jesus films, there's this idea of like, well, I want a faithful Jesus film. And I just think if you want faithful, read your bible. Right. I just think that every film is interpretative, so there's the ones that are more overt about it, and then they're not trying to hide it. And then there's the ones that don't realize that they are hiding the ways that they are being interpretive. Like the Jesus film from 1979.

Dan Hummel [01:06:44]:

Yeah, that's interesting. All right, so I asked you for a recommendation. We ended on an avoiding, but. I know. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. I'll say, for me, I don't know if this is widening the christian genre too much, but I think there's actually a good amount of children's stuff that is pretty fucking, whether it's veggie tales or one that I really enjoyed, which I haven't gone back to. So I only have very rose colored glasses to.

Dan Hummel [01:07:12]:

It is a television show called Superbook where there was like a little group of kids that would get transported back in time to a biblical story and see it from a different perspective. Anyway, I think there's some good stuff in there that I would be totally fine recommend, people. I don't actually consume christian film myself. Like, I don't go out and try to find the. I know there's God's not dead too. I don't plan that type of stuff anyway. Okay, there we go. Last question.

Dan Hummel [01:07:43]:

Is there something that you'd recommend from the last year maybe for Christians to watch that? They wouldn't, but it could be for anyone. It doesn't need to be christian specific, but just something that's been sort of something that you've been ruminating on over.

John Anthony Dunne [01:07:57]:

This last year, 2023, obviously. We had the Farbian Oppenheimer summer, which was amazing. I do love Black Mirror so much. And there was a new season of Black Mirror that came out in June, and I find it quite good. It's very different if you've never watched Black Mirror, it'd be okay to start with it, but because it's an anthology series, it's not a series that you need to start from the beginning. In fact, I would actually say, don't watch the first episode first, you know what I mean when you see it. But this new season, it does some new and interesting things to what is sort of possible within this sort of black mirror universe or multiverse or whatever it is. And it kind of breaks its own rules in some interesting ways.

John Anthony Dunne [01:08:58]:

And I'm so spoiler adverse that I'm not going to say what that means, but I'll say this going back to the point about reenchantment, there's a role that technology plays in our lives that is so akin to the supernatural. Like you were talking about the magic technology comparison, there's that famous quote by Boltman where he says, how can we believe in the spirits of the New Testament in an age where we have electricity? Whatever that quote is. Right. But there's something about the supplanting of the supernatural with technology that I think is really interesting to reflect on from a, the maker, the the main showrunner and writer of Black Mirror. He's not a Christian, and he says that what Black Mirror is, is it's twilight zone, but take out the supernatural and replace it with technology. And even making a claim like that is so fascinating to think about the role of technology in our lives and how it fills the gaps of the supernatural for a lot of people. And there's a lot there that what this season does that is uncharacteristic of the show. But I think when you reflect on it and what it could be saying about technology, I think it's actually quite fascinating.

John Anthony Dunne [01:10:30]:

That's a big answer. I'm sorry I'm so spoiler adverse.

Dan Hummel [01:10:34]:

I'm sure people appreciate that you didn't get into the. Because there's a lot know, twists or surprise endings on. That's true. Go in without the spoilers spoiled. John, thank you for your time. Thanks for the conversation. It was really fun to travel through a lot of different texts and properties with you. Any way people can keep in touch with you or follow your musings on these things or other things?

John Anthony Dunne [01:11:04]:

Yeah, well, I'm on social media, but I think primarily, I do have a podcast called the Two Cities, and it's a podcast about theology, culture, and discipleship, as we say. And we talk about cultural issues, political issues, theological issues, biblical studies stuff. But we also, time and time again, will incorporate pop culture. We'll have whole episodes on different pop cultural musings. So whether it's the new season of Black Mirror or the know Barbie plus Oppenheimer extravaganza or, like squid game from cup of summers. Go. And, yeah. Just reflect the kind of engagement that we've been talking about today, sort of just doing it for the benefit of our audience.

John Anthony Dunne [01:11:53]:

It's the kind of stuff that I like to write about in my own scholarship, whether it's Harry Potter, like we talked about, black Mirror, but even I have a couple of pieces coming out on stranger things and on Dune as well. So podcasts is a way that I get to do that with my friends. And it's a lovely time.

Dan Hummel [01:12:19]:

Awesome. All right, we'll put a link in the show notes for the two cities. Don, thanks again for your time.

John Anthony Dunne [01:12:26]:

Yeah. Thank you for having me.