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Eyes Wide Open: Looking for God in Popular Culture [Paperback]

By William D. Romanowski (Author)
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Item description for Eyes Wide Open: Looking for God in Popular Culture by William D. Romanowski...

Grounded in Christian principles, this accessible and engaging book offers an informed, fascinating approach to popular culture. Romanowski provides affectionate yet astute analyses of familiar, well-loved movies, television characters, musicians, and actors and actresses. Practical, analytical approaches to content, meaning, and artistic style offer the tools to participate responsibly and imaginatively in pop cultural activities.

Publishers Description
Grounded in Christian principles, this accessible and engaging book offers an informed and fascinating approach to popular culture. William D. Romanowski provides affectionate yet astute analysis of familiar, well-loved movies and television characters from Indiana Jones to Homer Simpson, and he speaks with historical depth and expertise on films from "Casablanca" to "Crash" and music from Bruce Springsteen to U2.
Romanowski's confessional approach affirms a role for popular culture in faithful living. Practical, analytical approaches to content, meaning, and artistic style offer the tools to participate responsibly and imaginatively in popular cultural activities. An engaging read, this new edition introduces students and thoughtful readers to popular culture--one of the most influential forces in contemporary society.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Brazos Press
Pages   269
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.9" Width: 5.9" Height: 0.7"
Weight:   1.05 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Feb 1, 2007
Publisher   Baker Publishing Group
Edition  Reprinted  
ISBN  1587432013  
ISBN13  9781587432019  

Availability  2 units.
Availability accurate as of Sep 19, 2017 01:18.
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More About William D. Romanowski

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William Romanowski is Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences at Calvin College. His books include Eyes Wide Open: Looking for God in Popular Culture (a 2002 ECPA Gold Medallion Award Winner) and Pop Culture Wars: Religion and the Role of Entertainment in America Life.

William D. Romanowski has an academic affiliation as follows - Calvin College.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Popular Culture
2Books > Subjects > Reference > Words & Language > Communication
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living > General
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > General
7Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Spirituality > General

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Reviews - What do customers think about Eyes Wide Open: Looking for God in Popular Culture?

Interpreting popular culture as a Christian  Aug 24, 2008
Romanowski does an excellent job of analyzing different facets of popular culture (movies, television, and art) through the eyes of a Christian. He shows how careful Christians should be in determining what to watch or listen to, straddling the fence between acquiescence and blanket condemnation.

I'm currently reading a book about Christian living that contains a chapter entitled "How to Choose Wholesome Entertainment" and included this analogy: imagine that you are about to eat a tasty piece of fruit but then you notice that part of it is rotten. What do you do? You could throw away the entire fruit (similar to the blanket condemnation of popular culture by some fundamentalists); you could eat the entire fruit, including the rotten part (similar to the acquiescence of popular culture), or you could cut the rotten part of the fruit away and eat the good part. The question then becomes, how close to the rotten part do you cut?

Eyes Wide Open  Mar 6, 2008
"Eyes Wide Open" is, in my opinion, one of the most important contemporary works on engaging culture available. Romanowski traverses the often complicated landscape of contemporary culture, challenging his reader as he goes to use discernment when approaching the visual arts, film and music. Both accessible and intellectually stimulating, Romanowski's book is a "must read" for any aspiring apologist.
Good Read on God and Pop Culture  Dec 21, 2007
William Romanowski is Professor of Communication Arts & Sciences at Calvin College. He teaches courses on film, communication and cultural studies, and is a well respected authority on the interaction of Christianity and popular culture. He has written numerous articles and a handful of books on popular culture, with an emphasis on film. The thesis of Eyes Wide Open is that "Christians should help preserve the best features, improve the weakest parts, and eliminate the worst traits of popular art" (21).

Romanowski goes about defending his claim in a very engaging way. He speaks of modern day Christians who propose to shun all `evil' things such as movies, rock music and dancing, yet they are just as immersed in popular culture as the next person, only in the form of a ghettoized Christian subculture. The reality is that very few truly avoid popular culture, only prefer those elements of it which are, or appear to be sterile and safe. It is within this context that Romanowski argues for discernment. He believes strongly that this oversimplification has created Christians who have no idea how to discern good from bad, truth from error. The easiest way for evangelicals to make judgments is to simply count swear words, violent acts and sexual innuendos. Romanowski notes the Biblical mandate to cultivate: to create and tend to culture. Cultural forms, like anything else in creation, are corrupted by sin and in need of transformation, and we do a disservice to everyone when we make rigid divisions between sacred and secular. It is a sign of secularization that we would even think to label activities in God's world as secular.

The popular arts aid us in cultural communication (reflecting cultural ideals), social criticism (challenging or dealing with culturally contentious issues), social unity (when we've all seen the same movie) and collective memory (the way we view history is shaped by pop culture). This is what pop culture should be doing, but Romanowski notes that the primary venue for popular film in western culture is the melodrama, a dramatic genre with oversimplified depictions of good and evil, with prepackaged endings that end in "domestic bliss or harmonious community" (111). These melodramatic categories absolutely dominate the "Christian, family-friendly" genre and Romanowski wants to challenge this. The Biblical narrative conveys no such clear cut pattern, and he argues that this emphasis on sentimentalism indicates assimilation to, rather than a break from mainstream popular culture.

Christians who want to engage popular culture need to keep these things in mind. We are called to discern beyond whether something is "family-friendly" or not. The presence of violence and swearing and even sex is not always anti-Christian, but can very well be a catalyst for a story of redemption. And what we see as a story of redemption is often brazen individualism where someone pulls themselves up by the bootstraps and defeats the odds. This tells more about the autonomous human than redemption that can only come from God.

So beyond a "Jesus' per minute" scale and an "f-bomb count," Christians are called and even mandated to discern truth from error in popular culture. We are not to become mere consumers, but people who take seriously the message presented in a piece of popular art. He offers a helpful "matrix" for analyzing popular culture which lists questions to ask, but I feel that so many Christians are so far out of this discussion that more direction is needed. Romanowski presents a full analysis of Titanic through this matrix, also helpful, but I wish he gave further direction on how we can practice this act of discernment as Christians. We are conditioned to think that the acceptable Christian films are G, PG, and occasionally PG-13 (The Passion of the Christ excluded, of course), and we need time to learn to see God's beauty in culture again. In light of these facts, I would recommend this book to individuals and even church small groups. I hope it will help us all keep our eyes open a little wider.
Learning to Live in the World.  Sep 10, 2006
The basic premise of EYES WIDE OPEN is that in the realm of culture, Christians have been too complacent for far too long. Romanowski begins the book with an introduction illustrating why Christians should become involved in culture, specifically pop culture. In the following chapters the author gives a detailed description of what culture is, the "difference" between high culture and low culture (as well as an explanation of why there really isn't a difference), what often is associated with being "faith" friendly in popular art nowadays, what makes up a Christian worldview, the typical Hollywood cultural landscape, the importance of Christian criticism, etc. Towards the end of the book the author makes some very general suggestions about how Christians can become involved in pop culture and the last section of the book (appendix two) is a review of the movie TITANIC from a Christian perspective.

The book raises many salient points that Christians should be aware off. Culture is a part of our lives and as believers in Christ, we are called to be involved in the world. For someone who has never seriously considered these issues, EYES WIDE OPEN might serve as a wake-up call. Also, even though the book is directed towards the lay person, the book is written in such a way it could confuse someone who has never had a beyond-high-school-education. I was able to follow the book's over-arching structure and pattern but there were several times I found myself thinking, "If I hadn't heard any of this before, this would be really confusing." The other criticism I have of the book is that the book is marketed as an "easy-to-read guide for interpreting and evaluating popular culture as a Christian." The author appears to be at least an amateur critic of film and movies. In fact, the book was filled with references to films. However, there is a lack of references to television, music, the Internet, mainstream novels, etc: there is a section where the author talks about Bruce Springsteen and another section where he discusses the television show E.R. However, that's about it. It would have been nice to have another few appendixes at the end of the book where the author reviews a television show, an album, and perhaps a popular website or work of fiction. Also, since the author chose to review TITANIC instead of a more worthwhile film (just because it's the #1 grossing movie of all time is besides the point--just about every movie from 1933-1959 had a higher attendance than any film released since then) or instead of reviewing another movie, too, it dropped a notch in my estimation.

Overall, this is a decent book for a Christian lay person who is interested in becoming engaged in popular culture but has no idea how to go about that. It should provide a good foundation. For a more indepth approach check out ROARING LAMBS by Bob Briner or ADDICTED TO MEDIOCRITY by Franky Schaeffer.
Eyes Wide Open  Jan 29, 2002
Romanowski is skillful at paring down his previous work, Pop Culture Wars, and enhancing the practical aspects of interacting with Popular Culture as an evangelical Christian. He Gives the necessary background and history to contextualize his position, while providing the reader with good tools for thinking critically about popular art.

One note of critique would be that, though it is obvious that he has a commanding knowledge of film, it would be beneficial to explore other popular artforms and give current expamples. Along the same lines, the examples that he used to prove some critical comments directed to the evangelical Christian popular art (particularly the Christian Contemporary Music) community were a bit dated.

But overall, this is a book that I have and will continue to use in a classroom and small group setting because it packs a punch in a small space.


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