Tonight’s episode of Artscape is worth a look with a John Safran hosted special “Jedis and Juggalos: Your Census Guide”. The special examines people who incorporate pop culture into their religious doctrine.

While the obvious targets like Star Wars and Harry Potter are referenced, there are also some unique pop cultural influences cited, such as the religion based on the teachings of the Insane Clown Posse. The special uses the upcoming Census as a framing device. In recent years there has been significant discussion about people writing faux-religious beliefs like ‘Jedi’ on their census form. While many of these people are citing this pop cultural concept as their religion in a state of anarchic post-ironic rebellion, is it really any less valid than non-practicing, non-believing Catholics claiming that they’re Catholic?

It’s a shame that only half a hour is devoted to the subject as there is actually quite a bit to explore with the subject matter. For example, while it was fascinating to see an Italian religion had been established that was based on the teachings of the Matrix movies, it would have been interesting to have seen the religious iconography and themes that exist within those films and see how they factor into the Matrix religion. Similarly, a Muslim man who had embraced the teachings of the Star Wars films seemed like such a charismatic speaker that it would have been great to spend more time with him. Even if a lot of what he had to say came across as nonsense, it was entertaining and irony-free nonsense.

Using the Australian Census as a framing device hinders this documentary somewhat as it spends next to no time discussing Australians who have embarked upon pop-culture infused religion. Instead, all of the subjects are from overseas, with a significant focus on the US. While the Census is an ill-fit, it is an appropriate gateway to the subject matter.

“Jedis and Juggalos: Your Census Guide” makes for one hell of an entertaining half-hour. While it would be nice to have explored the subject matter at greater depth, the show is breezy and well-paced.

‘Jedis & Juggalos – Your Census Guide’ airs Tuesday 19 July at 10.05pm on ABC1. John Safran will be available to discuss the show after the show airs via an ABC Online forum.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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