Graphic Portrayals of Religion

By: Katie Rosenberg

October 22, 2015

Katie Rosenberg conducted interviews with Georgetown undergraduates from diverse religious backgrounds on how faith inspires their artistic work as part of her research as a Doyle Undergraduate Fellow.

Will Redmond is a senior at Georgetown University, studying History. Will grew up in Maryland, and is now in his seventeenth year of Catholic education. He regularly attends the 9:30 p.m. Mass every Sunday here on Georgetown’s campus and often serves as a lector.

But beyond his involvement in religious life on campus, Will is also a dedicated member of the Mask and Bauble Dramatic Society and has served the club in many capacities. This fall, Will directed Mask and Bauble’s production of Inherit the Wind, a show which examined the tensions and compatibilities between religion and science. He has also acted in numerous other productions and often serves the shows in technical capacities. He understands the relationship between his faith and his work in the theater as naturally compatible, and claims that theater at its core, is an incredibly spiritual exercise. 
He states, “I think that the act of portraying someone else is an incredible act of compassion and understanding. The responsibility not necessarily to agree with people, but to try to recognize the truth in their lives and in their aspirations and say ‘there is value here.’ I think that’s profoundly spiritual.” Will cites Catholicism as a religion of compassion; it is, at its core, an attempt to connect with one another. This, Will understands, is the objective of theater as well.     

And yet, one must be careful to portray another honestly and sympathetically. There is a fine line between portraying someone thoughtfully and making their religion their most distinguishing feature. Here, Will discussed his interest in graphic novels. He highlighted Marvel’s newest character, Ms. Marvel, as an example of portraying a character with true thought. Released in 2014, Ms. Marvel is the first Muslim character to headline her own series. Will states that Ms. Marvel is a powerful character because her religion doesn’t define her in her entirety; it is merely one part of a much more complex character. 

Will states, “I’m interested in Ms. Marvel not because the character is Muslim, but rather in the way that religion can be used as a facet of character to tell a story. When done well, it’s like real people[…]. Not everything about these characters has to be about religion. That’s the way bad religious art is done.”

If portrayed well—on stage, in graphic novels, or in any artistic medium
—a character’s faith should be only one of many features that constitute the sum of who they are. Honest religion and honest art are intricate and complex; they cannot be reduced to one or two characteristic—or stereotypical—features. As Will states, “Religion doesn’t have to be the be all and end all. The important thing is that when you talk about it, you find the honesty in these people and in their aspirations, and how their religion influences them. This is true in performance and in representations of all kinds.” 

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Graphic Portrayals of Religion