The sacred ethos of the American Dream has become a central pillar of American civil religion. The belief that meaning is fashioned from some mixture of family, friends, a stable career, and financial security permeates American culture. Profane Parables examines three films that assault this venerated American myth. Fight Club (1999), American Beauty (1999), and About Schmidt (2002) indict the American Dream as a meaningless enterprise that is existentially, ethically, and aesthetically bankrupt.
In their blistering critique of the hallowed wisdom of the American Dream, these films function like Jesus’ parables. As narratives of disorientation, Jesus’ parables upend conventional and cherished worldviews. Author Matthew Rindge illustrates the religious function of these films as parables of subversion that provoke rather than comfort and disturb rather than stabilize. Ultimately, Rindge considers how these parabolic films operate as sacred texts in their own right.
1. The American Dream: The Sacred Ethos of American Religion
2. Fight Club: Lamenting God’s Abandonment and the American Dream
3. American Beauty: Death as Divine Beauty
4. About Schmidt: An American Rich Fool
5. Films as Parables of Disorientation
My gratitude to Matthew Rindge for recognizing and brilliantly dissecting the quest for salvation that supports the surface sound and fury of my novel and David Fincher's film.~Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club
Rindge is both sensitive and insightful in his film analysis, and the discussion of these movies as parables takes the analysis to a whole new level of sophistication. This book will be a very useful addition to both American Studies and ‘religion and film’ classes, as well as classes in New Testament parables.~Robert K. Johnston, Professor of Theology and Culture, Fuller Theological Seminary
A wonderful piece of work~Choice
In Matthew S. Rindge’s Profane Parables: Film and the American Dream, Rindge takes three recent films from American cinema—Fight Club, American Beauty, and About Schmidt—to create a triptych with critiques and deconstructs the American Dream. In each case, Rindge argues, the film visually parallels socially critical texts within Scripture, offering contemporary audiences new and fresh subversions of conventional wisdom in ways akin to Scripture.~Myles Werntz, Journal of the NABPR
Rindge writes with both academic rigor and an approachable tone, which makes the text accessible for audiences in both academic circles and broader spheres, such as those interested in American civil religion, the particular filmmakers Rindge cites, or the biblical genre of parables.~Joel Mayward, Journal of Religion and Film
Rindge’s Profane Parables is an excellent work. It will appeal greatly to scholars of American Studies, film, religion, and popular culture.~Margaret Weber, Journal of Popular Culture
Fantastic! This is a perfect study that brings together both Rindge’s own deep expertise in New Testament studies and his agile, interdisciplinary approach to popular culture. The films Rindge has selected are perfect vehicles for his fine-tuned analysis, both in terms of the aesthetics and meaning of film, but even more compellingly, his own perspectives on American culture generally and the mythic realities of the American dream.~Gary Laderman, Goodrich C. WhitGare GProfessor of American Religious History and Cultures, Emory University
As a whole, Profane Parables is a refined work that offers both a thought provoking and an easy read and I would recommend it to anyone thinking of exploring film from the perspective of biblical studies or interested in film, myths and morals.~Sofia Sjö, Journal of Religion, Media, and Digital Cuture