Dancing in the Dark:
Youth, Popular Culture and the Electronic Media

This publication is the result of a collaborative effort of six Fellows in the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship 1988-89 and was first runner up for the Christianity Today Critic's Choice Awards in the contemporary issues division, 1992. My coauthors were Quentin Schultze, Roy Anker, James Bratt, John Worst and Lambert Zuidervaart.

Dancing in the Dark is a thorough, well-crafted academic and critical investigation of the relationship between youth and popular culture, especially as popular culture is conveyed by electronic media. Produced by a team of six Calvin College professors, the book integrates historical, cultural, and aesthetic themes to present a picture of the ways young people have life imagined for them in our entertainment/leisure/consumption oriented, media-driven society. The authors contend that young people and the entertainment industry are locked in a symbiotic relationship. The entertainment industry is more than just a mirror of cultural reality, it provides essential "life maps" for adolescents striving for meaning, purpose, identity, and intimacy. While popular culture guides teens, its primary concern is always economic, so it never strays too far from what is popularly accepted. Youth need the electronic media to tell them how to be young, while the electronic media need young people's time, attention, and money. [Excerpted from The Reformed Review ]

Endorsements and Reviews

"Believers of every faith will find Dancing in the Dark a source of revelation and provocation as they try to make sense of contemporary American culture. I daresay even skeptics will find light in its pages, and the beginning point for important conversations about how to create and more humane society."
Bill Moyers

"This is an outstanding critical examination of the role of the electronic media in packaging popular culture for youthful consumption. By integrating insightful historical, sociological, artistic, and literary analysis, the authors of Dancing in the Dark avoid simplistic judgmental explanations. The relationship between youth and the electronic media is seen instead as a symbiotic one--the media need the youth market for their economic survival, while youth, who are in search for their own identity, need the guidance, nurture, and constructed reality which the media provide."
Jack Balswack, Fuller Theological Seminary

"I highly recommend this well researched and presented book on a subject that will probably be the single greatest influence on us all in the decade ahead. It should be read and discussed by youth workers, ministers, teachers, parents, and anyone concerned with our future."

"A fascinating study of the contemporary culture. It brings an interpretative consensus to the last half o this century exposing the birth and growth spurt of electronic media and its impact on youth....this is not the reactionary writing that is typical of many evangelicals but instead a very studied response and source book for parents, pastors, and ministers of youth.
Southwestern Journal of Theology

"An academically articulate and incredibly insightful investigation of the youth culture and how it is being shaped by the electronic media."
Word & World

"Dancing in the Dark demonstrates that we may take popular culture seriously as a bearer and shaper of social values and attitudes, and engage it in critical ethical dialogue."
Christian Century

"Informative, insightful, and at times, prophetic."
Augsburg Press Book News

"The goal of creating a more humane society rather than destroying popular culture sets this book apart from the genre of mindless youth-media diatribes.
Michigan Academican

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