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Episode Summary

What is the role of entertainment in human flourishing? Vox film critic Alissa Wilkinson reflects on the role of entertainment in a flourishing life and how creating art and watching film well cultivates the virtues of attention and hospitality.

"The artist has the ability to direct the attention of the audience. If you agree to engage with their work, then they will show you something. And you agree to pay attention to that thing. And I think the act of attending to things is basically the act of love. And when I look at the life of Christ, he's forever drawing people's attention to things as lessons or just things they wouldn't have seen otherwise: a person they would have passed by, or a lesson from nature, or something that they would have missed. That discipline and virtue of attention flies directly in the face of everything that we experienced today."

What is the role of entertainment in human flourishing? Vox film critic Alissa Wilkinson reflects on how her early life formed her critical and cultural sensibilities, the role of entertainment in a flourishing life, how biblical interpretation lends itself to the attentive task of the critic, the challenge of boredom and seeing entertainment as mere consumption, and how creating art and watching film well cultivates the virtues of attention and hospitality. Not to mention: The saddest song ever to score a film, why film is not a storytelling medium, how Jesus and Terrence Malick direct our attention, and much more. Interview by Drew Collins.

Show Notes

  • Attention economy (introduction by Evan Rosa)
  • About Alissa Wilkinson
  • Art and the shared experience of attention by artist and audience
  • Art and propaganda
  • How Alissa's upbringing cultivated her cultural sensibilities
  • Reading a text, understanding it and being able to reinterpret
  • How to watch vs. what to watch
  • Remaking our visual vocabulary
  • The communal, public nature of entertainment
  • The public nature of art
  • Catharsis and emotion as a public act
  • "Learning to perform my emotions..."
  • "The experience we have together"
  • Compare religious liturgy to public entertainment
  • Entertainment and the life of Jesus
  • Telling stories and singing songs
  • "Singing is such a useless thing."
  • The saddest song in the world: Max Richter's "On the Nature of Daylight"
  • The discipline and virtue of attention
  • Directing the attention of the audience
  • Terrence Malick helping viewers "see"
  • Film is not a storytelling medium; it's primarily visual. You can have no sound, no characters, but you can't have no video.
  • "Good artists are hospitable"
  • Young Adult Movie Ministry and the ministry of attention
  • Christian engagement with film
  • A.O. Scott and Hail, Caeser!
  • "A bad movie can instruct you as much as a good one. ... Every movie critic knows it's more fun to write about a bad movie"
  • Apocalyptic pop culture
  • The Daniel Option: The prophet Daniel as an exemplar of public engagement
  • Responsibility and authorship
  • Hand it over to the audience to making meaning together
  • The share-ability of art
  • We're all getting hit differently by the movies we see
  • Jean Luc Marion's Idols and Icons
  • Boredom and entertainment in a life worth living
  • Michael Chabon's reclaiming entertainment in "The Pleasure Principle" (LA Times)
  • C.S. Lewis's An Experiment in Criticism
  • Boredom
  • "A lot of what passes for criticism is just cultural amnesia."
  • The role of entertainment in a life worth living

About Alissa Wilkinson

Alissa Wilkinson is Vox's film critic; she also writes about culture more generally. She's been writing about film and culture since 2006, and her work has appeared at Rolling Stone, The Washington Post, Vulture,, The Atlantic, Books & Culture, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Paste, Pacific Standard, and others. Alissa is a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics, and was a 2017-18 Art of Nonfiction writing fellow with the Sundance Institute. Before joining Vox, she was the chief film critic at Christianity Today.

Alissa is also an associate professor of English and humanities at The King's College in New York City, where she's taught criticism, cinema studies, and cultural theory since 2009. Her book Salty: Lessons on Eating, Drinking, and Living from Revolutionary Women is forthcoming from Broadleaf Books. She is also the co-author, with Robert Joustra, of How to Survive the Apocalypse: Zombies, Cylons, Faith, and Politics at the End of the World. Alissa regularly gives lectures around the world on film, pop culture, postmodernity, religion, and criticism. She holds an MA in humanities and social thought from New York University and an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Seattle Pacific University.

Read Alissa's articles on

Listen to Alissa's podcast Young Adult Movie Ministry
Production Notes

  • This podcast featured critic and journalist Alissa Wilkinson and theologian Drew Collins
  • Edited and Produced by Evan Rosa
  • Hosted by Evan Rosa
  • Production Assistance by Martin Chan & Nathan Jowers
  • A Production of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture at Yale Divinity School
  • Support For the Life of the World podcast by giving to the Yale Center for Faith & Culture:
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