Pearly Gates and White Lights
Portrayal of Heaven in Popular Culture
It is always interesting to see what film makers have to say in relation to religious locations and parallels to life. Little Nicky, clearly has elements of social commentary using the context of hell to shed a negative light on certain personalities and tendencies. Similarly, there are countless portrayals of heaven in popular culture, because its concept is allows the producer or director to wander into the very engaging topic of ‘What is considered good’. It is an incredibly subtle and effective way for films and television shows to offer commentary on morality when they can always use that trump card of showing how their characters are able to ascend to heaven.
This clip from the animated cartoon series “Tom and Jerry” is an example of the common portrayal of heaven in popular media. Clouds, golden gates, endless skies, bright lights, all part of the imagery that is commonly used. But notice how there is a gate keeper. In this particular representation of heaven, one is allowed in only if they are supposed to be there. The simplicity of the character’s motivation is like that of any other, “What do I do to get what I want.”, but in this case where what the character wants is to get into heaven, it just has more draw. It makes you root for the character more, almost with the feeling that if anyone deserves anything, it is that peace of heaven.
In the film “This is the End”, you can see also how this image of heaven utilizes the common imagery. Everyone’s dressed in white, clouds, again the golden gates, and halos above people heads. And much like any film or televison series that includes heaven, it is used as a motivating factor for what the main characters do. The director drives home the message that getting to heaven is something that at the end of the day, is more important than anything else at the end. A simple premise, but one that triggers a special feeling with the audience because of the nature of heaven and afterlife.
The public and mainstream perception of heaven is also helped by the contrast to how hell is often portrayed. The imagery of fire and darkness if commonly used to represent hell. The commonly used imagery of heaven is intentionally opposite from that.
Whatever heaven looks like, it is clear that the concept of heaven has a unique place in the popular culture landscape, really because it resonates with the very human question of where the soul goes after life.