God with the Backwards Wave: A Text In Context Analysis of the Characterization of God in Joan of Arcadia
Master of Arts (MA)
Michael P. Graves
Primary Subject Area
Cinema; Mass Communications; Religion, General; Sociology, General
God, Joan of Arcadia, Barbara Hall, Transcendental Style, Paul Schrader, Television, John Dominic Crossan, Jeanne d' Arc
Kennedy, Chad Landon, "God with the Backwards Wave: A Text In Context Analysis of the Characterization of God in Joan of Arcadia" (2006). Masters Theses. 110.
God is a television star. In Barbara Hall's Joan of Arcadia, which aired on CBS from 2003-2005, teenaged Joan Girardi, played by Amber Tamblyn, has conversations with God on a weekly basis. Rather than appearing in bright lights amidst angelic voices and special effects, God speaks to Joan through a variety of human guises, both male and female. The characterization of God in Joan of Arcadia is, arguably, the most extensive portrayal of God in American television, as nearly ninety actors play the deity over the show's two-season run. Understanding the creative team's portrayal of God as a character is significant to any studies relating spiritual ideals and film. Therefore, this thesis follows text in context studies through a close reading of Joan of Arcadia, specifically tracing Joan's interactions with four principal recurring God characters: Cute Boy God, Little Girl God, Old Lady God and Goth Kid God. Synthesizing the characteristics of these four God characters may give insight into the nature of the overall God of Joan of Arcadia. Paul Schrader's model of transcendental style in film and John Dominic Crossan's theological definitions of myth and parable are two additional tools which aid in analyzing this groundbreaking broadcast representation of God.