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Born again heathenism enchanted worlds on film

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The article discusses films with fantastic elements using evolutionary psychology. The fascination with the fantastic on film is a by-product of different evolutionary mental adaptations, like the interest in causality with the purpose of control, that create interest in fantastic violation of naturalist expectations; the horror fear of being preyed upon by powerful agents (animals or other humans) and the fear of contamination from dead bodies; and the need to enforce moral supervision and submission to powerful others to enhance group cohesion, and these functions get a powerful emphasis by invention of supernatural agents. The prominence of supernaturalism in media is not necessarily linked to an increase in religious interest vis--vis science but could also be caused by a diminished heresy control allowing media to exploit a range of innate dispositions of being intrigued by different supernatural phenomena that might be called heathen because it often reuses all kinds of folk superstitions.

Keywords: Evolutionary theory; enchantment; fantasy films; film melodrama; horror films; supernaturalism

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Copenhagen.

Publication date: June 1, 2008

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  • Northern Lights: Film and Media Studies Yearbook was first published in 2002 and places particular emphasis on film, television and new media. The yearbook, although carrying a theme each issue, welcomes a broad range of articles along with shorter review pieces.
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