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You won’t beliebe it

Media and Communications undergraduate explores religion and fandom at URCAD

Mercedes Morina, a senior media and communication studies student, presented her findings on the link between religious influence and fandom culture at URCAD.

Mercedes Morina is a senior media and communications major who stood with poise and confidence at Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement Day to present her findings on a potential linkage between religious influence and fandom.

The project began as her capstone project for MCS 499, but Morina decided she wanted to also open up her research to URCAD. In her research, she posed, “How does a religious upbringing limit, prevent and/or influence the manifestation of celebrity and pop cultural fandom?”

She stated in her thesis that she believes those with stronger ties to religion are less likely to become fanatical about a certain celebrity or fandom. Her research appears to support her thesis, with 60% of University of Calgary students stating that they are influenced by pop culture, while 61% of Christians on UMBC’s campus said that pop culture was either not influential at all or of little influence.

Monica was inspired to undertake the daunting URCAD presentation by a lengthy conversation with classmates about the craziness that surrounds celebrities. “I didn’t feel like I ever had that experience, and I wondered why that was,” Morina said.

She explained that she first thought it was the age gap between her and a particular celebrity. Then she thought it was race related, since she didn’t really look like the people the star had dated. However, she had an epiphany of sorts.

She realized that her religious upbringing — Seventh-Day Adventist to be exact — and the commandment of “you shall have no other gods before me” kept her from being drawn into the fanatical culture. With this thesis in mind, she set out to see if it stood up against the facts.

Morina pulled data from research done at the University of Calgary, which noted that 60% of students said they were influenced by pop culture, while 40% were not. She then compared this data to her own data collected through anonymous surveys of Christian members of the UMBC community.

Her survey asked broad questions such as “how influential is pop culture,” “can pop culture and religion mix,” and “is it ok to look up to pop culture figures?”

She then conducted two in-depth ethnographic interviews that were about an hour to an hour and a half. The interviews featured personal questions that were blunt, without being disrespectful. “Sometimes, you have to realize that the questions will rub people the wrong way,” said Morina.

“I pulled quotations from those interviews that I felt best exemplified the research,” said Morina of the quotes from the interviews included in her presentation.

As Morina took questions after her presentation at URCAD, she made it a point to clarify that her research only deals in the links between Christianity and fandom, but that she would be interested in exploring how other religions impact fandom. “We could use it as a way to start studying how cultural upbringings affect fandom.”
Editor’s note: The data in this article is conveyed as it was presented at URCAD.