Review by Choice Review
Wiley-Blackwell's "Philosophy and Pop Culture" series lists some 20 titles that mine popular culture for philosophical themes. The guiding principle is that fans of certain television programs or books are ripe for philosophical studies as well. The Twilight saga, featuring vampires and their interaction with humans, taps into something big. The four books have sold more than 80 million copies, and the two films derived from them are breaking records. These books and films deal with love, life, death, and immortality--all heavy stuff. Twilight and Philosophy includes analyses of themes ranging from what it means to be a person to questions of morality and sexuality. At one level, the story is about the pretty girl who falls in love with a bad boy--a really bad boy. Does love conquer all? The feminist philosophers represented among the 18 essays will have none of it. They see Bella, the pretty girl, portrayed as weak and seeking fulfillment by surrendering to Edward, a powerful male who stalks her and establishes an abusive relationship and eventually ... no spoiler here. But the book is a must read for Twilight fans.Watchmen, originally comic books, became a graphic novel and a movie. It features a possible world in which Richard Nixon is president and the US has won the Vietnam War with the help of a superhero. In the Watchmen universe, caped crusaders are required either to retire or to work for the government. The only superhero with superhuman powers is Dr. Manhattan (get it, the Manhattan Project?), whose power is derived from a laboratory event and is almost limitless. The authors of the 15 essays in Watchmen and Philosophy explore such issues as free will, the legitimate use of power, and the moral ambiguity in foreign relations of flexing such power. The book presents a clever use of fantasy to introduce important philosophical themes.A friend reported that he thought House was a home makeover show and therefore never watched it. For those who know better, the popular television series features the irascible physician Dr. Gregory House, who uses logic, scientific reasoning, and a radical Socratic method to discover the diseases that others misdiagnose. The 18 essays in the book find issues beyond those of medical ethics and present House as an existentialist hero who breaks established rules, rejects all things religious, and finds meaning only in action. He exhibits deductive skills worthy of Sherlock Holmes, who pronounced his name "homes," aka house. As an introduction to philosophical thinking, these books work well with their jargon-free writing and approachable themes. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-level undergraduates through faculty/researchers; general readers. D. Stewart emeritus, Ohio University
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