EXPLORING THE IMPACT OF RELIGION’S PRESENCE
IN ENTERTAINMENT MEDIA.
DeeperDive is a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiative of KC Social Impact Lab specializing in depictions of religion on screen.
The media and entertainment industry has enormous influence on how audiences around the world think about religion. It impacts how we treat others, how we think about our own moral systems, how we vote, and how we think about other facets of identity, including race, gender, and sexuality.
AND RELIGION APPEARS CONSTANTLY ON SCREEN.
Spearheaded by Harvard Divinity School alumni and fellows, DeeperDive advises public, private, and nonprofit organizations seeking to promote religious pluralism and expand understandings of religion in wider Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) movements.
A project of KC Social Impact Lab, led by experts in philanthropy, media, and public affairs with proven track records of delivering effective messages in over 140 countries and 40 different languages, our goal is to equip individual storytellers and companies with the tools to tell more complex and less stereotype-driven narratives.
In following this wider goal, DeeperDive does not promote any individual religion over another.
Rather, much like other facets of DEI, we help stakeholders and storytellers understand religion as one facet of an interconnected social system.
Entertainment media companies already look to experts on race, gender, sexuality, and climate change to enhance their social impact programming.
DeeperDive is the first such equivalent for understanding the role and prevalence of religion in film and television.
We can shift what audiences learn about religion on screen, so that when they encounter religious diversity in real life, they respond not with fear or distrust, but with empathy and compassion.
WHAT WE DO
We provide specialized programming premised on challenging unconscious biases surrounding religious people, communities, and themes.
We evaluate past and prospective depictions of religion in entertainment media, demonstrating its prevalence and influence.
We advise public, private, and nonprofit organizations seeking to improve internal diversity and social responsibility strategy.
We live in a world of extraordinary religious diversity. But we also live in a world where religious ignorance and intolerance frequently lead to conflict.
Our understanding of the world and the social issues that permeate it are largely shaped by our media consumption.
Taken together, in order to build a world where everyone is accepted and respected, regardless of religious differences, we need to know more about each other. We need to hear each other’s stories.
Done right, the spread of religiously diverse content in entertainment media possesses the power to educate and mobilize communities, spark discussion and debate, and advocate for sweeping and effective policy change. This content not only shifts attitudes on a widespread level, benefitting society as a whole, but more deeply engages audiences in ways that encourage long-term studio loyalty and increase profitability.
RELIGIOUS LITERACY TRAINING
We provide customized workshops aimed to demonstrate the impact and salience of religious literacy in film and television. Premised on real-life media examples, both past and prospective, our training emphases shift based on the needs of our clients and can be catered toward audiences ranging from media executives and content producers to storytellers within the general public. Lasting from one hour to several days, depending on individual needs and concerns, our programming is based in Harvard Divinity School’s Religion and Public Life core principles. Upon exploring why religious literacy should matter to media executives, producers, and content creators, we offer a set of best practices, aimed at dispelling narrative-based stereotypes and expanding public understandings of religion.
Using Harvard Divinity School’s methods, we conduct research on the ways in which religion is currently represented across media platforms, providing future recommendations based on these findings.
We advise public, private, and non-profit organizations seeking to improve internal diversity and social responsibility strategy.
Our access to leaders in media, business, government and education allows us to equip our clients with the networks needed to turn aspiration into tangible influence. We co-create courses of action with our clients that span from media campaigns to strategic partnerships, help implement these tactics, and ultimately communicate and quantify this impact.
Religious literacy is a way of thinking about religion. It is not a series of facts to memorize. As defined by Harvard’s Religion and Public Life Program, it is founded on three basic principles:
Religions are internally diverse.
Religions evolve and change over time.
Religions are embedded in culture, not separate from it.
While no single person can know everything about every religion, these three principles help us avoid some of religion’s most common misrepresentations.
Lindsey Smith, MTS
Harvard Divinity School Alumni
Harvard Divinity School Fellow (2018-2021)
Education & Technology Expert
Jason Hoezel, MDiv
Harvard Divinity School Alumni
Social Impact Executive Assistant
Jerusha T Achterberg
Harvard Professor, Expository Writting
Summer Intern 2022
Harvard Divinity School MDiv ‘24
Summer Intern 2022
Harvard Divinity School MTS ‘23
DEEPER DIVE BLOG
An introduction to Religious Literacy in entertainment media by Harvard Divinity School Alumni Lindsay Smith (MTS ’20) and Jason Hoelzel (MDiv ’20)October 28, 2020 The Impact Guild is a nonprofit...
By Jason Hoelzel, Harvard Divinity School Alumni MDiv ‘20 Synopsis: Respect (2021) is a biographical music drama chronicling the life of Aretha Franklin. The story begins with a focus on the...
September 29, October 6, 13, 20, and 27 This five-week training aims to elucidate the following: What is religious literacy? In what ways is religious literacy an important tool for storytelling?...