From mummers to new media: captivity, liberation, and the church of life after shopping


Pierre Berthon, Bentley University, 175 Forest Street, Waltham, MA 02451, USA.



With the rise of new media, it is easy to overlook, not only old media but also mummery—the arcane medium of the flesh—street performances, stage shows, plays, and carnivals. In this paper, we look at the case of Reverend Billy and the Church of Life After Shopping. We begin by re-introducing the term ‘mummer’ as a traditional medium of expression and conceptually locate it relative to both old and new media. We then provide a brief introduction to captivity narrative studies, specifically looking at the role of humor in providing aesthetic freedom in incarceration. Reverend Billy and the Church of Life After Shopping serve as our case study to show how humor can be used to liberate citizens' thinking around the three Cs of American political ideology: church, capitalism, and consumption; and to highlight how Reverend adroitly integrates the medium mummery, old media, and new media into a unified whole to free consumers from the dominant ideology of US political interlocution. We conclude by offering ways to extend and elaborate upon this research.

  • Mummery
  • Captivity studies
  • New media

Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.