The Atlantic

Pop Culture Is Having a Metaphysical Moment

The OA, Westworld, Stranger Things, and other recent works toy with the idea of multiple realities—and bring the thrill of new religion.

Source: Netflix

Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality? That’s the prompt that opened HBO’s Westworld, but it’s also the implied question behind shows like The OA, Stranger Things, The Good Place, and Falling Water, as well as movies like Arrival and Doctor Strange. Across popular entertainment lately, science fiction, theoretical physics, and spirituality have blended to offer not escapism but wait-there’s-more-ism, offering a tantalizing hint that our perception of reality is too narrow—and that with a little bit of effort, we can see extraordinary things.

The OA is the latest and clearest example of the phenomenon, the work most likely to trigger feelings of recognition in viewers as it pulls at ideas explored elsewhere in pop culture recently. The hokey-fun Netflix series imagines a young woman—alternately known as Nina, Prairie, and The OA—returning from a seven-year disappearance during which she somehow went from

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