Media Relations: media commentary and criticism

Monday, May 08, 2000

puppies, droz, and beliefs

This entry so lightweight and disorganized that if you blow on it, it'll fly apart and float away. Just so's you know.

And another friendly warning: by the middle of this entry, I will have spoiled the endings for at least one, if not two, episodes of South Park, two episodes of X-Files, and the entire season to date of Xena Warrior Princess.

Run while you can.

oh. dear. god.

I decided tonight that I would admit to my inner sleazoid. That there is some deeply sleazy side of me that likes watching big scantily clad sweaty men, even if wrestling is relentlessly incorrect, politically and in every other way.

Only ... only ... they were distributing the award for the Miss Rumble bikini showdown from last night's Royal Rumble on tonight's WWF Raw.

Tonight was the real versus fake "puppies" competition.

All I will say is that seldom have so many worn so much tearaway fabric that didn't actually tear.

I don't care how nice it is to watch sweaty outsize guys, I'm not THAT incorrect.

And it turns out that there's a reason that Prince Albert is no longer Droz' boy toy. Droz was hurt very badly in a match back in October; it looks like he's at least partially paralyzed. (I was actually able to verify that, which is just weird.) One of those things which lets you realize that, however fake wrestling may be, it carries some very real risks.

Actually, I didn't mean to start out with wrestling.

It was just all those "puppies"...

I'll be traumatized for years, I tell you.

What I want to know is, what on earth is it with television and religion these days?

Maybe it's just what I watch (well, clearly), but television has shown a rather extraordinary willingness to tan a few sacred cows' hides.

South Park, as always, has been the most over-the-top about it. In their New Year's episode, they not only showed Jesus--which, to be sure, is standard operating procedure, what with his show, "Jesus and Friends" and all that--but they also showed God. And God was ... well, I'm not quite sure what he was, actually. I think he was mostly some sort of doglike creature.

There was actually another South Park about it, but I frankly don't remember it. Alas.

And in two of the last three episodes, the X-Files has had an unusual take (for it, that is) on religion. For once, Scully's Catholic beliefs were actually given some respect; Mulder actually backed down when she finally said, "Look, this is what I believe, so CUT THAT OUT!" (Well, not in so many words, but that's what it amounted to.) Of course, the snake charmers got the short end of the stick this week--apparently in this weeks episode, to be a snake charmer is a sign of the antichrist.

I must admit, though, the one that's taking the most risks--for no reason that I can actually determine--is Xena Warrior Princess. In just this week's episode, we had a messianic figure, and Xena discovered that her baby was, in fact, immaculately conceived, if not quite by the usual means. (Have to admit, I can't think of anything more likely to make Xena cut open her own uterus than to discover what she found out this week about who the father--if that's quite the right word--of her child is. Only she's found her inner peace. Sort of. I mean, what the HELL are they doing?)

I guess I just don't understand this full-court press of/on religion on television. I mean, for the most part, in horribly odd ways, they've been relatively respectful (which, for XF at least, is markedly unusual).

Thing is, they're all doing it in ways that are sure to offend people. And I haven't figured out how much of that is deliberate.

(Well, except for Xena, of course. They may be building a deeper philosophical base for ... something or other, but it's quite clear that they're being deliberately ... challenging, shall we say. I just don't understand why. Surely all this wasn't necessary just to find a new direction for the show because Lucy Lawless was pregnant. As for South Park ... they keep veering between being unusually thoughtful and respectful--if a bit north by northwest--and being their usual obnoxious selves.)

I must admit, I have an ambivalent attitude toward religion in mass media.

Matches my ambivalent attitude toward religion generally, I suppose. A rather neat combination, right?

I am a bit wary of organized religion, I must admit. Partly because it's so easy for it to warp into things that are very ugly. Besides, it always seemed to me, in a weird way, that at its best, organized religion was more about the community than the beliefs--after all, whatever your beliefs, the need for other people to practice them is relatively minimal, really. Priests and ministers or whatever the clerics are called to fulfill whatever rituals are required. The rest is about being with people who believe as you do.

(And in all seriousness, if there's a religious person out there who reads this, could you tell me: what is the purpose of the sermon, really? It always seemed to me that the educational part of church, the part where people are given the ideas behind a given religion, was handled in Sunday school. I never understood the sermon part. That may have been because I was fairly young when I withdrew from organized religion, to be sure; I was still young enough that I thought of the sermon as amazingly boring. I used to sit in church and actually read the bible, and wonder why the sermons were never as interesting as the stories. But I digress. I think.)

That said, for reasons that aren't too hard to understand, most mass media seems unrelentingly hostile toward organized religion. After all, the parts of organized religion that actually talk about mass media are, for the most part these days, unrelentingly hostile toward them.

Even so ... maybe it was just the way I was raised. It always seemed to me that, to the extent that you're able, you should treat someone's beliefs with respect. To be sure, there are limits--my own personal blind spot happens to be the Mormon church. The difference in political beliefs and other things aside, I can't find it in me to treat a religion respectfully that didn't decide until 1972 that I wasn't a representative of the Antichrist on Earth. The actual Mormons I've met have been, for the most part, perfectly nice people; I just flatly refuse to discuss religion with them, ever. (Of course, unless it can be discussed in a fairly academic way, I decline to discuss religion generally; it's far too easy to offend unintentionally.)



I started out somewhere else entirely, didn't I?

I think that last parenthetical actually brings me full circle.

The reason that I have difficulties with the current media portrayals of religion and religious beliefs is that frequently I have the feeling that they really are trying to offend, quite deliberately.

When they aren't trying to offend, they're just so ... Western.

Take "Touched by an Angel". It's inspiring and uplifting and all that. The difficulty I have with it is that every week, it pretty much says, "If you're not a Christian, you're just doomed." Not explicitly, of course, but you never see any aspects of the myriad of other religions available in this country. You never see any sign that anything else could exist.

Of course, this is doing something that I always hate it when critics do it: criticising something for not being what you want it to be. And to be fair, "Touched by an Angel" never aspired to be anything but what it is.

I just suppose, in this polyglot country, it seems that we should have something on television that admits of the possibility of something else. That says that other beliefs would be equally valid.

Which would probably produce an even worse backlash against the media, unfortunately.

Posted by iain at 10:44 PM in category