Just last week, Pew Research released the results of a big religion survey, which found, among other things, that non-religious people were more educated on matters of religion than actual believers. Now, given that the questions on the survey were insanely easy, I was not inclined to pat atheists and agnostics on the back for scoring 20/32 over believers’ 16/32. Religious literacy is a problem in this country! Here to illustrate the point for us is Big Hollywood‘s Leo Grin, whose “Catholic grade school” clearly failed him. Recently Grin went to see The Last Exorcism and Let Me In. To his, and no one else’s, surprise, they were terrible! But rather than write a review that was all, “Dudes, these movies were terrible. Don’t go see them,” Grin takes a classic Big Hollywood lateral approach and tries to make a big deal about how there’s not enough God and Jesus and crucifixes in horror movies. He starts with a long bit from Stoker:
“It is the eve of St. George’s Day. Do you not know that tonight, when the clock strikes midnight, all the evil things in the world will have full sway?”
Those are words spoken by a superstitious old woman to Jonathan Harker in Bram Stoker’s novelDracula (1897). Fearing for the outsider’s safety, she gives him a crucifix. “I did not know what to do,” Harker writes, “for, as an English Churchman, I have been taught to regard such things as in some measure idolatrous, and yet it seemed so ungracious to refuse an old lady meaning so well and in such a state of mind.”
But later, overcome with terror in the bowels of the Count’s Transylvanian castle, he has reason to be most grateful:
Bless that good, good woman who hung the crucifix round my neck! For it is a comfort and a strength to me whenever I touch it. It is odd that a thing which I have been taught to regard with disfavour and as idolatrous should in a time of loneliness and trouble be of help. Is it that there is something in the essence of the thing itself, or that it is a medium, a tangible help, in conveying memories of sympathy and comfort? Some time, if it may be, I must examine this matter and try to make up my mind about it. In the meantime I must find out all I can about Count Dracula. . . .
Now, as anyone with a passing familiarity with the history of Christianity in Europe knows, the reason Harker balks at accepting the crucifix is its status as a Catholic symbol, with England’s political and cultural three-way tug-of-war between Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Puritanism over the previous centuries enough to give any late-Victorian “English Churchman” (ie, Anglican) pause. In fact, a lot of Dracula is about the nearly-modern English identity struggling against its older, European roots: London on the cusp of the Industrial Revolution vs. rural Eastern Europe, no-nonsense Anglicanism vs. superstitious Catholicism, old European aristocracy vs. the new professional British middle-class, etc etc.
Grin’s takeaway from this passage, however, is that there aren’t enough crucifixes in tween Mormon vampire fiction:
Over a century later, Stephenie Meyer managed to write four bestselling books concerning vampires (later translated into a quartet of popular movies) without the word crucifix appearing even a single time in her hundreds of thousands of words.
Meyer is a Mormon! LDS doesn’t use crosses or crucifixes. And while Jesus himself never makes an appearance in the Twilight novels, it does not take a genius to catch the constant usage of Mormon imagery, and the relentless advocacy of Mormon values. Does Grin expect horror novels and films to be not only overtly Christian, but specifically Catholic? Zah?
Bruce Carroll has a piece up today at Big Hollywood that’s a nice twofer of hilarious right-blog fake-controversy tactics. First, he get all red-in-the-face over how YOU LIBERALS! might overreact given certain circumstances that don’t actually exist. Maybe one day right-bloggers will stop arguing with the LIBERALS in their heads, and start talking to actual liberals, and we can begin to move forward as a political culture, but, hey, in the meantime at least I have this bitchy blog. In the second part of Carroll’s outrage-over-meaningless-shit doubleheader, he sees an affront to his values in something completely innocuous. You may wonder how, rhetorically, it’s possible for Carroll to take LIBERALS to task for being easily offended and himself become offended over something minor in the same piece, but oh, he manages it. Part one:
This article is nearly three months in the making. For the second year in a row, my partner John and I attended the Country Music Association (CMA) Music Fest in Nashville, TN in early June. As a side note, if you ever get the opportunity – GO! It is a weeklong celebration of great country music and the great American city of Nashville.
But this isn’t a tourist agency pimping of Music City. Nope, it is a damning indictment of Hollywood’s natural, auto-immune liberal bias. Let me explain.
I wish Carroll would actually explain that metaphor, because I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know what “auto-immune” means. I’m unsure as to how an ideological bias could be “auto-immune” or “natural,” but I’m pretty sure by “auto-immune” he means “defensive” and by “natural” he means something like “inherent” or “ingrained.” If it were “auto-immune” (ie, attacking its own host), you would think Carroll would like that. Similarly, if it were “natural,” I’m not sure what Carroll would have to complain about. Would he prefer an unnatural conservative bias? Oh, whatever, I’ll just move on.
Carroll spends some time lovingly describing CMA Fest for uninitiated, and randomly complaining about Twitter, before finally getting to outrage number 1:
When viewers saw Tim McGraw sing “Southern Voice” last night on ABC, there was an important moment that the network cleverly edited out and actively hid from America. Why? Because it was inflammatory and would have exposed McGraw, a passionate Democrat activist, to extreme ridicule today.
In what looked like a throwback to the Black Power days of the 1960s, but in reverse, McGraw raised his fist during the chorus of “Southern Voice.” The first time he did it, I was surprised. The second time I was prepared.
[Youtube video uploaded by Carroll, titled "White Power fist - Tim McGraw]
Not that I would make a big deal out of it, but imagine, if you will, if this was a known conservative singer who had raised his or her fist in the air while singing a song called “Southern Voice.” But where’s the outrage? Nowhere. McGraw actively campaigned for Barack Obama in 2008 (which makes the “white power” fist action even more surreal). In fact, McGraw lent his vocal talents in January 2010 to a soundtrack compilation, ‘By the People: For the People,’ inspired by the film, ‘By the People: The Election of Barack Obama.’ McGraw joined other notable left-wing artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews, the Dixie Chicks and Sheryl Crow on the album paying homage to President Obama.
I’d like to ask the ABC producers of the CMA broadcast last night why they chose to do a tight shot of McGraw during the white power fist move. And if he thought it was an okay move to make, why they felt they had to shelter him with their clever close-up and editing job.
I actually have two responses to this argument, which is two more than something this patently absurd deserves. First of all, if, say, Toby Keith raised his fist in the air during a CMA performance, I promise you that no one would be outraged. Not a single person. No one would care. No one. Seriously, no one. There’s nothing remotely racially charged about the move McGraw pulls in the video Carroll posts, except in the fevered mind of someone who sees Black Panthers everywhere. I’ve seen probably a dozen or more musicians do the exact same thing on stage. It’s a very, very common rockstar pose. And Carroll’s argument is weirdly circular. Is he angry at McGraw because he’s a liberal who did something Carroll believes is racist? Or is he just angry because he thinks a conservative couldn’t get away with the same thing? If he thinks it’s racially-charged, why would he want a conservative to be able to get away with the same thing? Zah?
But that’s the common sense response, and since common sense is unlikely to appeal to Carroll, I’ll meet him on his level: Here is the official video for “Southern Voice.” In it, at the same point in the song, McGraw does the “white power fist,” and the video moves in to the same close-up that ABC’s editors chose. McGraw likely raises his fist in the air every single time he performs this song, and ABC’s editors were likely just mimicking the style of his own music video.
But on to part two. I’ve already quoted Carroll’s piece extensively, so I’ll just recap his second argument; feel free to read his piece in full if you feel I might be mischaracterizing it. Carroll is upset that ABC chose to air two Carrie Underwood performances (“Cowboy Casanova” and “Undo It”) and not a third (a medley of “Jesus, Take the Wheel” and “How Great Thou Art”) and cites this decision as evidence of an ABC agenda that “actively and aggressively demotes the importance of Christianity – and God – in American society and pop culture.”
It’s a weird accusation to level at ABC, the major network most dedicated to traditional family programming, and even aggressively Christian programming (The 700 Club runs in syndication on ABC Family). Setting aside Carroll’s fantastic claim of systemic anti-Christian program editing, tt’s far, far more likely that ABC chose to air “Undo It” and “Cowboy Casanova” because they are Underwood’s most recent #1 hits (reaching #1 on the country charts August 7th, 2010, and November 21st, 2009, respectively; “Jesus, Take the Wheel” was last at #1 in 2005). Furthermore, ABC did air Underwood’s performance of “Jesus, Take the Wheel” during its 2006 CMA Fest special. I guess the idea is that if they don’t air it every year, it’s an affront to Christians? Maybe Carroll’s beef is really with Underwood herself; lady needs to write some new Jesus-ey songs.
And of course, how else would a Big Hollywood piece close, but with a random dig at Obama:
Not incidentally there was a third performance missing from the ABC broadcast. And it was missing from the entire week at CMA Music Fest in June. And it was not seen in Nashville at all since that city was devastated by a thousand-year flood this past May.
What would that be, you naturally ask? The fact is that President Obama has never visited Middle Tennessee and never properly acknowledged the devastation faced by its residents.
Obama did declare a disaster in Tennessee. Here’s TN Governor Phil Bredesen on the White House response to the disaster:
I have to say that FEMA and the White House have been absolutely supportive. Very quickly FEMA was on the ground here before the raindrops started falling. … The President was on the phone to me before the sun came up practically on Monday morning. Slightly after it came up, other people from the White House had called and checked in with us and helped. … I’ve never seen this kind of a response to things that have happened. We’ve had our share of tornadoes and those kinds of things. … I’m very, very pleased with the response we’ve gotten from the administration.
Carroll has me a little exhausted, so I’ll just leave him with one final link that may help him with future pieces: http://www.google.com
August must be a slow month even for those brimming with manufactured outrage, because over at Big Hollywood today, the best James Hudnall can come up with is a dashed-off piece about how Jimmy Carter sucks and Sylvester Stallone rules. No, seriously.
After the moribund Carter years, the age of Reagan issued in a new era of American confidence. And with that confidence came a wave of films full of male bravado after a decade of paranoid, navel gazing films with negative endings.
I’m not going to quote the piece more extensively than that, since that’s basically his whole argument right there. The “New Hollywood” films of the 1970s were the perfect pseudo-intellectual, hollow, self-obsessed type of the Carter Administration, just as the hyper-masculine action hero pictures of the 1980s were perfect type of the Reagan-era’s Nietzschean vitality. While it’s worth nothing that Hudnall is not so enamored of Schwarzeneggerian masculinity as to hit the free weights and slug the whey protein himself, the idea of art-as-a-mirror is certainly a familiar and tempting one.
The problem, though is that he’s comparing the arthouse picture of one era with the summer blockbuster fare of the next. After all, the first Superman movie, Grease, Saturday Night Fever, and two Bond movies all grossed in the top 10 in the 1970s, and Platoon, The Killing Fields, and Ordinary People all won Oscars in the 1980s. And of “Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis, Gibson, Norris, Van Damme, Seagal,” only Stallone had a movie in the 1980s that out-grossed Platoon.
I’m not trying to make the point that the 70s were better than the 80s for film, or vice versa. We’re talking about fucking ten-year periods here; they both had a lot of movies, and when you try to generalize this broadly, you only open yourself up to death by a thousand counterexamples. For every Taxi Driver there’s also a Do the Right Thing, and for every Lethal Weapon 2 there’s a Smokey and the Bandit. But if this is the way Hudnall wants to kill some time in late August, I don’t really hold it against him; I just worry about the type of person who curses Jimmy Carter under his breath while watching The Graduate and gets a hard-on for the Great Communicator mid-way through Bloodsport.
I’ve generally given up posting about Greg Gutfeld’s (ugh) “Gregologues,” in part because they mostly conform to a link-oneliner-plug format that doesn’t leave a lot of room for discussion, and in part because he’s the one member of Big Hollywood‘s sub-Caroline-in-the-City comedy team who at least tries to crack jokes instead of acting like creepy, seething, passive-aggression is comedy. Maybe he’s only tolerable relative to the likes of Crowder, Jena, or Hudnall, but I’ve developed a bit of a soft spot for the big lug.
It must also be said, in the interest of giving credit where credit’s due, that Gutfeld is generally judicious when singling out figures or initiatives or soundbites from the left that are worthy of mockery. My usual reaction to his column goes something like, “Wow, it’s a little sad that Greg is 35 and still pining for the ol’ frat days, but yeah, that was a silly thing Obama said, there.”
Today, though he’s getting his smirk on because there’s a harmless GOTV video where Obama doesn’t pander enough to “middle-aged white dudes”:
So, for this upcoming November election, here’s an idea to help restore American strength and prosperity. White middle-aged men must band together and throw the idiots out.
That’s all there is to it.
At least, if I follow President Obama’s lead. For, in his mind, his victory requires splitting the populace apart – and only these folks matter: young people, African Americans, Latinos, and women.
I like how Gutfeld acts like “white middle-aged men must band together and throw the idiots out” hasn’t been his employer’s plan since, oh, I don’t know, Tax Day ’09. But that shit aside, the video Gutfeld links to is completely harmless. Obama talks about engaging and energizing people who didn’t normally vote before 2008, who came out specifically for him, and who are now in danger of slipping back into apathy.
Yes, that largely means women, black, Latinos, and young people. Now, it may surprise Gutfeld to learn that women alone account for over 50% of the population. Shocking! I did a quick-and-dirty calculation based on census data, and those groups combined account for about 72% of the US population.
But Obama actually spent two minutes directly addressing the majority of Americans, while not addressing its most privileged sub-sub-sub-group, “middle-aged white dudes,” so clearly he’s a racist.
Acknowledging that people other than “middle-aged white dudes” exist is not the same as excluding them! Is Gutfeld so used to seeing “middle-aged white dudes” pandered to that he can’t see the difference? Guys, he works for Fox.
In one of the more double-take inducing headlines Big Hollywood has published in a while, Brian Cherry asks the question most vital to a politically polarized nation facing an economic recession and two foreign wars:
Remember the Maines: Is Miley Cyrus the Next Leftist Trojan Horse Into Country Music?
This is a freakin koan if I’ve ever seen one. How does one answer this question? “No”? ”Yes”? Neither reply seems to make much sense. The best answer I can come up with is “Are your parents cousins or something?” but I always shy away from answering a question with a question.
Now, I’m so old that I can remember way back to May of 2009, when Big Hollywood editor-in-chief John Nolte was trying to rally good Christian soldiers around the banner of Ms. Montana:
Miley’s a target-rich environment for celebrity enforcers because she’s openly opposed to the spread of Gomorrah and therefore a threat who must be marginalized through ridicule at every opportunity.
What, pray tell, could Miley have possibly done in the last 11 months to have gone from conservative Christianity’s last bulwark against Hollywood excess to diabolical leftist sleeper agent?
Liberals failed miserably when they tried to take over the talk radio industry with Air America. It reminded me a lot of the time that Pearl Jam took on Ticketmaster, which in turn reminded me a lot of a bowl of jell-o taking on a herd of wildebeests. The left can’t compete in the Christian market. Let’s face it, the folks who declare Robert Mapplethorpe “art” simply have no credibility in that particular market. With that said, Country is a family friendly format they still think they have a chance of corrupting, and Miley Cyrus may be their perky little Trojan horse into that industry.
You mean a pop star might have a manufactured persona? This is worse than I thought. Pray for Toby Keith, my friends. But wait, what actual evidence is there that Cyrus might be insincere in her publicly stated Christian beliefs?
A good example of her more questionable behavior is that she was involved in a scandal that included some pictures she took of herself with her camera phone. Her actions bordered on sexting, and she was involved with this before she was old enough to bug her dad for the keys to the pickup. The photos were pictures of her in her underwear, wetting herself down in a shower wearing only a white t-shirt, and lounging in the arms of boy in what appeared to be a sort of early teen afterglow. Of course she apologized, but apparently didn’t learn anything from the incidents. Soon after she, and her parents, allowed her to be photographed for Vanity Fair magazine in a manner that would suggest her core audience was a rampaging pack of pedophiles. Once again, she apologized.
When that whole Vanity Fair thing went down, I just assumed it was an entirely media-generated controversy designed to sell copies of US Weekly and get Perez Hilton and TMZ page views whenever some perv googles “Miley Cyrus sexy” for the rest of eternity, and that no sentient human being could actually be offended by those photos. Thanks for sorting me out Brian Cherry!
You know, if Cherry really thinks that all it takes to negate the conservative movement’s cultural influence and threaten its institutions is a teenage girl’s bare shoulder, he might want to consider betting on a different horse.
But the fact that Miley Cyrus is human female with a human female body that sometimes gets photographed isn’t his only evidence against her. Behold:
While Miley is portrayed as type who can be found in Church on any given Sunday morning, she is even moving away from the official religion of the entire industry, and experimenting with Buddhism. When talking about her religious beliefs, Miley put herself out of step with the core country audience when she made this statement:
“The one thing I’m really strong about regarding my religious beliefs is that you should know a little bit about everything before you define your own beliefs. I think all religions have a good practice in them. Liam and I have been reading about Buddhism lately and it’s all about hope and love. To me, faith is about having a clean slate and a clean start.”
Expressing a desire to be religiously literate apparently puts one “out of step with the core country audience.” I went to Catholic school. We were assigned books about Buddhism. Buddhism is a major world religion, and if you’re a person who takes religion seriously, you should probably be educated about it.
As for the “I think all religions have a good practice in them,” well, that’s no different than what the Catholic Church teaches, at least. And most mainline Protestant denominations generally articulate the same line that non-Christian religions are imperfect expressions of humankind’s relationship with God. Cyrus isn’t saying anything here that most Christian ministers wouldn’t also say.
What Miley has that others don’t though, is a father who can get her through the Nashville gauntlet and into the club without paying any real dues. While it is nearly inevitable that she will one day take advantage of a country music plan B, the problem is that she could be a corrupting, left-leaning, influence on an industry that so many liberal elites want to see taken out of the “red state” column.
It should be obvious to anyone that country music is hardly the sole purview of strict conservative values, but I won’t belabor a point that’s been well-documented elsewhere. What funniest to me is that Brian Cherry is actually worried about the political implications of Miley Cyrus.