Saturday, March 28, 2009

Class 5 - Prop 8 The Musical Starring Jack Black

Various actors have portrayed Jesus. I unearthed a partial list at Listology:
  • Willem Dafoe in The Last Temptation of Christ
  • James Caviezel in The Passion of the Christ
  • Jeremy Sisto in Jesus (made for tv)
  • Brian Deacon in Jesus (from '79)
  • Claude Heater in Ben-Hur
  • Kenneth Colley in Life of Brian
  • Ted Neeley in Jesus Christ Superstar
  • William Powell in Jesus Of Nazareth
  • Max Von Sydow in The Greatest Story Ever Told
  • H.B. Warner in The King Of Kings
  • Jeffrey Hunter in the King of Kings ('61)
Most of these portrayals are pretty serious. Admittedly, Life of Brian is a comedy, and Jesus Christ Superstar is a musical. But marrying the two genres with a Jesus character hasn't widely been done before. And Jesus singing about two men marrying in a musical almost certainly hasn't been done before.

Until now.

A recent musical comedy, Prop 8 The Musical, was prompted by the issue of gay marriage.

There's a good background piece at about the video. The video was launched at Funny or Die about four months ago (written, as writer Marc Shaiman notes, "six weeks later than he shoulda" referencing the date of the passage of California's Ballot Measure 9) and has received almost 4 million hits.

Shaiman refers to it as a "viral picket sign...hopefully funny" in his interview at NYT ArtsBeat Blog.

What do you think? Funny? Blasphemous? Likely to influence someone who didn't have a strong opinion before seeing it?

Do you think if this had been produced before election day, it could have made a difference to the outcome?

Oh - and one more thing. I just discovered this, a mock PSA on the Jimmy Kimmel show by actress Portia de Rossi, who married Ellen Degeneres in August 2008.

Any thoughts?


Anonymous said...

Hi Holly - I guess the basic issue we’ve been wrestling with is whether satiric humor is an effective means of influencing opinions, attitudes and beliefs. Well, I would answer with a very firm maybe, or as our friends souse of the border say, “e’ depende” . Would a wide screening of the musical just before proposition 8 was voted on have change the outcome? Probably not. Again, let’s unleash those thesis-less grad students on the problem.
A couple of thoughts, however. I think that portraying Jesus in a comic context is counter-productive in debates about religious matters. It’s bad enough when the Born Agains blaspheme by arguing what Jesus would do about zits. Why piss off people unnecessarily? Also, people already sold on Leviticus have a number of ways of weaseling out of having to equate sodomy with noshing on shrimp. For one thing, there are different Hebrew words that we include under the word “abomination”. Eating shrimp and other tref falls under “shaqats” (interestingly, that word seems to be the source of the Yiddish word “shaggits” meaning a male gentile (feminine form is shiksa)). To’ba is the word used to describe idolatry, and all the non-missionary sex stuff. Also, there is exegesis, the last refuge of religious scoundrels. “That verse is surely allegorical, but this one is the literal word of God.” There are scads of academic theories why the Hebrews condemned things. Anthropologists like Mary Douglas argue that pronouncements as to what was kosher and what was not is based on the need to keep the categories of creation distinct, so don’t wear polyester or sow a field with corn and beans. Also the proper order of the universe must be maintained. There must be no contradiction between appearance and reality. So, just because both shrimp and finny fish swim in the sea, they are not the same in terms of clean and unclean.
I personally don’t subscribe to this. My predilection is for the thesis that there was no conquest of Canaan; the first Israelites were oppressed Canaanites who fled the cities to live in the hills. They naturally wanted to separate themselves from their previous heritage, so formulated rules to make separation distinct. First, don’t eat what you ate back in Gaza. One of the more interesting dietary laws observed today by the Orthodox is the separation of milk and meat. The prohibitory verse is, “thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother’s milk.”(Deut 14:21) Now, there is a Ugaritic (Canaanite) text of a poem that describes the pleasures of eating a kid boiled in its mother’s milk. Good enough? Probably not. Probably there is a lot of mix and match in motivations.
Well enough of these ramblings. Hope you are having a great time in Nawth Carolina.


shasha said...

Jack Black as the next Jesus Christ Superstar?!I can only guess how hilarious that could get. But hey, we should go with the times as they say.

Professor J said...

I thought the Prop 8 video was anything but blasphemous. As a lesbian--and someone who has studied Christianity a bit--I'd say it was right on. And it was funny, to boot.

I think that humor is an effective rhetorical device. We often think of argument as stuffy. And arguments about moral issues? Stuffy and self-righteous.

I think I may have to blog about this. Thanks for the topic, teach!

Fantastic Forrest said...

CRT - as always, you provide a banquet of food for thought. I've replied to most of what you say here in a private email already, so I won't rehash my comments.

Shasha - welcome! Hope to hear more from you on the previous movies.

Prof J - I agree with you, but I wonder if others do. As CRT suggests, it may be counterproductive as a persuasive device aimed at those in the middle. I'd be interested to hear if you test that idea, and what the results are. Your circle of friends (and mine too) is likely to not mind the spot. But what about others? I think CRT has it right when he says we need to unleash the grad students on these questions. :)