Saturday, September 15, 2007

Controversy Annoys the Heck Outta Me, but Hey! Why Not?

Yesterday, my awesome and greatly respected friend Niegel emailed me a Fox news correspondant's blog regarding a much pubilicized joke made by commedian Kathy Griffin. There's a lot to unpack here, but rather than forming a well thought out blog post, I just want to get this out there, so I'm posting the email discussion I had with him about it. Love to hear different reactions people are having,. So, first, here's the clip of Kathy Griffin's award acceptance speech that is causing such a stir. Followed by a link to the blog post that Niegel and I are writing about. Then a clip of Fox News reporting about the joke and blog response (you could host a whole blog on this clip alone). The issue we're really discussing, isn't so much Kathy's joke, but the way people are reacting to it, but feel free to react to whatever part of this cornucopia seems most distasteful.

Fox News Correspondant Lauren Green's Blog Response

My email after receiving the article from Niegel:

"I didn't hear anything about the original remark, but my sense is that Kathy Griffin seems less offensive than this correspondent does. Kathy Griffin saying "suck it Jesus, this award is my God now" is a self-effacing, self mocking statement that points out both the absurdity of basing one's identity on the awards one is given but also the insincerity of so many people who haphazardly thank God or Jesus when they're handed an award.

whereas, i couldn't even make it through this woman's article- who was so quick to be offended by A COMEDIAN (who's job, like Shakespeare's fools, etc, is to reflect our ridiculousness back to us by putting it on themselves) then goes on to try to teach church history. i just wonder what Jesus would have done. i think he would have understood Kathy Griffin, had compassion on where she's coming from (she's winning an award for how successful she is at making fun of herself and how disregarded she is- its gutsy to make a career of laughing at how people see and treat you- but that doesn't come without having to harden yourself to not be as hurt as you actually should be), --Jesus would not try to shame her further with an irrelevant history lesson. A lot of what "offends" people in general seems to be about their own self-involvement and an inability to look at where words are actually coming from or trying to say. Maybe there was humor meant in the way the correspondent is trying to prove that Jesus gave Kathy her award- that would be funny (and a great starting point for dialogue)- but the article comes across as over-earnest and self-righteous. But i'd love if it wasn't meant that way.

I've often thought of myself as someone who's difficult to offend- and to a large extent I think that's true. But where I do get hurt is when my humanity or personhood is trampled on. And in Kathy's statement, that did not happen to me, so I was not offended. She's trampling on her own personhood- and maybe it's good to be offended on her behalf. But I think she's effectively offending people who need to be shaken out of thinking that God gets offended the way we do. I don't think God does. God was probably more hurt at how Kathy sees herself and is able to joke about it, than in her laughing at how people receive awards which mean very little in the scheme of things.

what do you think about this article?

did you hear the original remark? how did you receive it?"

Niegel's Response:

"I too was struck by the journalists lack of awareness for Kathy's form. Kathy's comments I thought were in a self-mocking vain. Her statement definitely doesn't offend me! If anything, it forces me to consider my relationship to God and to objects and to vanity.

Unfortunately, I only think this writer knew how to 'react' and to 'respond' with emphasis on the prefix "re." She would have a much stronger argument if she had actually had a dialogue with Kathy's words. If she had engaged with the statement that Kathy is trying to make, the writer might actually get away with giving us the history lesson too. I think that lesson is exciting, though a bit naive, the line she draws from the fulfillment of Jesus to modern American democracy.

In general, I thought this article just represented the reactionary politics and journalism that we all need to be aware of and challenge. We need to demand (through user comments, letters to the editors, conversations with each other and purchasing power) more complex writing and sharing."


Mackenzie said...

People who aren't Christians should never be expected to act, think, talk, etc. like Christians. It wouldn't make sense if they did, and it doesn't make sense to expect that of them.

The blog/article by Lauren Green, which berates Kathy, speaks of the freedom Jesus brings and argues that Jesus DID have something to do with her winning, will not affect Kathy or non-Christians in any positive way.

Of course non-Christians/the world will say hideous (meaning - much worse than Kathy's speech) things about Jesus. That's what we should expect. Lecturing them about how they are wrong to say that means nothing to them, because they don't believe what we believe. It's not wrong to them.

Kj said...

Nicely stated Mackenzie.

Along that line, I think my biggest cringe in all of it, was listening to the Fox people act shocked that people were laughing, as if everyone should have known it wasn't okay to laugh. What morality ruler are they using for the Emmy's audience?

Mackenzie said...

Exactly Kayj. If a room full of people started laughing when someone said Jesus sucks or something like that, it wouldn't surprise me at all! And while it would be wrong according to my morality ruler, it wouldn't be wrong to them because they are of the world. They're supposed to think God and the things of Him are foolishness!

katrina said...

wow. these two videos bring out the two sides of rebelliousness within humans. one side is the prodigal son side - the worldly, "suck it Jesus" side. the other side is the elder son side - the highminded, moral, self-righteous side. the two are, at face value, very different but both, at the end of the day, are rebels against God.

Keepitmoving said...

Hey,did anyone catch that news guy stating that had Kathy used 'another' religious figure... like... Mohammad, that there would be hell to pay today. What was he suggesting, that the pubic would be more upset that she used such a figure? That the Emmy peeps would be more upset or that there would be retaliation (ahem 'terrorism') because as far as I can see, at least she is getting hell for it and what does she care?

I feel bad for her. Jesus humor is kinda the lowest of the low. Now, I mean this in utmost respect for the faith, of course, but it doesn't take much comedic 'skill' to make jokes about Christianity.

These people are all over reacting to a flippant comment as if it alone were setting Christians back a thousand years. Really they should be compassionate because Kathy could find no other material.

Kj said...

Anyone have thoughts/opinions on how Kathy Griffin is not offensive?

Garth said...

First, a caveat: I haven't watched either video clip, or read the original fox blog about this, so what follows may be totally off base.

In general I never much liked Kathy Griffin or her brand of humor, so even though I hate fox news and hate people telling other people what not to say (within reason), I'm having a hard time working up a big load of sympathy here, especially since for a comedian, controversy can only be a career boost. Michael Richard's use of the N-word being the exception that proves the rules since unanimous condemnation, though often confused with controversy, is a horse of an entirely different color.

Moreover, while I have no problem MORALLY with making fun of Jesus or any other faith, including my own, I do think Kim has a point that most Jesus jokes are actually not that funny. This isn't because Jesus and Christianity aren't full of humor potential, as much as it is that jokes about Jesus tend to rely on the sense of transgression, which, the overreaction of certain pundits notwithstanding, is simply not as strong as it once was.

Lastly, I'd like to point out that Kathy's joke here wasn't a "Jesus Joke". It was a joke about apostacy, idol worship, and lust for worldly acclaim, in which Christianity just happens to be the faith being abjured. In the formula of the joke, any deity could have stood in (although I think it works best with Jesus, since Christianity is the dominant religion in the culture of her audience), and I have to differ with Fox again here, in that if she had said "Allah", or "Krishna" or Hashem or whatever instead of Jesus, there would have been less protest for precisely the same reason that it would have been less funny&emdash;Christianity is the majority religion in our culture, and so it's more funny to abandon that in order to worship a piece of brass than it would be to abandon some less familiar faith in order to worship a piece of brass.

Christians should be proud that their theology has become so ubiquitous that the idea of worshiping a small metal statue is something that makes us laugh, and not something we actually do (though of course, in our thoughts and our hearts, most of us, whatever our avowed faith, do worship the trappings of worldly fame, which is what makes the joke not merely transgressive but incisive.

It's very easy to condemn someone for the words they use, much harder to take to heart their lesson.

Lastly, I do want to say that on a subjective level, people who are sincerely Christian have every right to dislike the joke and be made uncomfortable by it. That doesn't make it a bad joke, and it doesn't make Griffin wrong to tell it.

Kj said...

Garth- you brought it. I'm high fiving you over here.

thanks for your eloquent summary and exegesis of the issue. You said what Ive been trying to land on.

thanks everybody for your thoughts.

Controversy avoided.

Cabe said...

We live today in an increasingly post-Christendom culture. In times past, Christianity was really the only acceptable religion in the United States, and in many places it still is (You still pretty much have to claim to be a Christian to get elected president).

That may sound great to some people, and in some ways I think it is, but in many other ways it distorts the faith.

When Christianity is given power, we historically don't tend to handle it better than others in power for very long (See the Inquisition, the Crusades, the 30 years war, Native American Genocides and countless other acts of cultural and theological arrogance). A culture's favorite Bible verses are quoted out of context (or allegorized) in order to justify just about anything.

It is this Jesus that Kathy Griffin is protesting - an oppressive non-Jesus born of eisegesis, greed and hunger for power. He is a mythical figure who indeed founded democracy and capitalism, not to mention the modern day Republican party. He is the God of American superiority, and we are his chosen people who will take his gospel of freedom and free markets to the ends of the earth. He is a white male with blond hair and blue eyes, and he is worshiped everyday in strip malls and Wall-Marts nationwide.

I am not at all offended by Kathy Griffin's remarks, which seem intentionally comedic and appropriately satirical. But I am offended by Fox News's Lauren Green and her ill-conceived and ahistorical attempt to connect the annointed messiah of democracy, capitalism, and consumerism with the Jesus of the Bible and my faith.

Also, one final point. If Kathy Griffin had attacked Mohammad, she would have been attacking a religious figure whose followers are - in this country - marginalized. Attacking the primary religious figure of an oppressed group is very different than attacking the primary religious figure of a group who has used that person to justify their acts of oppression[1]. It is now socially acceptable to critique the majority (or perhaps now, plurality), which I think is great. Maybe we should focus less on the speck in Kathy Griffin's eye, and more on the log in our own.

[1] I'm also aware of the fact that many Muslims use Mohammad in similar ways, and I would extend the same critique to them where they are in power, though in a different way, since on the world's stage we are still the dominant power.

Kj said...

Thank you for clarifying why Lauren Green's editorial made me sick to my stomach. It's totally the Jesus-as-America thing, or even the assumption that Jesus is pro-Reformation that just sounds so oblivious and limited in perspective. I've definatley been having trouble articulating what about Lauren's blog made me so upset/annoyed-- but the only way I could try to dig that out was to analyze what she's reacting to- kathy's joke. But really, the issue for me here has always been the misguided and arrogant response of the Christian journalist. And the Fox news team's response only highlights the issue of majority vs. marginalization.