Thursday, January 26, 2006

#227 - Where's the Beef?

In a classic portrayal of the "it's only acceptable when we do it" argument, producers of "Jerry Springer - The Opera" are upset that protests have diminished their ability to stage their musical.

Key oxymoronic quote:
Creators of "Jerry Springer - The Opera," the musical that sparked outrage among conservative Christians when shown on British television, say protests and lobbying have dented ticket sales for a tour in what they call a blow to freedom of speech.

That's right: protests and lobbies specifically protected as "freedom of speech" are a blow to the producers' "freedom of speech."

So... whose freedom should prevail?

The answer to that question always rests with the perspective of the person who framed it. And since I framed it, I get to answer it. In this case, the protestors are quite correct. They don't like the musical (or, more truthfully, the existence of the musical) and they want people to know how upset they are.

Go, protestors.

I'm guessing here that it isn't so much freedom of speech that has the producers biting their collective nails. It's more likely the loss of potential income from not being able to stage a production whose only purpose is to shock cultural sensibilities. There is no message we can attribute to Jerry Springer that can't be explained away as the megalomaniacal rantings of a bi-polar mind. Why should a musical based on his TV show be any more culturally significant?

But it's this protest against protestors that really sticks out here. The protests are, for the most part, religious in nature. Concerned Christians have organized (in ways that Christians rarely are capable of organizing) a solid protest of the depictions of religious figures in the musical. Jesus is considered to be "a little bit gay" and Eve is depicted as behaving in a completely inappropriate way. Composer Richard Thomas (no, not that Richard Thomas) explains such things as being nothing more than a depiction of a man's nightmares. Fair enough. The fact that 60,000 Brits felt strongly enough about it to call the BBC on the carpet for it means that, nightmare or not, they didn't like it. Not one bit. Thomas for his part feels that this is tantamount to religious censorship (in another article) and states that he'd rather be accused of being a blasphemer.

You got it, Dude.

Still, why castigate the protestors? Isn't this what democracy is all about? The ability to freely express opinions on any topic and have those opinions heard is a fundamental freedom. How is this any different from college students being allowed to throw pies at commentators with whom they disagree? Judging from the producers' arguments, I should be allowed to censure someone like Chris Matthews merely because I find him to be a loathsome, offensive, narrow-minded bigot. Not that there's anything wrong with that. And that goes double for Keith Olbermann.

So, you who really find some sort of entertainment or cultural value in "Jerry Springer - The Opera," go ahead and enjoy your show. We, in the meantime, will continue to hope that others will hear our arguments and choose to spend their money elsewhere.

Tithing comes to mind.

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