The Rambler :: blog

Monday, January 10, 2005

This production contains appropriate use of strong language and religious mythology 

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Seriously, you have been fairly warned.

So, I watched Jerry Springer on the telly the other night. There's been a lot of hoohah over this, which is ironic because its all-too-rare that the Beeb fulfils its remit to show high quality arts productions, and its even rarer to see contemporary music theatre on the box. So three cheers there for a start.

There's been so much fuss over this thing (and Michael Brooke has linked to a number of blog responses, as well as adding some of his own thoughtful comments) that I won't needlessly add words of support* that are already elsewhere. Of course it is a good thing that the BBC put this on, of course most people are protesting without having seen what they're protesting about, and of course most of them are missing the point entirely due to a campaign whipped up by the most fanatical and hypocritical corners of the media. But, there were a few things that occured to me as I watched that I don't think have been picked up anywhere else.

1) The charge of blasphemy. Well, given that a) the Jesus character wasn't wearing a nappy, as widely reported, but a loincloth (you know, like He wears on every Crucifix in the world) and b) this was a character in a stage production of a TV show metaphorically doubling as a Christ figure, which makes us many times removed from realistic representation, then it's strange (but not surprising) that the Christian right have picked up on this image to support their charges. What the church genuinely might have a problem with is the opera's central theme - articulated by Jerry near the end - that there are no absolutes of good and evil, that such things are in constant flux. This is much harder to square theologically with the Bible - and the Torah and Koran for that matter, but I don't see Jews and Muslims aren't making a fuss - than Christ admitting that he might be a little bit gay. But then sophisticated theological debate isn't the stuff of Dail Mail headlines.

2) The opportunity to watch something else. Haha! - surely the BBC had tongue gleefully in cheek on this one? About an hour before the opera started, a BBC spokesman (didn't catch a name) was talking on Radio 5, and suggested that if people were worried that JS:tO might offend (on either the bad language or religious fronts) then they might want to switch to another BBC channel: on BBC 1 he observed was Billy Connolly (the Billy Connolly well known for his clean mouth and uncontroversial material), and on BBC 4 was the Long Firm, a drama about an openly gay gangster. Tee hee!

3) The language. The charge that 8000+ swear words appear in the script has been widely debunked (and does arsehole count? Are we really that prudish?). A rough tally reckoned on more like 150-200. I'm not quite sure where the 297 cunts came from. I only spotted one passage using the word. And if you ask me, calling Satan a 'total cunting cunt' is the best possible use of the most powerful swear word in the English language.

So hurrah for the BBC. Maybe their charter should be up for renewal every year - it's certainly having a positive effect on their programming at the moment.

*However, I would suggest that if you want to register some support to the BBC for doing the right thing, click here to sign a petition of support.

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