If Thine Eye Offends Thee…

If Thine Eye Offends Thee…

Caveat:  I neither watch nor read Game Of Thrones and never intend to.

I’m sure it’s wonderful; George R.R. Martin is a great writer whose work I admire.

I have no problem with concept or content; it certainly sounds enjoyable.

I just don’t have the time.

Call it an ever increasing awareness of my own mortality, call it being burned by The Sopranos, but I’m very cautious as to how I invest my viewing / reading time.

Basically I don’t want to get caught in any long form open ended stories.

This problem goes back a long ways:  When we were watching broadcast TV I’d typically get thru the first season of a show only to watch it spottily after that if at all.

It eventually got to where three episodes was all I could take.

Loved Sherlock season one; no desire to watch Sherlock season three.

Loved True Detective season one; no desire to watch True Detective season two.

I’m not being critical, it’s just that I get the point and once the point is gotten I’m ready to move on.

I also don’t want to invest time in stories and characters who will then be upturned or killed off for lack of anything more interesting to do with them.

Zero interest in any future Marvel or DC movies unless they’re solo Wonder Woman adventures.  I may give ‘em a view when they reach Netflix and I can fast forward through ‘em, but I’m not seeking them out.

I watched I, Claudius and enjoyed it and will watch the DVD set again on occasion, but the body count was never that high on the show and when they did start stacking corpses like cordwood the people most likely to get it in the neck were decidedly unlikeable.

I won’t watch Game Of Thrones or Attack On Titan despite all the rave reviews of same because there’s enough arbitrary death in the real world.

I can appreciate a character’s death when there’s some meaning and emotional weight attached to it, but I’m not going to watch shows where there’s a good chance characters I will invest time and interest in will get summarily bumped off.

So if you enjoy Game Of Thrones, by all means enjoy yourself.  I’ll pass that item on the entertainment buffet and move on.

. . .

Now, I bring this up because I want to establish my bona fides.  My avoidance of Game Of Thrones is purely based on personal convenience, not a judgment of any kind (though I will say if Game Of Thrones had fat guys in winged suits instead of CGI dragons, I would be sorely tempted).

We’ve got yet another moralist telling other people they are worthless sacs of human excrement destined for hell because they don’t do what he does.

Oh, that’s what Paul Bois means.  He may not actually say it, but when you’ve been an editor as long as I have, you recognize subtext when it gobsmacks you between the eyes with a two-by-four, and Mr. Bois has done a lot of gobsmacking.

“Despite all the sex, despite all the nudity, despite that Pornhub experiences a lull in traffic on nights GOT airs, often I hear my religious conservative friends go on ad nauseam about why it's God's greatest gift to television, and how I'm a loser if I don't black out my schedule for the next week to binge-watch all six seasons. Not once, however, have they not included this nifty little qualifier: ‘The sex and nudity are difficult at first, but you'll learn to look past that.’"

Now before we proceed with Mr. Bois’ pants down public spanking, let’s all agree on this one basic point:  No one is required to partake in any otherwise voluntary human interaction against their will.  Prude or profligate, we are each allowed to determine our personal comfort levels.  I don’t care to watch Game Of Thrones because I’m not willing to invest the necessary time or emotional energy; you might not want to watch it because you don’t like stories with dragons; a third person may not want to watch it because nudity and sex makes them squeamish; while a fourth may draw the line at violence.

All of which are fine.

And none of which invalidates a fifth person’s interest in the show.

“By watching GOT and most of cable programming's pornographic garbage, even if we fast-forward through the smut and get to the good stuff, we in a sense become complicit to the madness. We become one more notch in HBO's ratings belt for them to boast of.

“Honestly, would it really hurt us to just stop watching? Will we die a torturous death and sink into a black void? Can we not read a book? How many have watched GOT but have never even glanced at Dante or Milton?”

Well, that is an eyebrow archer.  Yeah, I have glanced -- more than glanced, actually -- at Dante and Milton.  I doubt seriously that Mr. Bois has.  Turn off your safe search, Google image search “Dante’s Inferno + Gustave Dore”, and STAND BACK.

But as for fast forwarding through the smut to get to the good stuff, he writes this:

“Michelangelo's ‘Statue of David’ and ‘Creation of Adam’ are works of art about beauty in the flesh. They transcend our spirits, not feed our carnal pleasures like the majority of cable television's programming. Yes, art can be objectively measured. Prager U confirmed this.”

Oh, Paul, you started out so strong.  Yes, indeed, there’s a marked difference in the intent of various depictions of nudity in art.

There was a lot of nudity in book and magazine illustrations and advertising in the 19th and early part of the 20th century:  Nudity was symbolic of purity, of perfection, of idealism, of beauty, of communion with the natural world.

The change started in the late 1920s and early 1930s when moralists began sexualizing all depictions of nudity.  This was ancillary fallout from the moral panic that gave us organized international crime and the utter corruption of legislatures, courts, and law enforcement in the form of Prohibition.

And as I’ve posted before, I think a strong argument can be made for the Sistine Chapel, particularly the ‘Creation of Adam’ panel, as one of the worst pieces of art ever committed, not because it lacks technical or artistic skill but because it violates the 2nd commandment re “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” and then compounds the blasphemy by depicting God as an old white man.

But I can see why that image comforts you.

But you’re really blowing smoke out your rump by claiming the majority of cable TV’s programming is focused on carnal pleasures.

If by “carnal pleasures “ you mean cooking shows and fishing shows and sports shows and travel shows and about a hundred or so special interest channels found on every major cable system, okay, ya got me.

But if you’re talking about Game Of Thrones type programming…un-unh.  Nope.  Nyet.  Not by a long shot.

But the real kneeslapper in that paragraph is citing Dennis Prager and his media based “university” as a moral authority.

Prager is a slick snake oil salesman straight off the old Chautauqua circuit, pushing a message that’s 50% self-evident fact and 50% egregious horse manure mixed together so skillfully the bulk of his audience doesn’t realizing they’re swallowing horse crap.  He promotes ignorance in the guise of education, playing to fears and prejudices instead of actually examining the issues at hand.

Citing Prager is bogus enough, but Mr. Bois then drops this road apple:

“In the pop cultural conversation, we hate to be known as that guy, the one we see at church always singing out of tune with the pencil-stuffed chest pocket. The guy who thinks the dark night of television descended upon us when Herman and Lilly were shown sharing a bed on The Munsters. We definitely do not want to be that guy. 

“Forgive me as I step into the role of that guy for a moment, though I don't think the dark night of television began with The Munsters. Quite contrary to your dismissive exclamations of ‘PURITAN!’ right now, I voted for Trump and echo Benjamin Franklin's apocryphal line that ‘beer is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy.’"

Whoa-whoa-WHOA!!!  You cite voting for Donald “Grab ‘em by the pussy” Trump as evidence of your moral bona fides, your moral values?

You dare pass judgment on the speck in the eyes of others while you’ve got this sequoia jammed in your eyeball?

To lift a line from The Stunt Man, hop up and down, Mr. Bois.

I want to hear those great big brass balls of yours clanging together.

. . .

Unrelated to the above, but popping up on my feed at around the same time (presumably because of the release of War For The Planet Of The Apes), is this 2012 article by Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

I may not see eye-to-eye with Mr. Moore on all issues, but his essay was interesting and thought provoking, especially since it represents the POV of a person who is not normally reviewing science fiction films and is approaching the genre from a fresh angle.

He focuses on the original 1968 film with Charlton Heston, the 2001 reboot, and the then most recent film in the series, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes in the context of each film representing an eschatology reflecting the greatest cultural anxiety of its decade.

Using words like “eschatology” is one reason old line churches are losing members, but in fairness to Mr. Moore, his intended audience are Southern Baptists and Southern Baptists do know what eschatology means.

He raises several points I hadn’t considered before about the films, and shows how the Church can use pop culture to help illustrate and explain theological concepts.

But I must admit I’m surprised he made no mention of Beneath The Planet Of The Apes, the first sequel to the original film and one of the most insane movies ever made.

It has to be the single most nihilistic film ever produced and released by a major studio, the only big budget production to openly advocate that destroying humanity and the rest of the planet might be not merely a good idea, but A Very Good Idea, Indeed!

And while the method of destruction might echo the original film, the second film shows the weapon used not in a murder but a suicide.

If nuclear fears in the 1960s were about two rival empires destroying each other in a quest for domination, then the 1970s reflected a sense of ennui, despair, and depression that saw no hope in anything other than a swift and merciful death.

20th Century Fox re-released Beneath The Planet Of The Apes in a double feature with Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls and we can only imagine how mainstream audiences responded to that one-two punch.

It must’ve been like getting whopped upside the head with a blackjack in one direction, then clipped on the other with the backswing.

 

© Buzz Dixon

 

 

"Darkness" by Lord Byron July 1816

fictoid:  The Role She Was Born To Play

fictoid: The Role She Was Born To Play