I was up late last night watching TV. I’d already put my daughter to bed, so I wasn’t watching the Disney Channel anymore (thank god). I actually don’t mind the Disney Channel SO much, but for some weird fucked up reason we left the Disney Channel on ALL day yesterday and so we literally saw like every show at least twice. And not just every show, but every episode of every show!
I used to always get freaked out when I would visit someone else’s house in the evening and they would have the Disney Channel or Noggin or some kid’s show on the TV. It would always make me think of that story from “Twilight Zone: The Movie” where the kid could wish for anything he wanted, so he was living in a kind of kid fantasyland where he ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for every meal and the TVs played cartoons ALL day. Unfortunately for the rest of his family being stuck in the kid’s fantasyland was the exact same as being stuck in hell.
I always swore that I would never let my kid watch kid shows at night. I would always say to my daughter, “You can watch whatever you want in the mornings, but at night I’m watching whatever I want, nighttime is adult time.”
But yesterday…I don’t know what happened??
I know that I started working on some drawings in the afternoon so LuLu got to stay in control of the remote for most of the day. From somewhere out of the stew of bright, smiling tweens and canned laughter I noticed that the episode of “Sonny with a Chance” starring Demi Lovato where her best friend comes to visit from Wisconsin and then ends up going to Chad Dylan Cooper’s party with Tawni was coming on for the third or fourth time (or maybe it was the episode where Nico and Grady try to get revenge on the nefarious security guard who keeps stealing their pizzas) and I realized that we’d been through the whole cycle several times over! “Sonny with a Chance,” “Wizards of Waverly Place,” “Hannah Montana,” “Tru Jackson VP!” All repeated. All day. With multiple episodes repeated from each series!
Sweet Niblets!! My eyes were bleeding lip-gloss tears with dayglo leggings!!
[Laughter from the audience.]
LuLu finally went to bed and Nikki (my girlfriend) was spending the night at her mother’s. At last, no more Disney Channel and no Hugh Grant movies, last night was MY night to watch some TV. I watched a couple of episodes of “Celebrity Apprentice” (totally bad-ass!), I tried to watch last week’s episode of “LOST,” but my tivo caught a cold and glitched it up, I watched an episode of “Flight of the Conchords” (even better than last season!) and then settled in for some mindless hours of SportsCenter.
Daytime television is for housewives and children, so the advertisements are full of uplifting cleaning products (like the Swiffer!) and ridiculous cartoon breakfast cereals. Nighttime television is reserved for the sad and the lonely. That’s when many channels turn into paid infomercials for exercise machines or pyramid schemes. Anything to sucker those sad sacks up late at night who are as desperate to change their miserable lives as they are incapable of doing anything about it.
This was about the time when my eyes lifted up out of the darkness in my living room and landed upon the latest offering from the Time Life Collection called “I Can Only Imagine.”
It was billed as a collection of Christian Anthems including artists like Amy Grant and…Michael English??
I don’t know what it is about Christianity. I can’t quite place my finger on it. There was something unsettling about watching the cavalcade of affluent white people, dressed nicely and singing about Jesus to thousands of other white people. It gave me the same kind of weird, uncomfortable feeling that I get from country music.
There is something strange and kind of surreptitious about both Evangelical Christianity and country music. There is nothing overtly offensive or aggressive about either one of them. In fact they both trade on the perception that they stand for nice things like “the family” and “traditional values,” but to outsiders (like me) the message comes across kind of like, well, if they stand FOR things then they must stand AGAINST things also, like, for instance, anything that does not fit into THEIR definition of “family” or “traditional.”
Evangelical Christianity and country music both come off as not just the byproducts of a white, middle-class, jingoistic, cult society, but also as the purveyors of it. Listening to a country singer wail about the “good ol’ days” and the “way things were” evokes the same kind of awkward emotional response as listening to a Christian talk about “family values.” They both sound nice enough to the ears with their saccharine syntax, but to anyone outside of the “cult” it is hard not to detect a subtle subtext of racism and hate. In the “good ol’ days,” as they called it, blacks were still slaves and as far as I can tell no one is rushing to include Muslims or gays into the Christian “family.”
Over the years I have taken a kind of playful, but also kind of irreverent approach to religion. Christianity is not necessarily any better or worse than any other religion, it just happens to be that Christianity is the preeminent religion in the preeminent nation of the world. It is amplified and exaggerated not only by its own eminence, but also by its association with, and its adoption of, American values.
Much like McDonald’s, American Christianity (and Evangelical Christianity in particular) has become a symbol of American culture that is as accurate as it is preposterous. It is bloated and arrogant and out of touch with modern thinking.
I watched with great interest the commercial for Time Life’s “I Can Only Imagine” CD collection. I am endlessly fascinated by the things that fascinate US. I care about the things that people care about the most. Gods, devils, angels and ghosts. All things that are infinitely implausible and yet they are the most celebrated, feared and revered artifacts within our culture.
Christianity, McDonald’s, Country Music and even The Disney Channel are all a part of who we are, for better or worse. Whether you endorse them or not, you cannot escape their influence. Over the course of our lives we will all be exposed, more or less, to the same things.
At the end of the day what separates us from one another and makes us unique (or not), is NOT so much about all of the things that we do or see…
It is in the way that we do and see them.
So, what do YOU believe in?