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Friday, December 31, 2010

Bondage of Corruption Pt. 1: Culture

“Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” Romans 8:21

The Holy Bible declares that corruption leads to bondage, while true liberty is only available to those who are freed from corruption by being counted amongst the children of God. In America, many today confuse liberty with license–that is, license in a sense of the freedom to behave as one wishes, especially in a way that results in excessive or unacceptable behavior. This behavior views corruption as freedom rather than bondage.

Nowhere is this spirit more easily observable than in our entertainment and entertainers–our storytellers, our musicians, our artists. This is made possible by a diversion away from the essence of things–the essence of what is good and what is intrinsically bad–and a preference for promoting the concept of the subjective over the reality of the objective.

It is manifestly unpleasant to hear fingernails dragged across a chalkboard. It becomes no less hideous when you make a video of this activity and play it on an endless loop, emblazoned on a hundred connected TV monitors in a museum, calling it an art installation. No matter how artfully done, it remains unpleasant.

It has been construed that pushing the boundaries of propriety–indeed, challenging the very notions of propriety, good taste, manners and common decency–somehow leads to better more legitimate art.
In spite of the general populous finding much of this sort of “art” repugnant, it is still somehow important to keep it in the public eye. Indeed, it is so important that some of the most repugnant art needs to be subsidized with public funding, as precious few in the private sector seem willing to patronize or own a portrait of the Virgin Mary smeared with fecal matter.

In essence, fecal matter is still fecal matter. It stinks. Objectively, that is. Subjectively, it is art, regardless of it being unpleasant in essence, poor in taste and potentially a health hazard if you were inclined to hang it in your home or place of business.

I used to own, with a couple of partners, a chain of three comic book stores in the 80’s and 90’s. Comic books have always been a big part of my life since I was seven years old, when my dad bought me my first comic, Captain America #117.

Recently, Spiderman, in an effort to keep his incredibly old Aunt May from dying, sold his soul to the Marvel Comics’ version of the devil. A provision in this deal, beyond the sacrifice of Peter Parker’s soul was that his marriage to Mary Jane would be wiped out of reality. So to save his aunt, he bargained his immortal soul and his marriage to the devil.

This is Spiderman, a character who in essence was one of the most incorruptible. What message does this send to the kids reading this story? It certainly devalues the idea of the immortal human soul. Does this sort of Faustian story make Spiderman better than when he was stopping Mysterio or the Green Goblin from robbing banks?

The comics I loved while growing up featured heroes who had a letter on their chest, a cape, and a magic word, who fought bad guys because they were bad and they needed their butts kicked. Now, you are hard pressed to tell the heroes from the villains–the morality is so subjective and ambivalent.
Some of the superhero movies so popular today I have enjoyed, but none of them have gotten the characters right. None of them! Hollywood is about to release a film based on the Thor comic book character. It looks like a fun film, but it is not The Mighty Thor of the comic. He may superficially look a bit like Thor but he is not Thor.

In the comics, Thor was banished from Asgard, the home of the Norse gods, because he was arrogant, selfish and without a speck of humility. To teach him the humility necessary to make Thor the hero he would become, his father, Odin, placed him in the body of a scrawny, physically lame medical doctor named Donald Blake.

As a crippled doctor, he learned the value of serving others and gained an appreciation for his prowess and the responsibilities that prowess granted him when acting as Thor. The Don Blake persona humbled him and made Thor a hero. In the film, he is just sent to earth and he is still a big strapping good looking blond guy capable of beating up a bunch of highly trained operatives. He just doesn’t have the super powers. A guy like that would still have a pretty good time here on earth. And a pretty hard time learning true humility.

Humility is no longer a virtue worth translating in a comic’s storyline today, or in film. At least, not through serving others as Don Blake did.

I watched a sci-fi film, “Splice” this week that depicts a creature made by a scientist couple, culled from the DNA of several different creatures. Upon reaching maturity, the creature has graphic sexual relations with the male scientist, and then transforms into a male creature and graphically rapes the female scientist leaving her pregnant. Thats a long way from “This Island Earth” which I loved growing up. I wouldn’t even let my son see “Splice”.

I stayed home with a cold yesterday and watched daytime TV. I saw classic episodes of “Emergency”, “I Spy”, “Kojak”, and “Quincy”–all great, all compelling episodic TV. In prime time, I watched Law and Order SVU, not a show I normally watch but it is rerun time.

They ran two episodes back to back. Both dealt with rape, and both found it necessary to have the rape victims relate their stories in uncomfortably graphic detail–detail that would not have been allowed at the time the shows I watched earlier in the day were produced.

The graphic detail didn’t make the shows more compelling than the earlier shows. It just made them more...disquieting, gratuitously so. Disturbing to a point where I decided to scratch “Law and Order SVU”  off my list of shows to watch. Rape is never a pleasant subject, but the graphic nature of the testimony stuck with me far longer than the satisfaction derived from seeing the perpetrators face their just desserts.

The graphic testimony didn’t make the show better, just more salacious–especially in the first show, where they kept showing the rapist’s face as the victim told her story and he was obviously deriving pleasure from the telling.

The governor is deactivated in music, film, Television. A culture gets the art it deserves by virtue of what it allows. I don’t mean in the sense of governmental regulation, but by what the citizenry itself will accept, promote and support.

“Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.” – Alexis de Tocqueville

Bread and circuses! As corruption rises in our culture our liberty erodes, spiritually and physically. We are being plied with more and more debauchery as is our nature to desire. Culturally, God and objective morality based on the adherence to the dictates of God are being supplanted by subjective, let-it-all-hang-out licentiousness.

At some point we need to grab a hold of the moral reins and give a collective “Whoa there!” As we become looser in our morality, more and more distracted by the bread and circuses, more and more restraints on our liberty are being hammered into place by those forwarding agendas like Cap and Trade. Most Americans didn’t even notice the FCC takeover of the internet on a three Democrats to two Republicans vote a few days ago.

Who are these people and who put them in the position to make such a decision?
At some point, we have to stop patronizing this crap, Stop going to the movies, turn the TVs off, stop downloading the music. All of it. If these industries see that we mean business by not buying anything until they eliminate the crap, the crap will continue to eat away at us and our children. It starts with me and you!

Digital Publius