Thursday, January 06, 2005

Springer is Sprung... er?

I've just been listening to a discussion on the radio (on the Jeremy Vine show) about the controversy surrounding the proposed screening of The Jerry Springer Opera which contains some 8,000 expletives including those which are deemed particularly offensive as well as portraying the Virgin Mary as a victim of rape by an angel and similarly dubious and pejorative portrayals of Jesus and God. An unprecedented number of objections has been received by the BBC some 15,000 letters of protest. Indeed I know someone who has written.

Now I am all for exploring the issues of society through art and literature. I am also not of the belief that religion should be exempt from such scrutiny and exploration. However I think that, by the sound of it, this opera is using references to Mary and Jesus in order to shock as much as possible.

The discussion on the radio was between an art critic called Nicholas De Jong and a Christian preacher called John Blanshard. De Jong came across as aggressive and dismissive. Blanshard defended his position humbly and yet forcefully.

Here are some great highlights though:

Nicholas de Jong Have you SEEN the show?
John Blanshard: No and I haven't committed adultery
but that doesn't mean that I don't know it's wrong!

and my personal favourite...
Nicholas de Jong "We don't live in a theocratic state, thank God" (!)


Anonymous said...

I've posted about this subject on my own blog, but a couple of points.

Look at Bruce Almighty, which a number of people think is great, and I have even heard recommended from the pulpit. A large number of kids in our church have seen it and think it's great also. However you could quite easily construct a case to not show it due to it being blasphemous, and offensive to traditional Christian beliefs. As an example, think for a moment of the sequence shortly after God gives Bruce his power. Bruce is in an unmarried relationship, look at what he uses God's power to do, and especially consider what happens to her in the bathroom. If you sent an e-mail highlighting those parts of the movie, and hammered the point home on TV and radio, I'm sure that would produce a load of complaints.

Whilst if someone has seen something, found it offensive and thinks it is unsuitable I'm quite happy to back their right to express that opinion, however if they haven't seen it and are complaining on the basis of things like the e-mails that have been circulating and the selective facts about the show various people have been using on the radio and TV, again many without having seen or knowing that much about the show I think that it strays onto decidedly shaky ground.

I haven't seen Jerry Springer myself, but I know Christians who have seen the show who thought it was great, and have quite happily told me why they didn't think it was offensive, and also put all of the random 'it is offensive because ...' statements into their proper context. From their description, I certainly think that they thought it was trying to explore the issues of society, particularly the whole way the Springer show worked, the effect it had on it's audience, and particularly the way Springer came to be seen by his audience. (Bear in mind that all of the people on the real show thought that the Springer show was the way to solve their problems, and went on willingly).

Having said that to some extent they have only recently started to consider the deeper meaning behind what happens in the show, it has to be said as a result of the current storm, when they saw it they thought it was very funny, very tounge in cheek, generally a great night out.

Roger Vere Youth Worker said...

I'd be interested to see your blog on it but I don't know who you are!

Thanks for the comment.

I have used Bruce Almighty in sessions with young people. I think What Bruce does when he gets the power of God is a very HUMAN response and that is the message I took from it. I'm sure it could be argued that this is true for the Jerry Springer opera too. I haven't seen it so I don't know but if the chracters in it are portrayed as human or imaginary I don't mind but it was the implication that Mary was raped that really unnerved me. This brings into question the incarnation and the nature of the Trinity. That's quite a serious attack on a fundamental Christian belief.

That said, I'm still not sure whether I'm going to tune in or not. The clips I saw on the trailer didn't look offensive but they didn't look particularly GOOD either!

Anonymous said...

Sorry, keep forgetting that Blogger posts my comments as anonymous!


Anonymous said...

In terms of what you've said, I quite agree about Bruce Almighty, but I think you can see my point!

I hadn't come across the implication that Mary was raped being part of the show, so I'll ask the people who have seen the show what they thought about that when I get a chance.

From what they've told me, one point to bear in mind when considering a lot of what gets said (which is also why you're getting the 'Jesus in a nappy' comments coming from Mediawatch) is that in the second half, which is when the devil forces Jerry to stage his show in hell, the characters of Jesus, Mary, God and so on that come on are drawn from the characters who appeared on Jerry's 'real' show in the first half.

As I said, my understanding is that the show is using Christian concepts to make a comment about Jerry Springer and his ilk, rather than using Springer to make a comment about Christianity.

The following is a quote from the Guardian's review of the National Theatre production:

"But underneath that the book, by Thomas himself and Stewart Lee, touches on a genuine issue: whether TV is a mirror or a moral agent. In the second half the talk show host, who has been shot in a studio brawl, is transported to hell where he is confronted by the wrecked lives of his guests.
"I don't solve problems, I just televise them," he protests. But there seems a kind of rough justice in his being forced to arbitrate between Satan and God in a diabolical chat show and, for all its shock and schlock tactics, the show implies that TV has a moral responsibility."

As I said, I haven't seen it, but I certainly think that the e-mails that circulated initially don't tell us the whole story. There are a number of shows and movies that there have been Christian campaigns against (God, the Devil and Bob being one that comes to mind immediately) where, as with Bruce Almighty in my opinion they missed the point. I think with this I also need to decide for myself.


Anonymous said...

Oxford Diocese have posted an article discussing the show, specifically the question of whether the show is blasphemous at

The article is written by a Christian who has seen the entire show.