Wednesday, August 6, 2014

More on “Black Jesus”, and the power and problem of

A regular weekly addition to my inbox is a email tailored to my interests:  sign someone’s petition against someone else’s outrageous behavior., along with other groups that use email and social media to gain signatures, have an instant way to gather like-minded individuals, and with a quick few clicks, can collect and distribute signatures in a way that was not possible before.  I’ve signed plenty of petitions, along with others as well.  I can say, without a doubt, that some of these petitions have had positive results in righting wrongs.

The potential problem with such emails is that they are always framed as clear.  

Petition emails are almost never presented as open for dialogue or conversation.  Instead, it it “here are the facts*, here is what those people have done or said**, here’s the place for you to be against them.”  *(may not actually be "facts")  **(may be taken out of context)

Consider the “Black Jesus” boycott from my last post, and presently found on  Imagine if you don’t know anything about the show, and haven’t watched the trailer, and you suddenly receive this email:

Cancel “Black Jesus” TV Show
This is blasphemy and an insult to all believers of Jesus Christ. This TV show has twisted the words of our Lord to make a mockery of him and simply can't be tolerated. This show is also racist and degrading to the black community. 
If you believe in the power of God, Please take 2 minutes to sign this petition and remove this blasphemy off our tv shows.

or perhaps…

REMOVE television show "Black Jesus" from the Airwaves
Cartoon Network and Adult Swim have opted to desecrate and openly MOCK Jesus Christ with their upcoming television show, Black Jesus. It is a complete disrespect to the name, character, and faith in Jesus Christ. It should NEVER make the airwaves and our petition is to have Cartoon Network remove this show from the airwaves. 

Each of these emails provide the trailer of the show for you to watch.

If you don’t accept these descriptions at face value, you might choose to watch the trailer. The problem is, the context for watching the trailer is “twisted the words of our Lord to make a mockery of him”, and “racist and degrading to the black community”.  Those are tough charges for a 2 to 3 minute video to overcome.  And if you don’t know that the creator of the show is Aaron McGruder, the African American satirist and The Boondocks creator, one might assume that, at best, this show is solely an attempt for cheap laughs built on racial and religious stereotypes.  

It might actually indeed be that:  I can’t tell just from a trailer that pulls scenes out of context to provide interest in the show. 

Consider what McGruder wrote a few months ago, as he stepped away from The Boondocks television show:

What has never been lost on me is the enormous responsibility that came with The Boondocks – particularly the television show and it’s relatively young audience. It was important to offend, but equally important to offend for the right reasons. For three seasons I personally navigated this show through the minefields of controversy. It was not perfect. And it definitely was not quick. But it was always done with a keen sense of duty, history, culture, and love. Anything less would have been simply unacceptable.

That’s his well articulated quest as an artist.  Guess what he said next:

As for me, I’m finally putting a life of controversy and troublemaking behind me with my upcoming Adult Swim show, BLACK JESUS.

Heh:  right…there’s the satirist.

Aziza Jackson writes on the culture behind why “You can’t talk about Jesus unless it’s in a love song, or as Christians call it, gospel music. His name is to be exalted and revered. Anything else is blasphemy.”:

All of this makes it easy to see that, although “Black Jesus” is a satirical television show and not a documentary on the life and works of Jesus Christ, this makes no difference to many conservative black Christians who find even the concept behind it to be fundamentally offensive. The reason this implacable point of view is embedded in complex layers upon layers of black history, culture, identity, and spirituality that this article has not even begun to scratch the surface of. 
McGruder knows this, and is using every one of these complex layers as material for the show, turning it into both a mirror on the culture and a reflective tool in order for society to see its true self, just like he did with “The Boondocks.” Only this time, it’s black Christians’ turn to see themselves reflected in it.

Now that I’ve read what I’ve read, I would be surprised if “Black Jesus” is primarily about laughs (no matter what the trailer excerpts).  The show may ultimately disappoint (and almost certainly will offend many).  There’s only one way to find out…

BTW:  Marcus Halley, in response to those who read his comment on the UBE website, has now written a blog post on the subject.  It is really well done!

1 comment:

Lionel Deimel said...

I, too, have signed many Internet petitions. When I do so, it is usually after I have formed an opinion about something and am happy to have had a petition come my way. When the petition concerns an issue I do not know about, I either research it further before deciding whether to sign, or I simply do not sign.