Evangelical tribalism on display (with photos)

Buzzfeed’s Matt Stopera shares “56 Things I Learned at the Biggest Christian Music Festival in the World.”

That would be the 34th annual Creation Festival, right here in Pennsylvania. I’ve been there twice.

Stopera’s piece is similar to the handful of CBA Freak Show articles that will be coming out later this month, after the annual ritual of the Christian Booksellers Association Convention. (This year’s CBA convention — now called the “International Christian Retail Show” runs July 15-18. Look for those articles soon.) Those all follow a similar pattern to the other crop of chuckling articles that will be coming out this month after Comic-Con 2012 in San Diego.

I give Stopera credit for bringing a generous approach to the Creation Festival — he’s not sneering or condescending in the way too many reporters at events like this can be. His criticism is aimed at vendors, organizers and sometimes the overall ethos, but he avoids ridiculing the attendees themselves. And I give him extra credit because, unlike reporters passing through the CBA or Comic-Con, Stopera had to commit to three days of waiting in line for port-a-potties.

“The port-a-potties at Creation were definitely the cleanest I’ve ever been in,” he writes. “It definitely has something/everything to do with there being no drinking allowed.”

Stopera finds a host of anti-abortion, anti-Kony commerce going on in Creation’s vendor booths (causes that strike similar emotional notes in their appeal there, and that perhaps fulfill similar emotional needs). But apart from a “Don’t Mess With Marriage!” bumper-sticker from that one creepy old bumper-sticker guy, Stopera says, “I didn’t see any mention of anything gay the entire time.”

That’s almost encouraging. Almost.

Unfortunately it’s still taking place in a context in which the default setting is exclusion and condemnation. Creation isn’t going to “generate controversy” by including any openly gay artists or speakers — or even any openly non-anti-gay artists or speakers. And its practice of forbidding such artists from playing there doesn’t “generate controversy” for its target audience.

I suspect, mainly, the absence of more explicitly anti-gay material at Creation is a function of the same impulse we saw in Halee Gray Scott’s “I Am Not Charles Worley” article — the desire to be anti-gay and anti-legal-equality while still being perceived as a “nice” person.

But maybe also — maybe — the lack of anti-gay merchandise at Creation also reflects the raw profit-seeking that seems to drive so much else of what those vendors are all about at Christian festivals. Ministry schministry — those vendors are driven by supply and demand and they’ll sell whatever they think this audience would be willing to buy. So maybe they’ve learned that the younger generation that makes up the bulk of Creation’s market just isn’t interested in buying anti-gay T-shirts and that carrying that stuff only takes away valuable selling-space from more profitable T-shirts, bumper-stickers, “scripture tags” and other sorts of tribal totems.

Maybe that’s part of it too. I hope.

* * * * * * * * *

The awkward, uneasy relationship that conservative Christians have with pop culture is also at work in a product Steve Buchheit alerts us to: “Clear Play, you won’t even know what you’ve missed.” The nearly life-like spokesperson in the video says:

Have you ever wished that you could eliminate offensive distractions that keep you and your family from enjoying a movie even more? Well now you can, with the Clear Play DVD Player. Just put in any movie and it will edit out the content you’re uncomfortable with.

It seems this is a real thing.

You can download the “filters” for many movies from Clear Play’s site.

You can, for example, download filters to allow you to watch a raunch-free version of Jonah Hill’s raunch-fest The Sitter. Or filters to allow you to watch a gore-and-violence-free version of Friday the 13th.

Why you would want such versions of those movies is another matter. Clear Play says their technology allows you to watch almost any movie as part a nice, respectable, G-rated “Family Movie Night.” But what kind of person would ever imagine that The Sitter or Friday the 13th ought to be part of their G-rated Family Movie Night? What is someone thinking who says, “I don’t like raunchy humor, but I’d like to watch The Sitter?” Or who says, “It would be fun to watch Friday the 13th with the kids, if only there weren’t so much violence?”

I understand the general idea here, and there are commendable reasons for wanting such a service. Not all of those reasons are necessarily as creepy as that creepy slogan: “You won’t even know what you’ve missed.” But the overall vibe one gets from Clear Play is just exactly that creepy.

And also, frankly, a bit sad. Buchheit writes, “It reminds me of the Friends episode where Phoebe finds out she really didn’t know the end of Ol’ Yeller.” And I can also imagine some poor Ned Flanders type spending 45 minutes one evening to watch both Godfather movies, then wondering why his friends thought they were so great.

“You won’t even know what you’ve missed” is a terrible marketing slogan. But it’s even worse as an epitaph — which is what it could be for those who spend their whole lives inside of this kind of sanitized bubble.

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  • GDwarf

    I’m reminded of the Blockbuster box for…The Two Towers, I think it was, that included a list of things that audiences might wish to be aware of before watching the movie. It had only one item:

    “Drug use: A man smokes a pipe”

    Which was so absurd that I remember it much better than the movie. Never mind the fact that the violent battles aren’t mentioned, no one would object to those, I guess. Never mind that incidentally portraying someone as smoking a pipe is probably not going to corrupt today’s youth. Just the fact that it’s “Drug use”. I mean, it’s technically correct, but I half-wonder if they thought Pipeweed was secretly crack or something.

  • Turcano

     No, because that should be done to the book in its entirety.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    Actually, your second (b) should be about how he can reach supersonic speeds using nothing more than flat discs that fit into the palms of his hands and soles of his feet. And add a (d) about how that armour can also shrug off .60 caliber bullets with nothing to show for it but a few pockmarks.

    .60 caliber bullets, nothing – it eats a 120mm SABOT with nothing but a scratch.

    Also, that arc reactor has an output measured in gigawatts

    I was just shouting “Europa! Europa! Europa!” throughout the last act of Battle LA. 

    Most.  Common.  Compound.  In the universe.  Even the absolutely terrible ‘what if aliens invaded!’ documentary I found on Science channel got that one right.  (That documentary was amusing.  Complete failure of logic, with a side order of Oh John Ringo No, but kind of amusing.

  • Tricksterson

    During the Sixties and Seventies it was a meme that pipeweed wasn’t tobacco but  marijuana.

  • Personally, I think The Davinci Code and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix both benefitted greatly from being trimmed down to fit feature film-length.

    When The Golden Compass came out it had been years since I’d read the book. I was briefly baffled by people complaining about how much had been left out because I didn’t notice anything missing, then I remembered that at some point I got bored with the side-plots and skimmed anything that wasn’t focused on Lyra. Apparently the scriptwriters had done the same.

  • Tonio

    The film version of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince left out quite a bit as well, at times seeming like an outline of the book. The deletions left the background and identity of the Prince mostly unexplained, and these also took away some of the depth of the the conflict between Harry and Snape.

    The opening seen was strange as well – it looked like a setup for a sitcom joke where the server mocks Harry’s young age. The idea of Harry as a sex symbol (which was hinted at in the book) just seems wrong somehow. Similar to how Smallville had Clark receiving attention from just about every eligible woman on the show, except Harry seems more vulnerable because of his age. Even the scene where Lavender Brown makes Ron’s hospitalization all about her, only to hear him mumble the identity of his true love, could have come from a sitcom, although I did laugh at the scene.

  • “We need a ‘good’ version, that photoshops… random Ambassador Kosh appearances into movies. ”

    This really needs to be a thing. I cannot think of s single movie that would not be improved by Ambassador Kosh.

    Ellen Ripley: How long after we’re declared overdue can we expect a rescue?
    Kosh: ::warble warble:: At the hour of scampering.

  • lowtechcyclist

    From a practical POV, I can see this sort of thing making some sense with, say, Good Will Hunting.  There’s a s***load (sorry, couldn’t resist) of profanity in that movie, but it’s not like it’s essential to the story of a blue-collar math genius who works as a janitor at  an elite university, and is discovered when he solves a previously unsolved problem that a professor has left on a blackboard as a challenge for his students.

    To flip this around, Napoleon Dynamite could have included profanity and mild sex/nudity, but it didn’t, and there really wasn’t a big hole left by their absence in the actual film.   Imagine GWH written the same way.

    On the whole, though, I think it’s a pretty stupid idea, especially for adults.  I mean, c’mon, if you’re a grownup Christian and you believe that your faith is stronger than the world, rather than the other way around, you’re not going to be harmed by some expletives or mild nudity.  I can see the point of something like this if you want to show a movie like GWH to your 10 year old kid, or your 80 year old Aunt Mildred.  But anyone else who wants this for their own benefit should just grow up.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Especially given that they’re apparently all under the unwavering belief
    that it’s inappropriate for a child to see a nipple. Might scar ’em for

    The MPAA’s officials were all bottle babies, I take it.

  • Adding something very late to the Iron Man conversation, but this is something I’ve thought about a lot in speculative fiction. James Kakalios’ excellent The Physics of Superheroes address the idea of the “miracle exception” that the audience will
    accept, however outlandish, but then you have to tell a plausible story
    with that miracle exception.

    I’m willing to accept just about any premise, but you have to follow through on that premise logically. So in Iron Man, tiny supergenerators and near-indestructible power armor is fine – but a new, stable heavy element that cures metal poisoning? (Witness Stark’s veins go back to normal as soon as the new reactor starts up.) That doesn’t fall under the premise, and is not set up properly in the film itself. (It does work if you watch IM2 after Captain America, which retroactively sets up Howard Stark’s discovery.)

    Similarly, I could not stand John Woo’s Face/Off. I can accept super-surgery transplanting faces easily, but the film acts as if they switched bodies entirely. Why not just do that?

  • danno

    Golly, Fred, people of like minds get together all the time. Are you saying atheists shouldn’t have conferences, Democrats shouldn’t have conventions, comic book fans shouldn’t gather together? oh, wait … oh, I see now. The other people who can’t gather with one another are Christians. I understand now….

  • MaryKaye

    Hasbro made them change her name as they felt “Frisby” was actionably close to “Frisbee”(tm). Or at least so I heard in an interview with Bluth.

  • My intuition is that it was likely not actionably close in and of itself, but it would have presented a problem when they inevitably tried to sell action figures (This happens in The Transformers franchise sometimes, causing certain transformers to have different names in the merch than on-screen)

  • My sister – target market for such Christian music – would openly protest a music festival that allowed the anti-gay sorts to proliferate. So would most her friends.

    But on the other hand, many others who either sell stuff or run stuff still want to include their anti-gay friends, so they also don’t have a big support. So there’s that.

    However, I think things are more clearly in my sister’s hands. She’s still quite faithful – but not in any sort of denomination or politics that includes division.