The Jesus/Christian Paradox

This post, despite it’s title, should not be offensive to anyone regardless of religious affiliation, or lack of religious affiliation.  So keep reading!

There is a thing that I’ve found myself referring to a lot lately, but I came up with the idea a long time ago.  I refer to it as “the Jesus/Christian Paradox.”  What it is, is when someone starts to get backlash, because their followers/supporters/fans are assholes, and not based on their own merit or lack thereof.  If you listen to most of what Jesus said, it’s pretty non-controversial, and while there are many amazing Christians, there are a few that are so irritating, that they make us not want to associate with the term anymore.  It’s not really fair to Christianity on the whole, but we feel the need to go far away from it. Like the Westboro Baptist Church, they’re just so far from what we consider reasonable, that we want to disconnect.

When I first came up with this concept, it was after having spent a few years disliking Joss Whedon.  For a while, I thought he was a talentless hack of a writer, and then I watched some more of his shows/films and realized, he is a talented writer, but I hate his obnoxious fans who would tell me how he’s the most brilliant and innovative writer because he killed Buffy.  He wasn’t the problem and it took me a while to realize that.

In the last year, I’ve referred to Boston sports teams (and I stand by it) as being guilty of this Jesus/Christian Paradox—most sports teams might be.  Then there was Oprah, after the week of talking about whether or not she’d be running for President, I had to explain to several people who hated her for it, that she hadn’t said anything, it was her fans that were driving the hype.

Now, it’s Black Panther.  I just watched a video about how the hype is dampening excitement for some.  I think the creator of the video does a pretty fair job of not blaming Marvel or the cast and crew for the issues.  It falls onto the fans, followers, supporters, whatever the term is for them.

We need to properly advocate for what we think is best, and I think being over-zealous, becomes a massive turn off for most, and ends up having the opposite result intended.  Jesus said things that can be appreciated whether you’re Jewish, or Buddhist, or Atheist, but we really don’t see that in modern society.  Christianity doesn’t seem to mean following Christ’s ideas any more, and is in many cases a status symbol, and a necklace you wear, while you attack others and use him as the excuse.  The Patriots play football well, whether you love them or hate them, they’re pretty good at the game, and for the most part the really obnoxious team members get weeded out, and they’re probably a bunch of otherwise average guys, but we think of the fans crying when they lose, or being assholes when they win (btw, the reaction I saw on Facebook after their Super Bowl loss was better than any other experience I’ve ever had with their fans).

So, try not to judge someone (or something) by it’s fans, but by its content.  At the same time, fans, try not to be obnoxious.  Ok?

Long-Term Fandom

I’ve been thinking a lot about fandom and taste lately.  Thinking about what I used to be a big fan of that has lasted, and what hasn’t.  With a Star Wars film coming out every year now, and having recently written a piece about the good portions of Episode II, I’ve realized that even in the lull periods, I’m still wholeheartedly a fan of Star Wars.

What has been making me think about longevity has been my current taste, things that I like now that are new, and I don’t know if I’ll look back in ten years and think “what did I like about that?”  I’ve written a little about Bo Burnham, and how I think he’s my favorite comedian/performer right now (although, Richard Ayoade has definitely been increasing thanks to YouTube suggesting more and more of his brilliant videos) and I wonder, is this great because it’s new, or is it great because it’s truly great.

I used to LOVE Dane Cook, along with most early twenty-somethings did ten to fifteen years ago, and when I see some of his stand up now, it lacks the enthusiasm on my part.  I’m not one of these people who will say he isn’t and never was funny, but I think I just got over-saturated.  The same can certainly be said for the Blue Collar Comedy guys, although “Get ‘er done” is definitely cringe-y to me now.

Not all stand-up seems to wax and wane in that manner though.  I listen to George Carlin, and I can listen to the same routines as I did twenty years ago, ones that I can practically say along side him as if I were singing along, and its still good.  With Carlin though, much of his material, does affect me different than it did for 13 year-old me, and maybe that’s the key.  Obviously as a 13 year-old, I was just really happy to hear someone saying “Shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits” (even typing that I can hear the cadence of Carlin’s voice as he would sing out those words) but now as an adult I understand the careful deliberation he spent picking and breaking down those words.  Much of his comedy initially grabbed me because of the “bad words,” as they would any young boy, but have kept me due to the layers of thought.

I suspect that Bo Burnham for example may have the lasting power for me, because of the amount of thought that he puts into his work, and there are multiple layers, but I still wonder.

It used to drive me crazy when a friend and I would go see a movie, and we would love it, and then when it gained a following the friend would dump out on it and not like it.  This was before I was aware of the concept of a ‘hipster’ and I thought it was annoying that you couldn’t just like something because you like it, but ultimately, I have grown into this mindset a little.  I think the problem I have isn’t a lack of ownership over a fandom, but it usually tends to be saturation.  I purposely don’t listen to George Carlin on repeat all the time, for fear of overplaying him.

With something like Star Wars, I don’t think I’ve hit the over-saturation line, because it’s such a huge universe with such a wide variety of characters, and so as people do impressions, or dress up, they’re not always the same character.  Sure, there are a lot of Darth Vader’s at Halloween every year, or Yoda’s (my 1 year old was Yoda this year, but it was awesome because he’s the perfect height, and the costume made him walk funny like Yoda), but there are Boba Fett’s there are regular Leia’s and slave bikini Leia’s, and Chewbaccas, and Reys, and R2D2’s, and a million other characters from the expanded universe, so its not a million people quoting “I drink your milkshake” or something else that adds baggage to an otherwise awesome thing.

Bo Burnham isn’t over saturated to me right now, partly because he takes his time putting out new material, and partly because many of the people I interact with aren’t aware of who he is, or at least aren’t obsessed with him.  That’s part of the problem with Dane Cook, it was Dane Cook, it was every twenty-something for 3 or 4 years talking about “He thought he was the Burger King” and “Sweet and sour,” that wasn’t his fault, but it knowing that doesn’t help to ‘untaint’ his material for me.

Will I still be excited for Bo Burnham’s new material in ten years?  Will I still enjoy the stuff that’s out right now?  I don’t know, but I hope that he doesn’t grow too popular, and luckily it seems as if he’s hoping the same too.