Monday, December 13, 2004
Assault on Christmas continues—media fighting the good fight (updated)
The media preoccupation with real or imagined assaults on Christmas continues. This time the anti-Christmas conspiracy has reared its ugly head in London.
Madame Tussaud's of waxwork fame has put up a Nativity scene that .... Wait! Here's the way it appeared from "wire reports" in Japan Today—
In a move condemned by church groups as deeply tasteless, famous London waxworks museum Madame Tussauds has set up the scene using effigies of Beckham and his wife Victoria to stand in for the holy couple Joseph and Mary.
The unorthodox tableau is augmented by figures of U.S. President George W Bush,1 British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Queen Elizabeth's husband Prince Philip playing the Three Wise Men.
Actors Samuel L Jackson and Hugh Grant are among the shepherds, while Australian pop star Kylie Minogue is an angel.
The nativity scene, pictured in British newspapers on Wednesday, brought swift condemnation from religious organisations, with the Catholic Church calling it "certainly not in very good taste."
"Dear, oh dear," lamented a spokesman for the Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Angican Church worldwide, while the Presbyterians were more blunt.
"The waxwork will cause offence to many, and it should be pulled down straight away," a spokesman told the Sun newspaper.
The Times newspaper also railed against the tableau as "uniquely tasteless."
"In the temporal realm, this is an example of the cult of celebrity taken to an absurd extreme. In the spiritual domain, the offence is more serious," it said in an editorial. [emphasis added]
It is always interesting to read the London Times when it speaks on matters spiritual.
Of course, I'm sure you're already familiar with the story if you haven't been in a coma, but I wanted to point up the role the media are playing in all this.
While the Toronto Star presents the Tussaud story to the public with the headline "'Pop' Nativity scene enrages Christian groups," Canada's Globe and Mail skates on thin ice. In the Entertainment section—where else?—is a little piece called "Lego my baby Jesus."
Baby Jesus looks like -- there's no other way of putting this -- two teeny propane-gas tanks stuck together, one of them with a happy face.
They are the work of a wonderfully unhinged young Californian Web designer, Brendan Powell Smith, who tells the traditional Christmas story . . . in Lego models. Models that Smith, fascinated by the Bible, builds using the famous Danish construction toy, then photographs with a digital camera.
But he's not irreverent, like those awful people at Tussaud's—
.... He has done all of Genesis. He's done the Crucifixion, which gave him a problem: Lego models have arms that move parallel to their little bodies but not out sideways, as in hanging on a cross.
And it's all okay. Michael Valpy writes—
So here it is Christmas. Each generation interprets and reinterprets the Christian nativity. Each generation's artists approach the subject seeking a new expression of the transcendent with which to cement the story with contemporary relevance.
And the scene where Angel Gabriel visits Mary with the Holy Ghost is not to be missed. Smith says, "I am telling these sacred stories, but with a sense of humour, and sort of playing out the parts that make people scratch their heads."
I know I've been scratching mine.
An alarmed citizen has taken the matter into his own hands. According to the BBC2—
Waxworks of Victoria and David Beckham dressed as Mary and Joseph in a nativity scene at Madame Tussauds have been damaged in an attack.
The London tourist attraction has removed them from display and closed off the controversial scene.
Church leaders and some members of the public have criticised the scene, which also has Kylie Minogue as the Angel.
A man in his 20s repeatedly punched the waxwork figures and fled into the street, the Sun newspaper reports.
A Tussauds spokeswoman said on Sunday night: "There was some damage caused to the figures of David and Victoria by a member of the public earlier today.
"The figures have been removed and the scene has been closed."
All this comes on the very day that the Britain's Religious Hatred bill was under debate in Parliament as to whether it should be sent to the Law Lords, Britain's highest judicial authority.
Late-breaking news: The Telegraph is reporting—
DAVID BLUNKETT is preparing to drop planned laws against inciting religious hatred in a major concession to critics tomorrow.
The Government will now concentrate on defending the core parts of the Bill, including powers to detain foreign terrorist suspects without a formal trial. Ministers say MPs do not realise that anyone detained can appeal to a closed court headed by a High Court judge. [emphasis added]
The Religious Hatred bill was opposed by everyone from the comedian Rowan Atkins to the evangelical Christians, who felt they still had some things they wanted to say about the Muslims. Now the British government can leave speech control for later. Instead it will concentrate on pushing through detention without trial.
Holy Holy War!
1 Presenting George Bush as a Wise Man alone is enough to condemn this exhibition to the Hall of Fame of Hellish Horrors, but I'm not aware of any media comment on this. When joined by Blair and Philip, you know we're talking blasphemy! [back]
Today, fatwas in Egypt are issued just about daily to forbid anything from the internet and satellite dishes to mobile phones and yoga.Can you believe those Muslims? Why don't they ban something that really needs banning—like irreverent crèches. [back]