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Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It

Monday, Jan. 09, 2006 12:01 AM

A theater near Salt Lake City, Utah has decided not to show the film, "Brokeback Mountain." If you've not heard, the film, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger, is about two cowboys who discover they have feelings for one another.

"We apologize for the inconvenience," says the theater's notice.

The distributor is calling it something else, claiming the theater, "... reneged on their licensing agreement."

The story wouldn't be complete without a conservative to cast aspersions on What's Wrong With This Movie, and Gayle Ruzicka of the Utah Eagle Forum says the theater's decision, "... tells the young people especially that maybe there is something wrong with this show." (The Eagle Forum, founded by Phyllis Schafly, takes a proud stand against 'hate crime' legislation and proudly stands for 'family values.')

Maybe these folks are worried there's some kind of 'gay ray' oozing out of the screen that will turn upstanding young men and women into rampaging members of the GLBT community. Or that their cherished 'family values' are so fragile, and young adults' minds so weak, that the merest contradiction will send society crashing down into ruin.

(Heaven forbid that the straw sticking out of one's jumbo soda be viewed as a symbolic phallus. Why, the whole snack bar is full of insidious sexual innuendos! Ack! Pfffbt! Gayness! Run, Martha!)

More than with television or radio, exposure to a theatrical release is predicated on a consumer decision. If the film's subject material offends you, no one is forcing you to see it.

Another victim of the moral outrage parade seems to be NBC's new series, "The Book of Daniel."

The show stars Aidan Quinn as an Episcopalian priest who has a dysfunctional family (including his own problems with painkillers). Quinn's character also talks to a Jesus who appears to be more of a laid-back surfer dude than a traditional Christ figure.

The American Family Association has voiced their objections; consequently, stations have been receiving calls of protest from viewers in advance of the series premiere. Two stations - one in Arkansas, the other in Indiana - have declined to air the show, though one general manager says the issue is affiliate/network relationships and federal oversight of indecent content, not religious issues.

As it turned out, I happened to catch the series' premiere, and if anyone is taking the show seriously, they need to get outside more often. The characters are so dysfunctional it is almost irritating, like a practical joke that keeps going; that, more than any inherent 'anti-Christian' themes, makes the show wearisome.

Still, the problems faced by the fictional family are real ones, and no one is handing out easy answers, least of all, the series' representation of Christ.

And yet, that same representation of Christ - not as the 'surfer dude,' but as someone who is accessible, a friend whom we can approach with our problems, who is there to talk to when we take the time ... isn't a bad interpretation of Jesus.

I'm not sure what the folks taking offense are expecting. Perhaps they'd prefer Christ berating Daniel for being a pill-head, that his gay son is going to burn in hell, that his wife's drinking is because he's not being a proper head of the household, and so on.

But there's another lesson to be found in the show, and that's how the chaos of our daily lives can seemingly expand to take up all available space, and that we need to take time to speak (and listen, in turn) to Christ, or whatever expression of the divine you find comfort in.

Or, as Daniel asks Christ in the pilot episode:

"Do you talk to my father (the bishop)?"
"Used to."

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