Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Devil and President Obama

So some people are upset that the History Channel “documentary” The Bible (2013)—I use this term advisedly since the “documentary” is clearly told from a Christian perspective—apparently has an Obama look alike playing Satan and are crying foul. Others, particularly those on the right, however, are urging calm, noting that the parodying of American presidents is hardly novel and that parodies of American presidents has a long pedigree, that the resemblance between Satan and Obama questionable anyway, and that we must ascertain the intent of Roma Downey of Touched by an Angel fame and Mark Burnett of Survivor fame (Survivor was the British and later American version of Swedish television network SVT's Expedition Robinson), the producers of The Bible for the History Channel, if we are to come to any conclusions about whether Downey and Burnett intended to link Obama and Satan in their “documentary”.

Those who raise this question of intent are right, we need to try to ascertain the intent of the “authors” of The Bible. Both Downey, who perhaps not unsurprisingly played Mary the mother of Jesus in the "documentary". and Burnett claim that it was not their intention to find an actor who resembled Obama to play Satan. Downey and Burnett claim that the charge that they hired an actor who looked like Obama to play Satan was intentional “…is utter nonsense. The actor who played Satan, Mehdi Ouazanni, is a highly acclaimed Moroccan actor…has previously played parts in several Biblical epics—including Satanic characters long before Barack Obama was elected as our President” and that they and the History Channel have the highest respect for President Obama.”

So should we take Downey and Burnett at their word? What would be interesting to explore with respect to the issue of intent is the politics of Downey and Burnett. So I did a little research. According to one source, Downey, a "devout [Irish] Catholic", supported Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness for president of Ireland in 2011. McGuinness, like Downey, is a devout Catholic and is an Irish nationalist. He was likely a high-ranking member of the IRA and was likely involved, in some way, shape, or form, in violence conducted by the IRA during the years of “the Troubles”. McGuinness later came to have a decent relationship with Unionist nationalist Ian Paisley, condemned recent IRA splinter group violence, and ran on an anti-EU austerity programme when he ran for Irish president in 2011. Burnett—who was born in Britain but is now a naturalised US citizen—though he has allied himself professionally with two of Obama’s most strident critics, Sarah Palin and Donald Trump (Sarah Palin’s Alaska and The Apprentice)—has a record of donating to democratic causes. Contradiction?

Beyond all this we know that Downey and Burnett promoted The Bible at mega-churches around the country, including Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in Orange County, California and that the show had an advisory board that consisted in part of Rick Warren, Paul Eshleman of Campus Crusade for Christ, and Jim Daly of Focus on the Family, and has been endorsed by Bishop Michael Sheridan, Bishop T.D. Jakes, evangelical entertainer Pat Boone, and Christian Pastor Joel Osteen. And while evangelical radical Tony Campolo and noted poet Maya Angelou also endorsed The Bible as well it is hard not to see the fact that The Bible's advisory board is made up primarily of cultural conservatives and the fact that it is cultural conservatives who have, by and large made up most of those who have endorsed the programme, as very revealing about The Bible's substance and target audience.

One of the more interesting articles I ran across while I was doing a little quick research was one in the Daily Kos. The writer of the article, one caunceydevega, raises interesting questions about Downey’s and Burnett's representations of "race" and attempts at multiculturalism in the The Bible and rightly points out that representations don't come from thin air. The moral of the story, in other words, is that we mustn't forget that Obama has been portrayed over the last five years as a fascist, a Nazi, a clown, Mickey Mouse, an Uncle Tom, a shuffling lay about Black, and has been accused of everything from wanting to kill old people to not being a “real American” or an American at all.

If Downey and Burnett, despite their claims to the contrary, really did want to tie Obama and Satan together several questions come to mind: Why are Downey and Burnett doing a Bart "I didn't do it" Simpson? Do they simply not have the ovaries (Downey) and balls (Barnett) of their parodic "convictions"? Those in the past who did polemicise against American presidents did have the balls—the press of the past was a man’s game—of their convictions. There was some nasty stuff said about George Washington and even nastier stuff said about Washington’s big federalist "PM" Hamilton. There was some nasty stuff said Thomas Jefferson when he ran for president including references to his sexual relationship with Sally Hemings, and his anti-Christianity (grist for those who lack an understanding of early American deism and mistake Jeff for a fundamentalist or evangelical). Many on the left questioned George W. Bush’s intelligence and argued that he was a puppet on the Dick Cheney string. Why are Downey and Burnett, if it was their intention, so unwilling to take responsibility for their parody? Too sophomoric?

Oh one last thing before I end this short essay, I hope there is no hypocrisy here, no "right wingers", in other words, who blasted "left wingers" in the past for their nasty representations of Bush and how they demeaned the office of the president in these nasty representations who are now jumping with orgasmic over the Obama as Satan "parody of Downey and Burnett. I suspect, however, that hypocrisy is running amok. Humans are humans after all.

So anyway Americans, remember as you are sitting down for turkey or tofurkey and cranberries at your next Christmas (or Chrismukkah) meal your president is the devil. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA...

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