jamiedole asked: I answered your post about The Book of Mormon being racist - the article I linked really explains well the ways the show "may also be one of the most humanistic, complex, and respectful portrayals of Africa and Africans in Western popular culture in years."
First, thanks for the repost. Yes, I read your response, but your analysis seems flawed to me. Broadway is almost incapable of conveying complexity in its characters; actually, almost every other cultural medium enjoys greater character development. There simply isn’t time to fully develop the human dynamic between the song and dance numbers. Please don’t apologize for Trey and Matt. They’re big boys; they can handle a little healthy constructive criticism, and they want honesty from us (part of the reason why I admire them). If I had believed as you claimed, I wouldn’t have qualified my statement.
Throughout almost the whole performance, the native Ugandans depicted in ‘Book of Mormon’ are portrayed as easily bamboozled buffoons in a 21st Century minstrel show
And the climactic scene where General Butt [expletive deleted] Naked is reformed because he doesn’t want to be turned into a lesbian? You didn’t think that was pandering to the audience? Yes, I remember the scene wherein the Ugandan villagers explain that the story was just a metaphor, the very scene that predicated the above qualification (perhaps I was too subtle, but I didn’t want to spoil the show for the people who hadn’t seen it).
Perhaps I did miss the point, but I walked away thinking that the message of the musical was “it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as what you believe supports your community.” I found the show incredibly entertaining until the end. The Book of Arnold? Disappointing and contrived. Don’t get me wrong. I loved the Arnold Price character, but by the show’s denouement, Parker and Stone turned him into a latter day L Ron Hubbard. Wouldn’t it have been more satisfying if Elder Price had discovered a rationalistic way of uniting the villagers, instead of with his escapist sci-fi fanboy derivatives?
Yes, I agree that ‘Lion King’ was in many ways more of a minstrel show than ‘The Book of Mormon,’ but that’s not saying much. I’ve had the opportunity to take in a few African-American theater performances in the past two years (some good, some bad), but I can’t enjoy a multicultural experience if I know I’m being catered to. I don’t need to have a safe ending wrapped neatly in a bow. I don’t need to be reminded that I’m a tourist, when I’m the only white dude in the crowd. ‘Book of Mormon’ was made for the tourists—and I enjoyed it, but I don’t feel good about enjoying it. Part of what I’m saying is that it’s good that I’m uncomfortable with enjoying the show. We shouldn’t feel comfortable with our prejudices, nor with the status quo. Our society needs to continue growing and evolving, and that won’t happen if we complacently consume our culture without thorough critical analysis. I am sorry if I offended you though. Clearly, you’re a much bigger fan of the show than I was.
Anyhow, thanks again for reposting my little rant! Your blog is fun and pretty and well-written, and it makes me think of carnival clowns selling balloons, cotton candy, and ideas. I like your illustrations and your comic book art, and I feel lazy by comparison. Peace, Ms Dole.
Prejudice on Broadway?
Despite the many accolades heaped upon Parker-Stone’s ‘The Book of Mormon,’ the Broadway musical has also received much criticism (though well-deserved, I don’t know). I laughed hard throughout the entire performance, without a moment of self-conscious guilt—even though my devout Christian parents were seated in the seats next to my wife and myself (though I was a little nervous that they wouldn’t enjoy it as much we did). Through the filter of later reflection, should I be ashamed that I enjoyed the performance so much? Throughout almost the whole performance, the native Ugandans depicted in ‘Book of Mormon’ are portrayed as easily bamboozled buffoons in a 21st Century minstrel show. I recognized that the portrayals were hyperbolic exaggerations and caricatures, but does that serve the Mormons and Ugandans well? I’ve never been to Africa, but even the most superficial research of recent events in Africa will produce horrendous stories about the high rates of AIDS, female genital mutilation, civil wars, the lack of clean drinking water, et ceteras—but Africa is a huge continent where there is surely as much joy as pain (like any other place, right?) Should I let it bother me? Although I am relatively atheistic, I try to be accepting of people with different beliefs. At the same time, so many atrocities are committed by people with extremist views (e.g., the Lord’s Resistance Army of Uganda) that it’s hard not to take pleasure when they are lampooned so successfully. On the other hand, I’d like to know what Parker and Stone (both self-proclaimed atheists, as well, describing ‘Book of Mormon’ as “an atheist love letter to religion”) think about the problems in the world. Surely, they aren’t heartless comedy opportunists, but has any of the revenue generated gone toward helping out the situation in Uganda, where almost a third of the country lives below the poverty line? If not, why not? Or is that not our problem? Whose is it? I don’t want this to seem like a criticism of anyone, especially not Parker and Stone, who have visibly matured so much since their early “South Park” days. I just think that it’s necessary to dialogue about these issues, because the problems of the world won’t get solved by ignoring them.
The link for the video below is for the song “Turn It Off,” from ‘The Book of Mormon’ (http://youtu.be/cWA_jr-AwyA).