Ricky Gervais, The Golden Globes and the Diefication of the American Celebrity
I watched the Golden Globes this past Sunday. Normally it’s not the kind of thing I’d be able to sit through, but I’m a huge fan of Ricky Gervais and I was interested to see how he would handle himself as the host. His opening monologue was so funny and entertaining that it hooked me into watching the entire show. If you haven’t seen the opening monologue then here it is… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvHXzP2SpLA
He continued in that vein for the rest of the show and made what is normally an unbearably dull exercise in self congratulation feel spontaneous and exciting. It seemed to me that he may have even influenced some of the presenters and award winners to loosen up a little and take some humorous risks. The next day I was surprised to see that a lot of the news reports and internet commentary strongly disagreed with my opinion. They said Ricky Gervais had bombed. He had crossed lines that should never be crossed. What he did was tantamount to career suicide. Of course he got a lot of praise as well, but the people who criticized his performance were very outspoken about it. They were horribly offended and incredibly angry. They seemed personally hurt somehow. I was slightly baffled by this outrage. I wondered how people could be that angry about a comedian making fun of actors and actresses. Then I began to think about those people who literally deify celebrities. People who look at actors and actresses as not just larger than life, but beyond human. People who routinely buy magazines that are full of nothing but photos of celebrities walking around on the street doing everyday things. “Look, it’s Brad Pitt drinking a cup of coffee!” ”Reese Witherspoon is walking her dog!” “I can’t believe the celebrities were mingling with the humans and someone caught it on a camera!” When celebrity-worshipers see a not very famous comedian mercilessly making fun of very famous actors it goes against their sense of how things are meant to be. Especially if it’s during an event like The Golden Globes. It’s one of the high holy days of celebrity worship. It’s as if Ricky Gervais got onstage and spent two hours making fun of God and all the sects of Christianity. Only he did something so much more serious than that. He deflated an American dream, the dream that one day you can be so famous and so powerful that no one will ever be able to make you feel small again.
From the time I was four until the time I was fourteen I was only allowed to listen to music made by Christians. My parents gave me no other option, so I dove head first into what is known as contemporary Christian Music. At the time contemporary Christian music was a developing scene of singers and bands who existed beyond the interest of most of the population. These artists thrived in another world: the secluded world of born again Christianity. For most of my childhood this was the only music I knew, but as I got into junior high I began to cautiously creep into the world of secular music. “Secular” is a foreboding word that Christians use to describe any music that isn’t directly connected to Jesus, God or spiritual concerns. As I reached my teenage years I discovered classic rock, then Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains and so on and so on. Soon Christian music’s influence on my life began to dwindle until it was nonexistent. But no matter where my musical tastes have taken me the music of my childhood still plays in the back corners and alleyways of my mind. Those beautiful and bizarre songs will forever be the soundtrack to my strange formative years. So in the spirit of sharing a bit of my past I’d like to invite you to take a short trip with me through the early days of contemporary Christian music.
This first song is by Carman. It’s called Get Out Of My Life. It was released in 1984 on an album called Comin’ On Strong. It’s one of the first albums I ever voluntarily listened to. I remember searching through my parents collection of cassette tapes for it. I remember putting it on their stereo and sitting there listening to it and loving it. When you hear the title of the song you might think it’s about a woman or a close friend who did him wrong. This is not the case. It’s directed at the Devil himself. Not many people write songs to the Devil, but Carman did and here he is performing it live. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2dKfkVj8O8
I lost touch with Carman’s music only a few years after this song was released, but it’s interesting to mention that in an attempt to stay relevant he changed drastically with the trends and times. In the early 90’s he hooked up with an up and coming Christian hip hop group called DC Talk and tried his hand at rapping. The results were… interesting. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrrBEIyanjQ
This next song is by Mylon Lefevre and Broken Heart. It’s called Crack The Sky and it’s from the album of the same name. A lot of Mylon’s songs tended to lean a little too much towards an adult contemporary style for my tastes, but this particular song rocked my ten year old ass like no other. This was one of those songs that made me jump up and down on the bed and play my tennis racket like a guitar. Out of all the bands from the early contemporary Christian music scene I think that these guys were the closest to writing songs that could’ve been bona fide hits in the secular world. I think what kept this song from reaching a mass audience was the fact that it’s subject matter dealt entirely with the singers desire for Jesus to literally “Crack The Sky” and come down from heaven to take him back there with him. http://www.myspace.com/mylonlefevrebrokenheart/music
This last song is called Judas’ Kiss by the band Petra. It was released in 1983 on an album called More Power To Ya. Petra formed in 1974 and were one of the first contemporary Christian bands. They were also one of my earliest introductions to rock music. Out of all their songs this is easily one of my favorite. Before you listen to it I’ll give a bit of explanation about the lyrics. The title is a reference to a story in the Bible in which Jesus is betrayed by his disciple Judas. There were men who wanted Jesus killed and Judas made a deal with them. In exchange for thirty pieces of silver he agreed to lead them directly to where Jesus and his followers were. He told them he’d point Jesus out to them by kissing him on the cheek. The song Judas’ Kiss theorizes that when Christians turn away from their faith it makes Jesus feel the way he did when he was betrayed by Judas. In my opinion it’s sort of a strange and speculative idea, but that doesn’t really matter. Just listen to this opening guitar riff. It’s awesome. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAAULU1zbYk