Idol Chatter

Idol Chatter

I’ll Be Hip for Hanukkah

posted by burb

The New York Times catches up with Hanukkah hipsters in its Style section today. The reporter attends a bash in a trendy Manhattan nightclub thrown by Jewcy, a group that promotes Jewish cultural awareness among young Jews, and cites it as evidence that Judaism is experiencing “a Jewish hipster moment,” kicked off by Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song” and prolonged by events like “A Jewcy Chnukah”—featuring SNL’s Rachel Dratch and Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog—and the traveling variety show “What I Like About Jew.” The Jewish revival centers on Hanukkah, says the article, because Jews must have some response to Christian inundation at Christmas. One attendee says he asks gentile friends to imagine “everywhere you go strangers say to you, ‘Merry Ramadan.’ … You can’t get into a store because people are bowing to Mecca. You’d be an angry minority.”

Nip/Tuck Delivers

posted by ellen leventry

Nip/Tuck delivered early Christmas gifts this year, both figuratively and literally. The usually sordid plastic surgery doc-opera revealed a more spiritual side in last night’s episode–while still managing to keep the “ick” factor high.

Mrs. Kringle–one half of a Santa-and-Mrs.-Claus team–comes into the doctors’ office to get a little liposuction before the big mall season. The Kringles, who changed their names legally, feel that a fat Santa and Mrs. Claus are sending the wrong health message to America’s children. So they have lost a combined 200 pounds, though now Mrs. Kringle is looking to surgery to shed those last, impossible 15 pounds. But while performing the lipo, Drs. Troy and McNamara run across an anomaly and discover that Mrs. Kringle is carrying a lithokelyphos–a petrified fetus–in her abdomen. After its removal, she asks to see her child and is handed a swaddling blanket that surrounds the specimen jar it’s floating in. It’s an absolutely heartbreaking scene, mirroring, in a sad, round-about way, the Virgin Birth. The Kringles, it turns out, had been told that they would never be able to have kids, leading them to embrace the Claus personas as a way to celebrate the holidays with children.

But there’s a lump of coal in this stocking. As it turns out, Mr. Kringle is the one with the procreation problem, weak sperm; Mrs. Kringle, who was fertile all along, had a one-time fling with Mr. Kringle’s 18-year old assistant some 15 years ago. Mrs. Kringle doesn’t like being jolly all year round, and longs to be a normal, middle-aged, sometimes-grumpy wife, with a man who pays attention to her and not just to all the children who adore him. She and Mr. Kringle end up parting ways, but Mr. K finds himself a 20-something elf who shares his Christmas spirit, whom he rewards with some double-D implants to stuff her stockings, so to speak.

In a different storyline, Julia, ex-wife of Dr. Sean McNamara and owner of the De La Mar spa, finds out she’s pregnant with her ex-husband’s baby, and schedules an abortion for Christmas Eve. Sean drives her to the clinic, yet they decide to keep the baby–mirroring the “birth” theme established with the Kringles.

The show keeps the Yuletide ‘tude going with its third storyline, which focuses on Matt, the somewhat-estranged son of Julia and Sean (though regular viewers know he’s actually Christian Troy’s kid). Matt’s white-supremacist girlfriend is disgusted by an African-American crèche displayed at their high school, in which all the figures are dark skinned. She feels they need to “defend” the story of the birth of Jesus. She and Matt–who feels the whole Christmas story is a made-up fairy tale but begrudgingly helps her anyway–kidnap the figurines, paint them white, and return them to the school. The show ends poignantly, with a heavy rain washing the white paint off the members of the nativity.

Narnian End Times

posted by burb

The “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” has gone wide without a cultural apocalypse. Narnia, it turns out, is pretty ambiguous theologically, and the next few books in Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia” series are vaguer still. Two sequels hence, in “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” Eustace’s transformation into and from a dragon rates mention in sermons, while in “The Silver Chair” we spend a lot of time in a hellish (or purgatorial?) netherworld. But in the final book of the series, “The Last Battle,” the politics of the apocalypse get downright hairy. Lewis’s End Times scenario plays out as a nasty face-off between Aslan, the good lion who rules over Narnia, and Tash, the god of the Calormenes, who are a desert people “smelling of garlic and onions, their white eyes flashing dreadfully in their brown faces.” As this site explains, Lewis argues for justification by works in the end, but let’s hope that we’re not still trying to patch things up with our Middle Eastern bretheren by the time the movie comes out sometime next decade.

Forbidden Love that Lasts a Lifetime

posted by donna freitas

It was the buzz about Oscar-worthy performances by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal and a likely Best Picture nomination that got me in the door to see Brokeback Mountain, latest film by Ang Lee (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon“). Based on a short story by Annie Proulx, I was curious to see how these two young Hollywood heartthrobs would pull off a gay romance between two cowboys in the wilderness of Wyoming.

I had also heard the film was beyond sad, an experience I try to avoid at the movies. But this one sounded too good to miss. And it is.

Everything about this story is spare, reserved, understated: the characters of Jack Twist (Gyllenhaal) and Ennis Delmar (Ledger), their dialogue, the window we have into the state of their marriages and lives as parents. Everything, that is, except for the love they have for each other. As Jack and Ennis first meet and work together herding sheep on Brokeback Mountain and later return to life as married men trying to make a living and support their families, I found myself watching as if from a safe emotional distance. It is only when the love between them passionately emerges onto the screen, punctuating the mendacity that begins to haunt their ordinary lives, that I found myself riveted by what is a heart-rending and timeless love story. That it’s a gay love story will no doubt leave some viewers upset, but it is a story that desperately needs telling nonetheless–and needs its viewers to grasp the tragedy that these men face because of the simple fact that they are two men in love with each other.

The love affair between Ennis and Jack–tender in some moments, rough in others–is patently forbidden in their world. They are two cowboys living and working in a time and place where love between men is considered inexcusable and virtually unthinkable (and also, not so incidentally, in the same state as the real-life tragedy of Matthew Shepard’s brutal murder in more recent times). Adding to the drama, and the heartbreak, is the fact that both men embark on marriages they are destined to betray–their way of maintaining some semblance of what the status quo considers a “normal life.”

Shortly before their love affair begins, the “stain” that is brought upon Jack and Ennis is foreshadowed by Ennis’s comment that he is too inexperienced in life to have sinned yet. That’s followed up by a scene, which takes place after their first night together, in which Ennis discovers the graphic (and symbolic) remains of the first lamb to die on their watch on the mountain. The forbidden nature of their love, so obvious at first glance, grows increasingly senseless and tragic over the course of the story. Their love affair lasts 20 years, and they can only maintain it through two annual trips, precious and secluded–trips that get more painful and filled with yearning with each passing year.

I will stop there with storyline, and end by saying that “Brokeback Mountain,” despite the betrayal of marriage that runs throughout, is a difficult film to leave without a sense of forgiveness for these two men who are at once lovers and adulterers. I also can’t imagine watching the “Brokeback Mountain” credits roll without feeling a sense of hope that someday our society will stop legislating about who is allowed to fall in love–and that there will come a time when we stop pretending to know that God’s will is for love to happen only between a man and a woman.

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