Some weeks ago, Trevor Noah was named as the next host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central. And as usual whenever anything happens ever, a bunch of people got outraged. This would be an utter non-event except for how marvelously it demonstrated the hypocrisy of the progressive Thought Police. You’ve really got to love it.
Noah is a South African comedian just obscure enough to preside over the show as it hurtles into irrelevance, which it will inevitably do once its current host, Jon Stewart, leaves. But this is 2015, which means even the most meaningless and unremarkable occurrence isn’t complete without its attendant outburst of overblown political hysteria.
The announcement of Noah’s selection was swiftly followed by an equally uninteresting kerfuffle in which people with very little to do spent their astoundingly abundant free time digging up off-color tweets from Noah’s past. Turns out he’s made jokes about punching women and hitting Jewish kids with German cars. The resultant outrage was as unreasonable as it was predictable. People talked about boycotting the show. They wanted Noah dropped from the contract. “How dare a comedian make jokes?” They tweeted furiously.
Yawn. By now this stuff just feels like we’re following a script — everyone watching at home was setting a timer for the tearfully insincere apology that we all felt sure would follow like clockwork.
Except then something happened that isn’t in the script. High-profile talking heads rallied to Noah’s defense. Stewart and Comedy Central announced they would stick by their man. The comedian Patton Oswalt wrote a 53-tweet Twitter-screed mocking the absurd progressive insistence that comedy “should not be . . . privileged, misogynist or anti-trans, . . . or offend any feelings the joke listener may or may not have or have ever experienced in the past.” The Daily Beast published an article lamenting “the toxicity” of the Twittersphere’s hyper-sensitive “callout culture.” Suddenly, from out of the blue, well-connected people started defending Trevor Noah’s right to be an insensitive dipstick.
It’s worth stating the obvious fact that they were absolutely right to do so. Noah’s jokes were in poor taste, there’s no question. They were also crushingly unfunny. But this idea that comedians — or anyone, for that matter — should be forbidden from making fun of people is of course utter nonsense. It’s like saying carpenters should be forbidden from cutting wood. There’s a growing mob of ultra-progressive online commentators who sit around just itching to boycott even the most mildly distasteful opinions. They have been long overdue for a good, old-fashioned roast. Theirs is a mockery of an ideology, and it deserves to be mocked. It’s about time, in fact.
“Safe spaces” are the hot new thing on college campuses. And since the last hot new thing on college campuses was a deplorably racist movement to boycott Israeli businesses, what could possibly go wrong?
No but don’t worry guys, this hot new thing is like, totally all about love and inclusivity and intersectionality and sensitivity and stuff. A safe space is where no one has to feel bad, ever. According to the activism group Advocates for Youth, a “safe space” is
“a place where any young person can relax and be fully self-expressed, without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwanted, or unsafe on account of biological sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, race/ethnicity, cultural background, age, or physical and mental ability.”
Sounds great, right? So surely it’s no surprise that colleges all over America — from Columbia, to Yale, to the University of California, Berkeley — are setting up safe spaces on campus. Who wouldn’t want to go to a school where everyone feels safe and included and cuddled and snuggly? But then, if you need a safe space, that means you’re being kept safe from something. As in, there are some things — some people — who don’t get allowed into safe spaces. Which raises the question: who’s not included in an all-inclusive space? For whom, exactly, are college campuses not so safe?
(Profanity warning for video.)
Well, they’re not safe for conservatives, that’s for sure. They’re not safe for George Will or Ayaan Hirsi Ali or Tim Stanley, all of whom where chased out of speaking engagements at major universities because their views made students feel threatened. In fact, unsavory opinions of any kind are definitely not allowed in safe spaces. One student at Brown recently explained that she retreated to a safe space during an on-campus debate because she was getting “bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs.” That’s why colleges need safe spaces to begin with: so none of those precious left-wing butterflies has to expose his fragile ideology to the harsh, insensitive light of reality.
So if you’re to the right of center — whoops, sorry. College campuses aren’t safe for you. You don’t get to be part of the safe space if you’re critical of Islam, skeptical about phony rape statistics, or uncomfortable with abortion (don’t even get me started on fetuses. Safe spaces are definitely not safe for fetuses). People with unapproved opinions don’t get coverage under the “safe space” plan — actually, they get verbally abused. Or kicked off of the school newspaper. Or beaten up by professors. Literally. That happened at the University of California, Santa Barbara, to an anti-abortion protestor. That’s just how safe they are over there at UCSB!
And college campuses are definitely not safe for straight men, those abhorred super-villains of the millennial mythos. A straight man in college can be summoned at any time without warning (or evidence) before a nightmarishly Kafkaesque tribunal of imperious elders, to suffer the penalty for a horrific rape he did not commit. This can lead to expulsion from his dorm and academic probation, as it did for Kevin Parisi at Drew University. Or it can mean long-term suspension and damning marks on his permanent record, as it did for Drew Sterrett at the University of Michigan. So no, straight men (you patriarchal scum), college is not safe for you.
And of course, a radically progressive college campus is not a safe space for Jewish kids. This one is as depressingly predictable as it is crushingly tragic: at what time, in the history of ever, has a safe space been safe for Jews? Well not this time, that’s for sure. At UC Berkeley, a veritable haven of “safe spaces,” swastikas and hate-scrawls such as “Kill all the Jews” are becoming a mainstay of sidewalk graffiti.
And at UCLA — where “safe spaces” abound — a candidate for student government was recently asked the following question in an interview: “Given that you’re very active in the Jewish community, how do you see yourself being able to maintain an unbiased view?” After the candidate left the room, her interviewers admitted that “she’s qualified,” but they wondered whether they could really feel comfortable (or safe) with a person of “her affiliations.” Like the perniciously festering pestilence of the human soul that it is, antisemitism is steadily creeping into the bones and marrow of American academia. Actually, antisemitic bile seems to be right at home at UCLA and UC Berkeley. They are safe spaces, after all.
So actually, the question seems to be, who is safe in a safe space? Well, at Brown, students recently opened a safe space to protect themselves from the horror of hearing someone question “rape culture.” The place was a preschooler’s dream, complete with “cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies.” About twenty-four students used it. About 0.38% of Brown’s student body felt safe in that safe space.
So when we say “safe space,” it turns out what we really mean is a place for tiny clusters of radical progressives to act like spoiled children (but I repeat myself). Meanwhile, as campuses everywhere are submerged beneath a tidal wave of bigotry and intolerance under the triumphant banner of progressive ideology — as students are subjected to abhorrent discrimination for being male, or conservative, or Jewish — at least we can be confident that two or three dozen leftists will have Play-Doh to play with and cuddly puppies to watch. At the age of 22. And doesn’t that just make you feel all nice and safe?
image illustration via tumblr
Every now and then, if you can forget about the catastrophic damage that radical feminism has inflicted upon women across the world, it’s nice to just take a step back and laugh uproariously at the whole imbecilic thing. No, seriously: it really is just one hilarious absurdity after another.
That is, if you ignore the fact that feminists have fought spiritedly against the development of anti-rape technology, encouraged women to degrade themselves physically and emotionally at every possible opportunity, and relentlessly hounded any woman who dares to disagree with radical dogma. Let’s put all that aside for a minute and enjoy the incessant torrent of hostility and illogic that is radical feminism’s latest contribution to world discourse.
I’m talking about the recent “study” conducted at Northeastern University by Judith Hall and Jin Goh, which claims to prove that men who exhibit chivalrous behavior are probably “benevolent sexists.” “Benevolent sexism is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing that perpetuates support for gender inequality among women,” explains Hall. In other words, if a man holds the door for you or picks up the tab on your first date, watch out!! You can be certain he’s secretly plotting all the while to perpetuate the patriarchy and enslave you in domestic bliss. He might even tell you he thinks you look nice in that dress! The nerve!
Here’s how the study worked (and oh, man, this really is rich). Men were given a survey designed to detect signs of “hostile sexism” and “benevolent sexism.” As a public service for the general edification of our readership, I’ll print some warning signs of hostile sexism here. Hostile sexists “love topless calendars.” They “leave the housework to their wives.” And horror of horrors, they even “ban women from sports clubs”! That’s right, these slack-jawed toads actually enjoy looking at women’s breasts! They have the gall to conduct their home lives in a manner of their choosing agreed upon between them and their spouses! And they hate women so much, they don’t even want to be forced to beat them at basketball or wrestle them to the ground! Perhaps worst of all, these reprehensibly hostile sexists “say most women interpret innocent remarks as sexism.” Where on earth did they get that idea?!
But even more insidious are the “benevolent sexists.” These brainwashed sociopaths probably don’t even know they’re sexists — that’s how steeped in sin they are. Benevolent sexists are those who “hold doors open for women,” “call women ‘love’ or ‘dear,’” and “offer women their jacket if they look cold.” That’s right, there are actually some neanderthals out there who are so mired in patriarchal slime that they not only exhibit a healthy sexual response towards women, but even treat women respectfully and address them with terms of endearment. Truly, there is no justice in this world.
So, the intellectual giants at Northeastern kicked off their genius undertaking by classifying the entire gamut of normal male behavior and sexuality as sexism. Hall and Goh based their definitions on a paper that literally lists “heterosexuality” as one cause of sexism. The study then showed that “benevolent sexists” were guilty of such abhorrent behavior as smiling often, waiting patiently, and behaving warmly. Naturally, the conclusion drawn was that men who smile at women, extend patience towards them, and treat them kindly are probably also sexist.
Let’s just review, for our own entertainment, what the study actually proved. First, it defined kindly behavior towards women as sexist. It then used this definition to prove that men who admitted to behaving kindly towards women were sexist. QED, the study affirmed, kind men are more likely to be sexist.
Here, in other words, is the logic of this study, conducted at a major research institution in the United States of America which receives hundreds of millions of dollars in tuition from promising high school graduates each year:
Nice men are sexist, and therefore nice men are sexist.
Do you hear that? It’s the sound of my manic and giddy laughter as I choke back the tears I’m trying not to cry for the lost dignity of American academia.
Let us be clear for just one moment. Academic authority comes with a responsibility to tell the truth. Engineering a study that characterizes the male sexual response as filthy and violent from the word go is therefore a drastically irresponsible thing to do. It encourages boys and men to react to their own psyches with self-loathing and shame. The reassuringly erudite tone in which this study publishes its laughable “findings” only makes them more deceitful and damaging.
Let’s also not forget that this is a fallen world in which women are quite genuinely vulnerable to unconscionable oppression and unspeakable violence. Around the world, women are raped, mutilated, and treated like property. Western chivalry is one of the few cultural systems ever, in history, to make principles of respect and gentility towards women an expected commonplace of male behavior. Things like holding open doors and picking up the bill are the product of a centuries-long effort to condemn and prevent the mistreatment of women wholesale. Trying to dismantle that system in the process of fighting an imaginary wage gap is as insane as it will eventually be disastrous.
But hey, if we discount those facts for a second, the whole thing is really, really funny. I mean, it takes a special kind of idiocy to try to obliterate the civilization that allowed you to conduct your asinine studies in the first place. If you see Dr. Hall around, go ahead and thank her from me for adding a little bit of comic relief to this farcical horror show known as progressivism. But whatever you do, don’t hold the door open for her. You sexist pig.
Hell must be freezing over: there’s good news out of academia. It’s sorely needed, too. These days, university and college campuses are under constant siege by hyper-sensitive multiculturalist students bent on smothering open debate and silencing opposing viewpoints — let’s call them the Thought Police. Most recently, at the University of California, Irvine, a group of students voted to ban the display of the American flag for the sake of “inclusivity.”
But wonder of wonders: the heads of UCI’s student government have now smacked the vote down with a good old-fashioned veto. Listen up, campus conservatives: this is a case study in how to fight back against the Thought Police.
The Thought Police are easy to spot — they’re the ones demanding vice-like control over campus discourse and shrilly accusing their opponents of bigotry. In 2014, Brandeis University planned to award an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a women’s rights advocate and a staunch critic of Islam. The Thought Police in the student body harried the administration and slandered Hirsi Ali until Brandeis rescinded its offer.
When Hirsi Ali was invited to speak at Yale, the Thought Police there accused her of hate speech and cast aspersions on her academic credentials in the desperate hope of shutting her up. Not long ago, the Oxford branch of the Thought Police gleefully smothered an open debate about abortion on the grounds that both speakers were male. Anything to avoid the horror of encountering an opposing viewpoint.
Among their peers, the Thought Police defend their position via intimidation, aggression, and abuse. Students who speak up in favor of free expression are often insulted and ostracized. When University of Michigan student Omar Mahmood satirized his school’s oppressively PC campus climate, he was mercilessly bullied and kicked off of the student newspaper.
Others who contradict progressive dogma get publicly excoriated, online and in person, as “fascists,” “repulsive,” and worse. Anything that smells even faintly of patriotism or free thought has to be stamped into dust.
So the UCI Thought Police condemned all flags, especially this country’s, on the grounds that they uniformly promote imperialism and oppression. They voted to remove the American flag from the student government lobby because, as their bill explains, “[F]lags construct paradigms of conformity and sets homogenized standards for others to obtain which in this country typically are idolized as freedom, equality, and democracy.” The students went on to make their stance clear: “freedom of speech,” they wrote, “can be interpreted as hate speech.”
Ladies and gentlemen: the Thought Police at work. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.
Now, when you’re locked in a battle with the Thought Police, how do you dodge their relentless vitriol and identity politics to come out victorious?
Well, you’ve got to hit them where they’re oh, so weak: the flimsy logic of their untenable arguments. Take this UCI bill, for example: the thing is a travesty of reasoning and ideology, not to mention English grammar. It’s written in that illiterate, pseudo-erudite jargon of radical activism that is the lingua franca of Thought Police everywhere.
The idea that flags are morally indistinguishable from one another because they are all symbols of countries is infantile. It’s like saying that bottles of milk and bottles of lighter fluid are identical because they are both containers for liquids. Take a swig from a bottle and you’ll realize it matters very much what kind of liquid, exactly, it contains. Take a stand for a flag and you’ll realize it matters even more which country, exactly, it symbolizes.
And of course, as it happens, the American flag symbolizes the country whose ideals afford those students at UCI the freedom to stumble into their fatuous half-theories in the first place. Fighting make-believe oppression isn’t half so much fun if you’re not doing it under the Stars and Stripes — if you’re doing it, for example, in North Korea.
Where they’ll kill you.
See the opening of today’s series here: ”What Is the Future of Religion?” by Frank J. Fleming. Also check out Aaron C. Smith’s installment here: “The Future of Religion: Why Judeo-Christian Values Are More Important Than Science“
Recently, ISIS ransacked a museum full of ancient Assyrian and Akkadian artifacts in Mosul. They upended works of art from the 7th century before Christ and whacked enormous chunks off of them with sledgehammers. There’s a video.
If you think this is the least of our ISIS problems, you’re not wrong. You can tell me a single human life is worth more than everything Raphael ever painted, and I won’t argue with you for a second. When they behead Christians and hurl gay men to their deaths, those are inestimable losses. A museum raid pales in comparison.
But I still felt sick watching them do this, and I think there’s a reason. I think there’s something in this video that drives home what we’re dealing with here. It’s like pulling the face off the Terminator to reveal the hideous grinning gears and diodes underneath. Watching ISIS destroy art shows me exactly who they really are.
It comes down to why we make art. To my mind, it’s because there’s something about being human that’s more than just facts. I can tell you perfectly well in prose what kind of sandwich I had for lunch, or how old I am. But to tell you what it’s like when I look at the night sky or fall in love, I need poetry. Or a painting. Or something — anything — that conveys the indescribable catch in my chest. “Where words fail, music speaks”: there’s something bigger than language in the human heart.
Now, all those big bull-lion-eagle-dude sculptures in Mosul don’t do a lot for me personally. But I recognize that irreducible worth in them: I see that someone felt something he couldn’t say in words. Something about the nobility of the human form, the humanity and inhumanity of the divine. So he got a big rock and he started chipping away at it until it spoke for him. He gave the thing in his heart a shape in the stone. That’s what Shelley meant in his poem about emotions “which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things”: that statue records a moment inside the soul of a human being. And that record is worth preserving.
But of course, to believe all this, you have to believe there’s something there to record. You have to believe a man is more than physical stuff — more than muscle, blood, and bones. What ISIS demonstrated in their video is that they don’t believe that. And their god doesn’t believe either. The video begins with a verse from the Qur’an about idolatry. Then someone declares that “god has ordered” that the statues be destroyed, and so “they became worthless to us.” Exactly: the god of ISIS is a god to whom humanity means nothing. He demands that people be treated like meat, gruesomely sacrificed to his power-hungry nihilism. Of course that god wants the evidence of human transcendence to be pounded into rubble. To the god of ISIS art is, as the man in the video says, just “some stones.”
Now tell me this isn’t a religious fight.
This is what the president, and The New Yorker, and all our well-meaning multiculturalist friends refuse to acknowledge. There is a question in front of us. Do we believe god lusts after power at the expense of human dignity and life? Or do we believe God humbled himself to the point of death for the sake of that dignity and life? I am not a scholar of Islam. I do not know anything about what most Muslims believe. But I know which god ISIS believes in. They showed me again in Mosul.
What ISIS did in that museum is a kind of art in itself. Their video is a performance, an enactment of their core creed. They’re symbolically expressing their belief that the human soul has no worth. It’s not just the destruction of art: it’s the art of destruction.
In Luke’s gospel, when Jesus rides into Jerusalem for the last time, his disciples hail him aloud as the King. The Pharisees want to shut them up, but Jesus says, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” When the truth is silenced, the whole world screams it in our ears. And the West is falling silent: we’re refusing to put an honest name to the kind of god ISIS fights for. So the message is getting louder and louder — in Mosul, the very stones are crying out.
So I was watching Glee the other day (yes I watch Glee, okay?!), and man has that show jumped the shark. It’s frustrating, because Glee went down in flames the way a lot of good shows do: it got too busy constructing a leftist fantasyland to tell a decent story. It’s another victim of what I like to call “liberal backslide.”
Bear with me here for a second. I realize Glee was never an elegant allegory of fiscal conservatism. And no one could claim that it ever had an ironclad grip on reality. The show takes place in an underfunded Ohio public school whose auditorium looks like it was sponsored by a generous grant from the Shah of Persia. The band students instantaneously arrange and perform professional-quality backup accompaniment whenever someone so much as walks down the hallway humming a tune. This is obviously not a show about the real world.
But it used to be a show about real people. Glee got its start as a sharp send-up of teenage life in the Midwest, a bubblegum caricature of self-indulgent angst and high school politics. So it spoofed all those kids you hung out with in public school: the pristinely polished cheerleader. The wan, sensitive artist. The befuddled jock. The neat trick was that those well-worn stock characters all had a slightly edgier secret to make things a little less cut-and-dry. The cheerleader cheated on her boyfriend and got pregnant. The artist was straining hard against the closet door. The jock belted out “Can’t Fight This Feeling” in the locker room showers when he thought no one was looking. The whole picture was just a shade more complex and “real” than you expected, one degree more nuanced than a show like Saved by the Bell.
That meant the characters were allowed to have their own beliefs and opinions — more or less the ones they might have had in real life. Mercedes, the choir’s queen of soul, was also the head of the Christian club, the “God Squad.” Quinn, the cheerleader, was in the Squad too. Pretty standard for an Ohio high school: think Youth for Christ. When Quinn got pregnant, she was devastated and terrified, but determined not to abort. Also not impossible to imagine. Kurt, the artsy kid, came out to his dad, a rough-spoken mechanic who wrestled manfully with his prejudices for love of his son. Look, I’m not saying it was Shakespeare, but this was imaginative, thoughtful writing — a glitzed-up version of some distantly plausible reality. Everyone got made fun of, and for the most part everyone got a fair shake.
Fast-forward to the current season, in which the entire architecture of the show has essentially been abandoned in favor of a ceaseless stream of inchoate progressive propaganda. In one recent episode, the glee club alumni march triumphantly back onto their old stomping grounds to save their beloved show choir. To beef up the choir’s membership, all the glee clubbers from conservative backgrounds reach out to their high school’s “Tea Party Patriot Club.” Our virtuous heroes come bearing muffins, and their message is a touching one. Quinn helpfully begins with an inspiring story of personal growth: “before I joined glee club” (i.e., “when I was a conservative,”) “I only hung out with people that were exactly like me.” But it’s all better now, Quinn explains, because getting pregnant out of wedlock fixed all her problems! “Point is, nerds,” says bad boy Noah Puckerman, “you need to take the three-cornered hats out of your loser butts and join [the glee club].”
But for some incomprehensible reason, those ignorant tea partiers (or “teabaggers,” as they’re called in the show, to their faces) aren’t won over by this thoughtful outreach campaign. Their leader, a pencil-necked bigot in a starched shirt, has some kind of crazy hillbilly idea that the Obama administration has been an economic disaster. And for no discernible reason, he isn’t keen on joining a choir whose members just strode heedlessly into the middle of his meeting to openly mock and insult him and his friends. Mercedes nobly scolds the entire club for being a bunch of “ignorant, backwards, lily-white, gay-hating Obama bashing clubbers,” and all the stars march out in a huff, taking their muffins with them. Yay glee club! Diversity! Inclusion!
Glee always skewed left, but it used to have a real sense of humor about itself. Sadistic cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester was the perfect anti-PC mouthpiece, cutting deftly through the show’s self-satisfied über-sensitivity right when it got too saccharine. But season six has been a relentless, tight-lipped progressive tirade against conservatism without so much as a glimmer of mirth from the other side. Needless to say, since progressivism is predicated upon a string of complete fantasies, the show is now utterly disjointed and incomprehensible.
It’s also utterly unfunny. Indiscriminate satire is hilarious. A series-long harangue is not. Take, for example, the storyline in which an all-male a cappella group is blasted for being “sexist and discriminatory.” The debate rages for an entire episode, with barely a mention of the (entirely legitimate) musical reasons for forming a men’s choir. The issue is treated with the kind of ferocious humorlessness that only progressives can deliver with a straight face.
Liberal backslide: it’s happened before. I wrote about it when it happened to the once-brilliant Parks & Recreation. It happened to 30 Rock, too. It’s always the same process: smart, tight, observational humor, slowly abandoned in favor of preachy nonsense. American TV comedies feature some of the best writing around, when the writers just get out of their own way. More often than not, though, they can’t keep their mouths shut, and their untenable worldviews cloud their comedic vision. It shows, too — there’s a reason Glee’s ratings are lower than ever. There’s a reason it’s going off the air. The only thing less funny than politics is stupid politics.
I’d like to issue a sincere apology. It’s the thing to do these days — everyone’s sorry for something. For example, Benedict Cumberbatch apologized recently after he had the gall to advocate for minorities in show business. His great crime was using the unacceptably outdated term “colored actors” instead of the utterly unrelated and vastly dissimilar approved phrase “people of color.” For this unpardonable sin (formerly known in less enlightened cultures as a “slip of the tongue”), Cumberbatch was rightly commanded to abase himself at the stern and glorious altar of public opinion.
But Cumberbatch obviously isn’t the first — apologizing is so hot right now. It’s practically a spectator sport. Jonah Hill, Alec Baldwin, Christian Bale — they’re all buying into the craze. That many glamorous people can’t possibly all be wrong, so today I’d like to get in on the fun. I’d like to say that I’m really, really sorry.
But the thing is, not all apologies are created equal. You can’t just bat your eyes insincerely and put on your poutiest face. That is certainly not what being a celebrity is all about! No, to really apologize with the big dogs, you have to get down on your knees and beg for mercy. Luckily, The Atlantic is here to help: when Cumberbatch performed his act of penance, Atlantic staffers took the opportunity to enlighten us about how to really repent at the feet of the American press. So I’m going to use the Atlantic’s doctrine to make sure I get my own apology right. After all, Our Journalistic Overlords know best (peace be unto them).
For one thing, when I’m apologizing, I won’t dare suggest that the media goons howling for my blood over a transitory non-issue might be the tiniest bit hyper-sensitive. “Implying that anyone who took issue . . . was overly touchy” is just another way of trying to weasel out of taking responsibility for your filthy, reprehensible crime, explains The Atlantic. Saying “I’m sorry if you were offended” implies that the Left might not have every right to be outraged at your despicable bigotry. After all, it’s your fault if people are ripping you to shreds for using a term that is literally in the name of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. You’re the one who had the audacity to be white and say words.
And I definitely won’t “walk into the chagrinned-white-person trope of referencing [my] non-white ‘friends’” when I make my apology. I wouldn’t be caught dead trying to pretend that routinely being kind to people of other races in any way excuses me from the charge of virulent racism. What a laughable idea! Obviously loving your neighbor is nowhere near as important as using the precise terminology that our Great Thought Masters deemed intellectually sanitary and appropriate all of five minutes ago. As Cumberbatch himself said while undertaking his cleansing ritual of contrition, what matters most is the “need for correct usage of terminology that is accurate and inoffensive.” In other words, it’s no good actually being a decent human if you don’t let the Left tell you exactly what words to say at all times.
So when I make my apology, I’ll make sure not to say “I’m sorry” to any real live human beings whom I could actually have conceivably hurt. Instead I’ll be issuing my apology to a nameless, faceless collective known as “Anyone Whom I Offended.” That way I will forever remain at the mercy of an undefined mass of people whose imperious outrage gives them the right to judge my every thought, word, and deed at any moment. I will reach out into the beyond to address Anyone Whom I Offended through their divine oracles and representatives on earth: mainstream journalists and late-night talk show hosts. These exalted keepers of the sacred mysteries are the only ones fit to evaluate the worthiness of my repentance.
“Now Spencer,” you may well ask, “what are you sorry for?” I know — it’s difficult to imagine what it could possibly be. After all, I’m awesome. Could it be that, like Cumberbatch, I committed the grievous offense of saying an unapproved word? Or, like Billy Crystal, am I guilty of the thought-crime of holding a “socially engrained attitude” towards homosexuality “in the gut rather than the intellect”? After all, according to The Atlantic, thinking forbidden thoughts is “part of the same phenomenon that causes discrimination, suicide, youth homelessness, and murder.” So no matter how scrupulous I am, I probably thought something bad one time, and that’s the same as killing someone. I’d like to apologize. Here goes.
To Anyone Whom I Offended within the mysterious ether: I am desperately and passionately sorry for my impure thoughts. I offer my frantic apologies to all of the innocent babies who were slaughtered mercilessly in their sleep by my wayward words and feelings. I know that I can never undo these deplorable acts because I am myself a scourge on the very universe, lowlier than a worm. However, as a symbol of my righteous self-loathing, I hope you will accept this speech, which I will recite nightly on my knees before the twin altars of People magazine and The Tonight Show. I also promise to wear a hair-shirt under all my runway suits for the duration of my career, and to offer five Our Fathers a day to Al Sharpton, to whom I am apparently accountable for some reason. I will embrace suffering like a lover and pain like an old friend, to the eternal glory of Progressivism. Amen.
I feel better already. If you’re reading this out there, beware! You may have unrepented sins (such as saying something mean about Lena Dunham or thinking unflatteringly about Perez Hilton) on your conscience. I implore you to make amends by posting a heartfelt apology in the comments section of this article as soon as possible. And may Jimmy Fallon have mercy on your soul.
This essay is part of an ongoing dialogue between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island regarding the future of conservatism and the role of emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. See the previous installments in the series and join the discussion:
- Sarah Hoyt, March 22 2014: Interview: Adam Bellow Unveils New Media Publishing Platform Liberty Island
- David S. Bernstein, June 20 2014: What Is Liberty Island?
- Adam Bellow at National Review, June 30 2014 kicking off the discussion: Let Your Right Brain Run Free
- Dave Swindle on September 7, 2014: Why Culture Warriors Should Understand the 10 Astounding Eras of Disney Animation’s Evolution
- Dave Swindle on September 9, 2014: The 50 Greatest Counter-Culture Films of All Time, Part I
- Dave Swindle on September 19, 2014: The 50 Greatest Counter-Culture Films of All Time, Part II
- David S. Bernstein on November 19, 2014: 5 Leaders of the New Conservative Counter-Culture
- Dave Swindle on November 25, 2014: 7 Reasons Why Thanksgiving Will Be My Last Day on Facebook
- Dave Swindle on December 2, 2014: My Growing List of 65 Read-ALL-Their-Books Authors
- Mark Elllis on December 9, 2014: Ozzy Osbourne and the Conservative Tent: Is He In?
- Aaron C. Smith on December 22, 2014: The Villains You Choose
- Paula Bolyard on January 1, 2015: 7 New Year’s Resolutions for Conservatives
- Susan L.M. Goldberg on January 1, 2015: The Plan to Take Back Feminism in 2015
- Kathy Shaidle on January 4, 2015: Did the 1960s Really Happen? (Part One)
- Andrew Klavan on January 5, 2015: In 2015 The New Counter-Culture Needs to Be Offensive!
- Clay Waters on January 5, 2015: The Decline and Fall of Russell Brand
- Mark Ellis on January 5, 2015: How Conservatives Can Counter the Likable Liberal
- Audie Cockings on January 5, 2015: Entertainers Have Shorter Lifespans
- Aaron C. Smith on January 6, 2015: How Mario Cuomo Honestly Defined Zero-Sum Liberalism
- Stephen McDonald on January 10, 2015: Why the New Counter-Culture Should Make Strength Central to Its Identity
- Stephen McDonald on January 16, 2015: The Metaphorical War
- Kathy Shaidle on January 19, 2015: Did the 1960s Really Happen? (Part Two)
- Frank J. Fleming on January 20, 2015: What if Red Dawn Happened, But It Was Islamic Terrorists Instead of Communists?
- Mark Ellis on January 21, 2015: Adam Carolla: The Quintessential Counterculture Conservative?
- Aaron C. Smith on January 29, 2015: Objection! Why TV’s The Good Wife Isn’t Good Law
- David Solway on February 2, 2015: For a Song To Be Good, Must It Tell The Truth?
- Mark Ellis on February 6, 2015: President Me: Adam Carolla Vs. the Scourge of Narcissism
- David Solway on February 6, 2015: ‘Imagine’ a World Without the Brotherhood
- Aaron C. Smith on February 10, 2015: Kick NBC While It’s Down: Use The Williams Scandal to Set the Terms of the 2016 Debates
image illustration via here
If the new all-female cast of Ghostbusters has taught us anything, it’s that radical progressives are locked in a tense battle with the scary monsters under their beds. Seriously: at this point, the main cultural enemies of extreme liberals are made-up boogeymen from the feverish imagination of progressivism itself.
This was never more clear than last week, when Jezebel (an intellectual black hole masquerading as a news website) published a satirical blog post under the fabricated authorship of “A Hysterical Man.” The article was called “New All-Feminist Ghostbusters Is A Punch in the Dick to All of Mankind.” It was an imaginary response to Paul Feig’s announcement that his Ghostbusters reboot will star four women. What we were all supposed to believe was that Jezebel’s post was a cleverly exaggerated send-up of the misogynist hysterics that had actually erupted among the stunted ogres and half-men who supposedly infest the blogosphere.
Jezebel’s cardboard cut-out man is a sniveling mess of pent-up rage and mommy issues. He alternates between bigoted venom (he refers to the new cast as “four angry dykes”) and sudden outbursts of the repressed Freudian hang-ups that fuel his hatred of women (“I HATE MY MOM, A LOT”). The article is peppered with links to actual posts from actual men having actual opinions about the movie, so you know Jezebel isn’t being unfair. There really is an army of knuckle-dragging trolls out there in the “manosphere,” clamoring to deny women their rights. And Jezebel really does have them pegged.
Except it’s all a complete fairytale. For one thing, barely any of the links in the Jezebel article say what Jezebel implies they do. Just a couple of examples: Jezebel’s imaginary man squeals that the film is a “betrayal.” The word is suggestively hyperlinked to what turns out to be an introspective and even-handed reflection from a man who feels ambivalent about the film, but “not because it’s an all female cast.” Another link leads to commenters who predict that the movie will suck “for at least 10 reasons, all which [sic] have nothing to do with the fact that the leads are women.” There’s the usual online trash-talk, but the slavering histrionics that Jezebel satirizes are nowhere to be found. The one lonely little nugget of truth among Jezebel’s fantasy citations is that someone did, in fact, rename the movie Ballbusters. Which, like, let’s be honest, is pretty hilarious.
And another thing. You could scour the internet for days and you still wouldn’t find a single reputable writer who even remotely resembles “Hysterical Man.” That’s even if, unlike Jezebel’s fact-checking team, you spent more than half an hour on research and you didn’t have this week’s episode of Girls playing in another tab.
Look, rebooting the movie with an all-female cast is a dumb idea. I imagine it’ll be terrible. It’ll probably flop like a rubber chicken at the box office. Whatever. But no one — as in, no one — is cursing the heavens because it stars women. Of course you’ll find a troglodyte or two mouthing off in his mom’s basement — you’ll find those in ample measure on the Left and the Right. But among the vast majority of sentient beings, the worst you’ll find is some mild annoyance about the incessant lip service that Hollywood pays to the delusional far-Left. Jezebel’s bloodthirsty internet trolls are about as real as the ones Hans Christian Andersen warned you about.
This isn’t the first time progressives have made up a big bad super-villain and done valiant, imaginary battle with him. Remember when Emma Watson delivered that big feminist call to arms on the floor of the UN? Remember when we heard about those backwards, disgusting, cowardly orcs threatening to teach Watson a lesson by leaking nude pictures of her? Remember when that turned out to be a barefaced lie invented to condemn the website 4Chan for an act of blackmail that it didn’t commit? Probably not, because the second the hoax was revealed, the story got buried by the mainstream press.
The goal of all this is to cast the Left as embattled heroes, shuddering but never breaking under the slings and arrows of their monstrous persecutors on the Right. The trick works by sleight-of-hand, highlighting and magnifying the lowest of the low. Progressive bloggers strategically take the schoolyard taunts of poorly behaved teenagers and the violent outbursts of the mentally ill as representative of the entire philosophy of conservatism. If an unhinged sociopath goes on a murderous rampage, well, we need to talk about the evils of masculinity “before boys and men commit more mass shootings.” And if that sociopath plastered vile ravings across the gutters of the internet, then his massacre was the fault of “misogyny and gun culture” in our “sexist society.” By shining a spotlight on disturbed extremists, progressives can effectively claim that the entire world is against them.
It would all just be ridiculous if credulous do-gooders didn’t gulp this narrative down like candy. Jezebel’s fabricated misogynist is making the rounds, and he’s doing exactly what he was created to do — tricking people into thinking that he’s real. There are university newspaper articles out there right now that cite Jezebel’s article — and nothing else — as proof that the asinine forces of masculinity are waging a war on women. Some people are even convinced the post is real.
This is more than a straw man argument. In a straw man argument, there actually has to be an opposing view to misinterpret. This is intellectual shadow-boxing, a mythological Orwellian hate-magnet conjured out of thin air to unite adherents under the banner of an ideology that otherwise has absolutely nothing going for it. Progressives have made a science out of whipping themselves into a froth of righteous indignation over nothing to win followers and votes. If we’re not careful, it’ll work.
If you’ve enlisted in the Campus Conservative Revolutionary Forces (CCRF), you won’t be in the field long before you find yourself face-to-face with a Gender Theorist. They’re all over campus, striding self-righteously towards classes like “Queer Theory and Gender Performativity,” angrily shouting made-up words at perplexed passersby. You can recognize a Gender Theorist by his/her/zir/its/our/their/Wonderwoman’s shrill voice, with which he/she/ze/it/we/they/Wonderwoman will promptly upbraid you for existing. Gender Theorists are formidable intellectual foes, often capable of making several extremely loud points at once. Stand your ground, soldier! The Campus Conservative’s Field Manual is here to help. The first step is to know your enemy. So take a trip with me down the rabbit hole, into the wild and wacky world of Gender Theory.
The basic premise of Gender Theory is that sex and gender are two separate things. Sex, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), “refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women.” Basically your sex is your naughty bits (plus all the other physical stuff that comes with them). Gender, says the WHO, “refers to the socially constructed behaviours . . . that a given society considers appropriate for men and women.” So gender includes all the non-physical aspects of what it means to be a man or a woman — things like playing football instead of playing with Barbie.
The Gender Theorist battle cry is that sex and gender aren’t connected — the body you were born with doesn’t determine who you are. On the small scale, that means boys can play with Barbies and girls can play football. On a slightly bigger scale, it means boys can wear dresses. On a really big scale, it means people born male can be “women” because they feel like it: gender is just “an oppressive social construct” anyway. So you can declare yourself to be any gender you want, including a made-up one (since they’re all made-up). Options include male, female, genderqueer, purple penguin, and so on. I am making zero of those up. My spell-check didn’t even bat an eye at “genderqueer.”
Then comes the big Gender Theory punchline: the assertion that There Is No Normal. “Society” makes up these bogus “norms” like “average height” or “normal blood pressure.” But in reality we’re all a little taller or shorter than average, or a little closer to the verge of cardiac arrest than most. So, too, with genders: “there is no ‘norm,’” says one Gender Theorist; “‘there are as many orientations and genders as there are people.’” All that really matters is who you are inside — and everyone should be able to decide that for him/her/zir/its/our/their/Karl Rove’s self.
Okay, time to make our way back to the real world. I know, it’s a long climb. Start small: yes, there is such a thing as normal. Duh. The word means “the usual, average, or typical state or condition.” In other words, the thing that happens most of the time. Despite what some extremely imaginative Gender Theorists would have you believe, most people are born with boy parts or girl parts. That’s what’s normal.
So then, this idea that “who you really are” has nothing to do with your physical body. At this point, when battling a Gender Theorist, politely point out that they are speaking utter gibberish. This idea could not possibly be more unscientific. In fact (obviously), physical things like our brain chemistry, our hormone levels, and our bodily structure have a profound effect on our emotions, experiences, and actions. Just one example: when breast cancer survivors get their adrenal glands removed, they become demonstrably less interested in getting it on. The way we behave has a lot to do with what chemicals are swimming around in our body. And by and large (normally), male and female chemicals are different.
By contrast, this fantasy that we’re all actually magical elven spirits with no relationship to our bodies sounds like something out of a bad anime cartoon. “Ahhh yes, we believe that the spark of the great spirit gender lives in each man. Or woman. Or Karl Rove.” Actually, of course, we’re embodied souls: our bodies are part of the language in which our personalities are written.
So stick with me here (you might tell your Gender Theorist friend), because I know it’s crazy: people are normally born male or female. That means they’re normally quite physically different. Physical makeup affects behavior. Which means — heresy of heresies — men and women normally behave differently. Be warned: this screamingly obvious piece of information may cause a Gender Theorist’s eyes to explode in shock (careful not to get your shirt messy).
The great danger to Gender Theory is that the gaping holes in its foundational logic might potentially be visible under acute scrutiny by advanced observational tools such as eyes or a brain. To prevent this, Gender Theorists relentlessly accuse everyone who challenges them of bigotry and oppression. From Kirsten Dunst to Kevin Williamson, folks who suggest that mayyyyybe men can’t just declare that they’re women get called backwards, hateful, and (gasp) transmisogynist. And may God have mercy on your soul if you use the wrong pronoun to describe someone’s imaginary gender. This sin of sins is called a microaggression: the subtly hostile imposition of oppressive cultural norms on a free-spirited gender unicorn. The fear is (literally) that by acknowledging the thunderously apparent fact that the person you’re talking to has dude junk, you’ll violently interrupt his fantasy that he’s a sparkly spirit animal with no relationship to his body. Cry me a river.
This stuff has got to go. So go forth and do intellectual battle, campus conservatives! Honestly, in a logical world, this would be almost too easy. Too bad we don’t live in a logical world. Be on the lookout for more tips and tricks for arguing with nonsense in the next installment of The Campus Conservative’s Field Manual. Until then, if you’ve got more battle scars or stories to share from times you’ve taken on Gender Theory, write ‘em all down in the comments!
See the previous installments in this series:
Well folks, it’s Oscar season — or would be, if anybody cared. The nominees for the year came out last week, presumably after the traditional kerfuffle among academy members over which soporific art film to shower with unctuous praise this year. Basically it’s like, whatever.
But where there’s an irrelevant non-issue, you can always count on the forces of online progressivism to fabricate a meaningless scandal. You know, just in case anyone was thinking about paying attention to the ceaseless parade of actual injustice that is the actual news. Currently, outraged progressives are valiantly complaining that the Academy is honoring too many white males. It’s the whitest oscars since 1998! Al Sharpton is calling an “emergency meeting!” In fact, of the nominees for best actor, one hundred percent are men! Facts.
Naturally, we at PJ Media take these issues very seriously. So I’ve taken it upon myself to rewrite this year’s best picture nominees to make them more politically correct. I know, I know — it’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it. And let’s face it, I’m the most virtuous person I know. Plus luckily I haven’t seen most of these movies, which makes it easier.
So without further ado, I bring you: The Progressive Oscars! Here are three of the nominees, rewritten for a better tomorrow.
See Chapter 1 in this new series here: How to Outwit a Radical Feminist
In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, let’s talk about cultural relativism. Can we do that, for a second? Because it seems relevant.
If you’re new to the tortured logic of modern progressivism, you might be surprised to see college campuses and media outlets across America trembling with doe-eyed concern for the safety of Muslims in Paris. After yet more innocent civilians were gunned down in cold blood by Islamist extremists, it might seem more natural to you to worry about, oh, I don’t know, the safety of innocent civilians being gunned down in cold blood by Islamist extremists. Perhaps, in your naïve opinion, it seemed odd to watch well-coiffed intellectuals wringing their manicured hands over the West’s virulent islamophobia.These things might appear strange to you. Well then, my tender little sugar muffin, it’s time to talk about cultural relativism.
And how to destroy it.
There’s an intellectual war going on, and conservatives are surrendering. In elite universities all over America and Europe, incoherent and destructive ideologies are taking hold. Radical feminism, socialism, cultural relativism: these are philosophies founded on logical fallacies and barefaced dishonesty.
But they’re gaining ground.
Take a look at Brendan O’Neill’s article in The Spectator: universities are getting colonized. Oxford, Harvard, Princeton: the “best and brightest” are buying into the maundering nonsense of the radical Left. And the good guys aren’t fighting back. Libertarian and conservative students — the counterculture — are letting the Left dominate social media and campus activism. Maybe we’re scared of being unhip, the bad guys. Maybe progressivism is so obviously absurd we think we can ignore it.
Since starting my master’s at Oxford this fall, I’ve been looking for a church. A new life in a new country meant I needed a Christian community to remind me who I am. I found one just in time for Christmas. Here’s what I learned on the way.
There are a lot of churches in Oxford. Honestly, you can’t walk down the block without tripping over a church. They tend to be Anglican. But after visiting various services, I started noticing two general kinds of atmosphere — two distinct styles of worship. Now, I’m a layman to my core. I have no business evaluating doctrines or denominations. This is just what I saw.
Well, it’s that time of the year: days getting shorter, nights getting colder, choirs singing and priests commemorating the virgin birth. I know what you’re thinking: it must be time for the rural Dionysia! Mmmm, chanting in ritualistic praise of the wine-god just gives me that warm, fuzzy feeling — like eggnog by the fire.
Okay for real though, obviously Christmas is the best holiday in the history of ever. But Christmas as it’s celebrated these days is a mash-up, a “greatest hits” of December festival practices from the ancient and modern world. A lot of our traditions go all the way back to ancient Greece. So to get in the spirit, here are five of my favorite yuletide rituals, along with their ancient Greek roots. They’ve been mathematically ranked and arranged in ascending order depending on how merry and/or bright they are. Happy ancient Greek Christmas, everyone! (And more importantly, happy real Christmas, too.)
Republicans took back Congress by offering solid policy alternatives to the Obama administration’s catastrophic demagoguery. But to take back the culture, we conservatives ought to start telling more fart jokes. Ironically, I’m not kidding about that.
For a while now, I’ve been thinking and writing about dirty jokes from the ancient Greek stage and the modern movie theater. One thing I’ve noticed is that we haven’t come up with a lot of new material over the past 2500 years. Basically, awkward sex and uncontrollable bowel movements are what’s funny. Since literally the birth of Western civilization, audiences have lined up out the door to watch some poor goon crap his pants.
No surprises there.
For the past two weeks, I’ve been digging through the gutter of ancient Greek and Roman comedy to find the grodiest jokes and weirdest plots from the classical world. Turns out, the founders of Western culture had dirty, dirty little minds just like we do in the good old US of A. But we can definitely give the Greeks and Romans a run for their money — the past few decades have been a golden age of gross-out gags. One name in particular has become synonymous with outrageous laughs. Whether he’s writing, directing, producing, or just making fart noises in the corner, Judd Apatow has become the face of a certain brand of smut. The funny thing is, a lot of his movies would have been right at home on the ancient stage. So here, ranked from least to most hilarious, are five of my favorite Apatow films — and the ancient plays that look a lot like them.
1. Celebrities in Hell: This Is the End and Frogs
Apatow mentored Seth Rogen as he filmed this 2013 apocaflic, in which a bunch of showbiz blockheads get hurled into hell on earth. Rogen and his stoner buddies (Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, etc.) get passed over by the rapture because their lives have been empty and debauched. So they have to fight to survive while the earth is plagued by molten brimstone, ravenous demons with grotesquely large genitalia, and Emma Watson. Only by demonstrating some kind of meaningful altruism can they get tractor-beamed up to heaven, where everyone gets a Segway and the Backstreet Boys are back together.
Aristophanes’ Frogs is also about a bunch of self-obsessed artists messing around in the pits of the damned. Dionysus, the showbiz god, descends past “forever-flowing crap,” an undead fiend who wants to rip his junk off, and a she-devil “with a bronze leg . . . and the other made of cow-poop,” in search of a writer worth his salt. The one playwright whose material has more substance than a shopping list gets tractor-beamed back to earth. Finding someone in show business who’s not too vapid to justify his existence turns out to take a worryingly long time.
(Aristophanes, Frogs 145 ff.; 475 ff.; 294 ff.)
Anyone who’s ever watched a Seth Rogen movie knows that great comedy can be long on laughs, short on plot. Try to recite the story of Pineapple Express from beginning to end in coherent English and you’ll see what I mean. But paper-thin plotting wasn’t invented in 2008. Ancient Greek comedies made about as much narrative sense as a James Brown interview. Add in 2500 years worth of cultural change, and you get scripts that read like a Japanese knock-off of a Will Ferrell film written by someone on ‘shrooms. Ranked from weirdly confusing to utterly incomprehensible, here are ten ancient plots that made more jokes than sense.
Some jokes are always funny. Then again, after 2500 years, some jokes are just really, really gross and weird. The ancient Greeks and Romans may have laid the foundations of the Western world, but — and this is weirdly comforting — they loved fart gags. The comedies they put onstage were about as mature and sophisticated as a Judd Apatow movie, and just as filthy. So if you were sure sex was invented in 1963, hold onto your petticoats: this is a tour through the deepest gutters of the ancient world, ranked from naughty giggles to outright smut. Read on for a sampling of, quite literally, some of the oldest jokes in the book.
The Greek comedian Aristophanes loved big, dumb, gross-out gags, but he also loved political satire with more of a bite. In Wasps, he put them together. In the play, a father and son are arguing for and against Cleon, Athens’ political hotshot. The dad, Philocleon, basically has the hots for Cleon — Philocleon is Greek for “love Cleon.” The son, who thinks Cleon’s a dirtbag, is called Bdelycleon — which means either “disgusting Cleon,” or, more appealingly, “fart Cleon.” Essentially it’s as if Rush Limbaugh changed his name to “Obama-is-a-fart.” Which, come to think of it, would be hilarious.
The lights went out on Mount Olympus a long time ago, but they’re burning bright on the red carpet. There’s a connection there – it’s not a coincidence that a world without Greek gods is a world that wants to know what Brad Pitt eats for breakfast. We can’t worship the ancient pantheon anymore – it would be ridiculous, and, God be praised, we know better. But like it or not, there’s a space in the human heart shaped like the pagan deities. That’s the space we’ve filled with T-Swift and J-Biebz, with Miley Cyrus and Will Smith. Absurd but true: with the old temples empty, we’ve built new altars to matinée idols.
The wonderfully amusing thing about progressivist thought is how old and played-out it is. The #GamerGate controversy is a perfect example. On one side are the #GamerGate folks, video game enthusiasts like me. We basically just want to be left alone in our basements to blow up computerized helicopters. On the other side are militant feminists like Anita Sarkeesian. They think video games brainwash little boys into becoming the violent sociopaths that, according to “rape culture” theory, they already are anyway. Essentially, progressives want to sanitize stories about unsavory behavior for the good of society. That idea goes back at least 2300 years, to ancient Greece, where it was also a failure. For a movement that defines itself as the wave of the future, that’s a pretty hackneyed approach.
I’m talking here about #GamerGate in the broadest terms. I’m not talking about Chelsea Van Valkenburg, the mentally unstable pseudo-designer whose dysfunctional relationship somehow started this whole mess. I’m not talking about internecine squabbles over gaming journalism. I’m talking about the bigger fight, between gamers and the radicals who want to sterilize games.
For a couple of weeks now, I’ve been running updates on the Hot Gossip from Heaven – feuds, fights, and sex scandals from Mount Olympus, ancient Greece’s mythological celebrity nightclub. This week, we’ll push the clock way forward to see how much our own celebrities have in common with the A-listers of Olympus. These are my top five: the sexiest stars and starlets from the ancient world, and the modern mega-celebs who could easily play them on TV. They’re ranked (of course) from hot to hottest – so read on for the good stuff.
1. Persephone: Miley Cyrus
Persephone was the original good girl gone bad. It wasn’t her fault: in her younger days she was “the girl with a face like a blossom,” blushingly beautiful and demure. But that’s exactly why Hades, the slime-bag god of death, wanted to get his grubby hands on her. He kidnapped her, trapped her in the underworld, and force-fed her magic fruit so she’d have to stay down and become his captive wife. From then on she was a dark terror, the “dreaded” queen of death who fulfilled the curses of the gods. To say she went Goth is an understatement. (Homeric Hymn 2.8; Homer, Iliad 9.457)
Last week in the divine tabloids, we saw the stars and starlets of Mount Olympus get frisky. For this week’s issue, we’ll watch them get deadly. Celebrity firefights on Twitter are minor tantrums compared to the way the Greek gods could throw down — if you were stupid enough to get in their way, you were in for a world of hurt. From goofy to gruesome, starting with minor mayhem and ramping up to all-out war, here are ten gods who could make you wish you’d never been born.
1. Artemis: no boys allowed
Artemis was the goddess of the hunt: she’d gore you with an arrow as soon as look at you. She’d also sworn off men. This was bad news for Actaeon, a hapless little doofus who went hunting and wandered randomly into a grove where Artemis was taking a bath. There she was, full frontal, and Actaeon accidentally got a glorious, extremely forbidden peek. Artemis turned him into a stag, and “his own hunting dogs feasted on their former master,” ripping Actaeon apart and devouring him alive. When it came to the whole “vow of chastity” thing, Artemis didn’t kid around.
(Callimachus, Athena’s Bath 114-5)
In ancient Greece, the gods were the hottest celebrities in town. Mount Olympus, where they lived, was essentially a bangin’ nightclub where everybody who was anybody came to drink, party, and bicker about whose pet army of humans would slaughter more enemies. The Greeks loved to gossip about them — Aphrodite, the iconically gorgeous starlet; Apollo, the dreamboat rockstar; Hephaestus, the misunderstood black sheep. And nothing hit the tabloids faster than a divine sex scandal. The Greeks wrote myth after myth spilling all the raunchy details of their gods’ heavenly escapades, which could have made Paris Hilton look as pure as the driven snow. From least to most outrageous, here’s the dirt on the ten most sinful scandals ever to hit heaven.
1. Zeus and Danae: one way or another . . .
The king of the gods could pulverize mountains, but he couldn’t keep it in his pants. How he had time to chase so much tail while running the universe is among the great mysteries of ancient Greek theology. But he always got the girl. Princess Danae was deadbolted inside a bronze cell, under the freaking ground, but Zeus managed to knock her up anyway. He turned into a shower of gold, then poured in through the ceiling straight “into her womb.” It’s unclear how Danae felt about all this, but it’s a good bet Zeus was pretty pleased with himself.
(Apollodorus, Library 2.4.1)
300 is the kind of film that seems too good to be true. It gets us pumped up, but we don’t believe it — not really. The Spartan soldiers in the film stand for Greece’s freedom against Persia’s colossal empire. they do it with elegant nobility and boisterous relish. They lift their spears into the air and charge onward to glory. So most of us in the audience decide it has to be a fairytale. Things as they really are, we think, are rougher around the edges than that. We don’t believe in that kind of slick, glamorous heroism.
But Herodotus, the Ancient historian whose writing is the source material for 300, did believe. He believed the battle in 480 BC at Thermopylae was mythic in its grandeur and titanic in its importance. When he wrote his Histories, that’s what he was trying to preserve: that monumental sense of glory. So even though 300 takes some poetic license, it strikes right at the core of the valor and drama that Herodotus wrote his Histories to convey. That’s why 300, for all of the facts it gets wrong, is more true to Herodotus than any history textbook.