Encapsulating Satire Through Ex-Gays
This is the fourth post in a series of blogs about our upcoming production, Ex-Gays, written by Tanner Curl. Ex-Gays will be presented at Matthews Park and Recreation Center opening July 15th.
I usually don’t dig on inspirational quotes. Often, they’re trite. Even more often, they’re fake. But sometimes I come across a quote that, even if it’s fake, makes so much sense to me, I have to scribble it down in a notebook or, in a true sign of belief, put it on my Facebook profile. One quote that has crossed the Eff-book Threshold of Awesomeness comes from George Bernard Shaw, “If you’re going to tell the truth, you better make them laugh; otherwise, they’ll kill you.” Even if ole Georgie B. Shaw-dawg didn’t say those exact words, I still dig the quote, because it so perfectly encapsulates what I think and love about satire.
Remember the Tina Fey-as-Sarah Palin sketches on Saturday Night Live in 2008? They were great, and my favorite aspect about them was how they infused the script with actual quotes from the Real Sarah Palin. It can be funny to put ridiculous things in someone’s mouth to make them look ridiculous, but to put a real person’s real words in an impersonator’s mouth and see how truly ridiculous those words really are? Hilarious!
Another example is Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s musical, The Book of Mormon. I listened to a Fresh Air interview with Parker and Stone, and they were asked about Mormons being a frequent focus of their movie and television work and how this has created the impression that they don’t like Mormons. To the contrary, Parker and Stone said, they think Mormons are nice people, but a lot of Mormon beliefs and attitudes are ripe for laughs. (You can check out The Book of Mormon performance from Sunday night’s Tony awards to see what I’m talking about.)
So, when we started planning the marketing strategy for our summer production, Ex-Gays, and I was charged creating the website of Camp Str8-N-Arrow (the camp within the play that helps those poor, poor souls afflicted with homosexual attractions), I started researching actual camps that do this sort of work and looked at the language they use to describe their beliefs and mission statements.
Some of them actually seem quite reasonable, at least on the surface. Take, for example, Love Won Out, which was founded by Rev. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, but is currently run by Exodus International. While I expected a full fire-and-brimstone approach, I found their website surprisingly warm, complete with stock photos of confused, sad looking gay people, desperately looking how to live and love in a way that is God-approved. Of course, once you start looking below the promotional surface, you start to find holes in their rationale and their “science-based research.” And, even more disquieting, there is a stunning lack of information regarding the prevalence of depression and suicide among those “who struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions” and choose “to steward their impulses in a way that aligns with their faith convictions.”
And then there are examples of ex-gay ministries that are so ridiculous and cartoonish, you feel like they have to be manufactured for comic effect. Meet, for example, Rev. Bradlee Dean of You Can Run But You Can’t Hide International. You might be familiar with Rev. Dean--last month, he received national attention for a speech he gave on the floor of the Minnesota House of Representatives, wherein he happened to mention that all U.S. presidents have been Christian...up until 2008. (Ugh.) Take a few minutes to peruse the good Rev. Dean’s website and read his words and beliefs and mission.
You’ll have to laugh about it. You’ll have to make jokes.
Otherwise, you’ll cry.
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