2005-01-09

Jerry Springer: the Opera

No, not science in disguise: this really is about JStO. I was at my mothers so I got to watch it. The website is http://www.jerryspringertheopera.com/jerry_opera.html. I woudn't normally watch opera but the shrieks of the Christian Fundamentalists burning their TV licences were so loud (see Google News) I thought I'd give it a go. BTW, I really ought to say "Life of Brian" somewhere, so here will do. I had thought about blogging about the Tsunami (in comparison to the Congo war, since you ask) but decided on something less controversial. Also, I've never watched the JS show (except poss a clip or 2 of people fighting) so know little about it beyond the obvious. On...

JS is an American thing, and I think JStO is British, so I don't know how many of you out there have seen it, or can make sense of this. The thing on the TV was a filming of the play at the Cambridge Theatre, in London.

Anyway, just as the Opera starts, I should start, by saying: there are words and concepts in this post that may offend the delicate.

Right, you were warned. On we go...

The basic format of the opera is in two parts: the JS show (complete with audience, warm-up-man, security, and David Soul as JS) is part 1. Then JS gets shot and decends into Hell is part 2, and here the format is mostly maintained too. And it is opera - everyone sings, except for JS. The CF's say its blasphemous, and I presume its mostly part 2 they mean - part 1 didn't seem to contain anything terrible, beyond rude words (dip me in chocolate and throw me to the lesbians might offend some, but not for blasphemy... and most people say fuck in most sentences). A small side point is that because everyone sings, its quite often hard to hear what they are saying - you have to strain to be offended, so to speak (old joke: woman in hotel room: manager! i'm disgusted! you can see a naked man from my room [manager arrives]: where madam? i can't see one. woman: oh no, you have to stand on the washbasin and peer out of the side window...).

Purely as entertainment, its OK. Part 2 is better than part 1 (both ideas and song quality).

To show you how good I am at this stuff, it wasn't till after the finish that I realised that the story of Jonathon the warm up man (we start the show with him, getting the on-stage audience to sing Jerry-Jerry, etc; a bit later he starts getting too big for his boots; then JS sacks him; then in the shooting incident which ends part 1, Jonathon ?hands a gun? to an enraged participant and moves his arm so JS is shot. In part 2 the same actor returns as the character of Satan) is parallel to the story of Satan. Ha! Clever eh?

Other actors also take parts in part 1 and part 2. This is probably where the most blasphemous bits are, by implication rather than explicit. In part 2, Satan has dragged JS down to hell to organise a version of the show for him, in which he will confront various people - Jesus, Adam/Eve, Mary, God - and try to get an apology from them. P2 starts with a Satan song that recapitulates a sort of paradise-lost version of Satans fall. JS knows that getting an apology is hopeless (and indeed sugests to S that it is unjustified, too), and only Satans graphic threats to fuck him up the ass with barbed wire make him continue. A rather fat actor who in part 1 was a guest with a need to be babied to "improve things in the bed department" becomes Jesus in part 2. In part 1 this actor sings a song (not one of the better ones) about needing to shit his nappies, strips off his suit and wears just a nappy (diaper, for you transatlantic folk out there...) and an idiotic-beautific/smug smile. In part 2, the same actor now wears a neatly-draped loincloth, but has the same jiggly-fat-breats and smug smile, and I guess that probably winds up the fundi's no end.

Various other stuff occurs (why does Baby Jane play so large a part?) and then God comes in singing about, well, essentially the problem of evil, in the form of it-isn't-easy-being-me, people go around making all the wrong decisions and then blame it on him (which, err, doesn't really deal with tsunamis etc, but lets not get into that here...). God wants JS to come to heaven to help him; JS jumps at the chance but Satan won't let him go; fight. JS is then forced to try to settle all the problems but can't (surprise: (a) neither side will listen to the other and (b) the problems were probably insoluble anyway and (c) JS repeatedly says he doesn't do conflict resolution but ?TV?). So he ends with something like "fuck the lot of you" and, I think, who-can-tell-right-and-wrong-anyway. Which I thought a rather poor end. but then there is a song-and-dance recapitulation of the songs, and fini. Somewhere towards the end, Steve the faithful security man hold the dying JS is a pose presumably like that of Pieta (have I got the right reference here?). And I suppose that might offend too.

How does it portray JS? We see him exploiting the people on the show, which is perhaps nasty, but in the opera at least he doesn't dig at them: just asks q's and they unfold. he also gets to say, later, don't bitch at me, you *wanted* to come on, and you got to stay in a 3 star hotel. His firing of Jonathon is callous. But overall, fairly sympa, I'd say.

And his guests? They are seen as losers (I think the on-stage audience shout this at them from the start), mostly (e.g. Peaches) as sad victims. Some of them (the woman who wants to pole-dance, and who becomes Eve in part 2) as people nearly crushed by their lives but with, occaisionally, the strength to try to attain their dreams (however odd those dreams might be). So they get sympathy for that too. In contrast to the usual tv/stage puff-perfection, no one looks pretty.

And religion? well... now I come to write this, I can't really say. If you strip away the disrespect (in which I include the comment-by-implication in the choice of linking Jesus to the shitting man, which seems more an unfair slur than a comment), there really isn't much comment on religion, mostly just a bit from Paradise Lost, like wot I said before.

Its life-of-brian all over agina, guv.

[Update: monday: I talked about JStO with Tom at work, a (liberal) Catholic. He too could not quite work out why it was supposed to be blasphemous, and he could not work out what if anything it was saying about religion (is that its sin? using religion as a backdrop?). *He* hadn't realised the Jonathon-Satan parallel at all; OTOH when I mentioned it he said, but doesn't that make JS God then, cos Jonathon is his right hand-man? But then that doesn't make sense either, both from the general presentation, and because God appears separately. Well, maybe the analogies can be pushed too far.]

[Another update: tuesday: see the wiki entry - I missed the split between acts 2 and 3, though this doesn't matter much.]

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