Thursday, January 24, 2008

Well I'm Sure He Hates You More

Normally I can barely be bothered to comment on news out of the (err) entertainment industry; it's usually a sea of vapidity and thinly veiled schadenfreude, both of which I'm more than capable of producing for myself. And since most people are far more interested in Section D of the Free Press than I ever could be (comics page aside, that is), usually I take it as a given that you've already heard anything I would be about to tell you.

For example, I'm sure by now you'd heard that actor Heath Ledger was found dead a few days ago; I was only passingly aware of any of his work, and as such I didn't really have anything to contribute to the news.

(I did see A Knight's Tale once, now that I think about it, and I don't recall liking it in the slightest -- but I think that was less about the principal actor and more about the elaborate, ostensibly medievally-themed David Bowie dance number. ANYWAY I DIGRESS)

While I personally wasn't too drawn to the matter, I can understand how his sudden death was troubling for many. And the industry's writers are still on strike, so it's not as though there was anything else for anybody to pay attention to. (I'm excluding local, national and world news here, because a lot of people usually do.) But then, late Tuesday evening, the story took another interesting and awful turn -- and few things render an ongoing issue simultaneously more interesting and more awful quite like the addition of Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church, who seemingly exist only to appear in random news stories and do terrible things under the auspices of faith.

You may recall them as the people who picketed the Matthew Shepard funeral, picketed the return of dead American troops from Iraq, picketed the Sago Mine memorial, picketed Billy Graham revivals (of all things), and announced their intention to picket against the entire nation of Sweden. You can probably gleam their modus operandi from the previous sentence; they like pickets.

And, using their usual gentle and charming command of the language, they've announced their intention to picket Heath Ledger's eventual memorial service on the grounds that he played a homosexual character in a critically acclaimed movie once. (And no, nobody is making this up; that press release is real and unaltered. Much to the chagrin of pretty much anybody.)

They're very peculiar, Fred Phelps and his followers; it's always painfully obvious that they crave attention, but not once have they ever accomplished or contributed anything that would cast their cause or their organization in a positive light. Who's to say what motivates their continued inscrutable behavior? Maybe they'd added an extra commandment about there being no such thing as bad publicity; maybe their extended networks of laywers rake in untold amounts of coin off the people who respond violently to their pickets and demonstrations. Maybe they have a convoluted strategy of reverse psychology for the greater good, like their own reprehensible actions will repulse the moderate majority into good behavior. Or maybe someone in Topeka went Kefka-style crazy one day and dumped a laboratory's worth of BZ into their water supply. I don't know.

Now, even with all that said, I still almost didn't write anything about any of this. Despite the whole bizarre mixture that the situation presents -- death and drugs and popular culture and religion and human sexuality and and and -- I would have left the whole thing aside were my brain not relentlessly retentive of relevent passages from songs of years past. Ultimately, what finally brought me to bring all this up was when my mind, unbidden, dredged up the catchy and earnest lyrics of--

"Fuck Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church."

That's the chorus. Have a listen!

I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch in the House - Westboro Baptist Church (Menace, 2004)
[buy | site | myspace]

Punk songwriting and country trappings are perfectly compatible, and let nobody ever tell you otherwise. This anthemic little ditty was written in 2004, yet it remains timely and one hundred per cent relevant to this day; that makes it both classic and kind of depressing to consider!

So, now you know: I will write a lot of leadup for a song if I deem it necessary. This was totally worth it!


W4 said...

If there were any justice in this world, this song would drown out every one of Fred Phelps' "protests."

Tatsujin said...

I think perhaps it would be appropriate to consider this Phelps guy as a similar cultural phenomenon to the Yaqui ( Paskola clowns (
The Yaqui are a society with extremely rigorous and strict dedication to social rules and traditions (think Japanese-style collective focus and formality. Um, except in Mexico.)
They are clowns that would perform at "critical" (versus calandrical) festivals, and their main gig was to go around the party and violate every single cultural norm, belief, and taboo against playing with poop and butsecks, mostly. They are said to reinforce their cultural norms by scaring the living bejeesus out of everybody by violating them so blatantly. Kinda like watching a David Lynch movie ("Don't accidentally have a baby kids! Why, look what happened here! It might look like a dead fish, and you'll still have to love it!").
So, perhaps Fred & co. simply are putting such a bad example out that they can be comfortable that nobody else could possibly top their gross violation of all things cultural, and that anybody who tries be shunned.
Now, this would work if they wore masks while picketing, because then nobody would know who to hang for playing with pickets and clown poop. But, with his identity revealed... people can... make unsavoury songs about him.