Ebert Goes God (not)
A few weeks ago, Roger Ebert caused quite the stir amongst bloggers. A simple, informative q&a style post in the commentary area of his rogerebert.com Chicago Sun Times site, entitled, Creationism: Your questions answered elicited thousands of comments at innumerable sites . Many suggested he had gone nutter or that the site had surely been hacked. Roger Ebert, born again, spirited away into those lovely ethereal ranks of celebrities who go God: Victoria Jackson, MC Hammer, that guy who played Captain Stubing on The Love Boat.
Could it be, and if so, why the big deal, why the overwhelming derision, accusations, outrage, the "firestorm” as Ebert referred to it? Did this country not elect (or something like that) twice George "I believe God wants me to be President” Bush, the darling, the It Girl of the God's-Army-Evangelical set? We can embrace religious views in our social and political leaders (nay--expect it) but not in our film critics? How and why do espousing Christian notions socially uphold and advance one group and debase or marginalize another? Why these poles?
A few days after the firestorm internet hoopla, Roger Ebert responded with a thoughtful and insightful post on his blog/journal entitled, "This is the dawning of the Age of Credulity,” in purpose to address "the gradual decay of our sense of irony and instinct for satire, and our growing credulity.”
Ebert asserts, "Everything in the ironic world has quotation marks around it.” He goes on to give a filmic example; how a baby in front of a runaway car is really just a "baby” in front of a "car.” When we watch a film now, its simulacra status may go far beyond mere representation of single events, places, ideas. We have seen so many representations of babies in front of runaway cars, so many movies for that matter, that our suspension of disbelief is always in play.
I would say this is a perfect description/metaphor of our general postmodern condition. In an information age in which anything can happen, and anyone can know about it; anything can be had with nary a thought to any innate whatever anachronisms, or absurdities are at play, there is always an air of assumed acceptance for the face value of things. I think there probably has to be, lest we go mad at the novelty, the irony of everyday things and experience.
Roger Ebert relates his experience of reading Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal in high school. Generation after generation of high school English class has read this essay, which classically demonstrates the use and form of literary irony. Ebert reports that in his class, everyone got it. No one thought Swift was really advocating eating children. His teacher even anticipated this, asking at what point, with what word, did they get the satire. A full generation later, in 1984, my own high school English class was regretfully not so perceptive. If irony is the default state, I suppose it's (ironically) hard to recognize.
I first read Roger Ebert's Creationism q&a after I read his response, so I knew it wasn't literal. But, I would like to assume the word at which I would have clued into the satire would have been with the word "Creationism” in the title. And then, the confirmation of it all, the following words in the title, "your questions answered.” Yes, I read Roger Ebert's reviews and writing quite often, so I'm familiar with his tone, and general ideas regarding such things. But still. "Creationism.” "Your questions answered.” Do the grandiose assertions and assumptions within this title (let alone the body of the article's text) really need to be deconstructed formally to show why it should probably have been viewed as satire by the masses? Further, should it be? Explaining the joke notoriously cancels out the humor; it becomes a big never mind.