In a stunning expose, the Deseret News discovers what was inherent in the definition of the word “satire”! And since The Book of Mormon the musical is satire—it is not, I repeat, not, 100 percent accurate!
The above paragraph was satire. The following blog post is a sad recap on the real 1,000 words the Deseret News published yesterday and how it literally tried to define the acceptable boundaries of satire, just so it could say that the The Book of Mormon musical by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone went too far and that everyone should stop laughing and clapping…and start praying.
While the off-color musical grabbed Monday headlines by trumpeting its win of nine Tony awards, the Deseret News decided the bigger news should come in the form of a rambling blow-by-blow rehash of probably three or four other articles they’ve published in the past several months critiquing the Broadway play.
I say that because, while the article presents itself as asking about whether the play is satire or not--with the headline “Is the ‘Book of Mormon’ musical accurate satire?’”—by the end it seems to just turn into a laundry list of things the author doesn’t like about the play.
For example, the article exhorts the reader to realize the play distorts the image of Ugandans—not just Mormons--by citing an LDS blogger who points out that female genital mutilation, which is referred to in the play, is illegal in Uganda. Of course, according to the BBC, the practice is only illegal as of 2009 and had been long-standing practice before then.
The end of the article is best where, instead of pretending to stay focused on what satire is, the article instead points out that there is a lot of vulgarity in the play.
“The production contains at least 49 instances of the "f-word," and approximately 26 additional expletives. It also includes sexual innuendos, references to HIV, rape, genital mutilation and homosexuality.”
So according to the official Thought Leaders Manual, all of the aforementioned offenses clearly stop a work from being considered satire. Or, to be more specific, “accurate” satire. Ultimately, the saddest thing about this article is that the thesis of it is simply that the satire is too much of a satire to be accurate satire. Which is a long, roundabout way of saying the author didn’t like it too much. Or, at least what he’s heard or read about it in his “analysis.”
“A Deseret News analysis of the show's content, based on its official script and lyrics, reveals several errors and misrepresentations that go beyond the bounds of generalization for comedy's sake.”
Following this paragraph is a summary of errors in the play that the author notes misrepresent LDS teachings and scripture. And if the author said these are wrong and left it at that, I wouldn’t set one snide finger to my keyboard over the article. What gets me is the determination that these “misrepresentations go beyond the bounds of generalization for comedy’s sake.” Really? So you’ve established the bounds of generalization for comedy’s sake?
My follow-up question is, well, is that common knowledge, then, what those bounds of generalization are? Or is there a source that one could actually cite to say why these go too far?
All of the sources actually cited in the article present varying critiques, but none of them pick up the line of argument that says the satire isn’t accurate enough, or that such a thing even exists! The strongest card the author has to play is simply to refer to an article written by New York Times columnist David Brooks, who points out that the musical’s message that religions are silly but their dedication to service is a universal good doesn’t match up to a reality where more people gravitate to religious doctrines that clearly delineate good vs. evil and other value systems.
He’s the best this article has, but even his article understands the context of the musical he is reviewing, when he writes: "The Book of Mormon" is not anti-religious. It just endorses a no-sharp-edges view of religion that is all creative metaphors and no harsh judgments. The Africans in the play embrace this kind of religion. And in the context of a hilarious musical, that's fine.”
The fact of the matter is that I doubt the author’s thesis would hold up if he had bothered to actually ask any of the sources he quotes whether they think the musical is “accurate satire.”
Begrudgingly, most would likely admit that comedy perhaps is in the eye of the beholder and that perhaps no one can really clearly sketch out its acceptable bounds. I don’t know—maybe not. The only reason I make that claim without speaking directly to those sources is that I’m just writing a blog—not a news story. Perhaps I’m generalizing when I assert the author’s editorial recklessness, because I’m only assuming that he didn’t interview any of the sources in the article simply because he cites their quotes from other publications.
If only I had a thought leader to let me know if this satirical blog is accurate enough…