Every so often I let my convservative side out of his box. Actually, its more like a lair. And its furnished with Gucci.
me: Damn! How could conservatives get so bent out of shape about the Folsom picture? It obviously isn't meant to mock them, and it's funny!
conservative me: Oh? (arches eyebrow) You think it isn't supposed to be offensive?
me: No! I think it's a very arrogant worldview that assumes that a picture like that must be taking a swipe at you. Because clearly the world revolves around you.
c-me: And why do you think it's funny?
me: I don't know. It twists a popular work of art into something amusing and counter-intuitive.
c-me: Well, yes, but it doesn't take just any work of art. It takes a major Christian work of art and turns it into something very secular and worldly. I think part of your sense of irony comes from that secular twist.
me: I guess so.
c-me: So the joke is at least partly based on twisting something holy into something secular and carnal. And you don't get why that isn't offensive, or at the very least highly insensitive?
me: My initial reaction to that is to say "lighten the hell up." But I guess a more serious response would be that there is a serious difference between debasing a religious artwork for the sake of making a point about the suckiness of religion and playing with a religious artwork (or any piece of art) in order to make a secular joke. I certainly don't think this tries to be offensive.
c-me: It doesn't need to try. Clearly the authors view the subject matter (sex, leather, bondage, etc.) in a positive light. The humor, or at least a major part of the humor, comes from viewing the subject matter in an ironic light. So if the irony is to take something and suddenly view it in a positive light, what does that imply about the original subject matter?
me: Are you just being sophistic? Let me think this through... something like, "surprise, it's not that dull religion crap, it's really fun exciting sex stuff."
c-me: Yes... more or less.
me: No, I don't buy it. I mean, certainly that could be implied, just like it could be implied that this was intended to be a flat-out mockery of Christianity. But I don't think either of those readings are compelled by the picture itself. Rather, I think the tone of the picture is light-hearted, not mocking. Moreover, there isn't anything really to emphasize the religion angle at all in the picture. It floated past me the first time.
c-me: But you can at least see that you don't have to be an egocentric jerk to think that it is a mockery of religion.
me: Maybe, but that kind of claim is suspiciously limited. It seems to me like someone who insists on it is really refusing to see the other side.
c-me: Perhaps. Just one more point. Imagine the opposite. Imagine... Warhol soup cans with aborted fetuses on them or something. Wouldn't you think that was in bad taste?
me: Let's pretend that was a better example. Yes, I would. I would be thinking it was a cheap shot at using popular art to make a political point. I don't think the Folsom picture is trying to make a political point.
c-me: Fair enough.
(This really is how conversation in my head goes. I give various parts their own personality, and often they surprise me. I was surprised liberal me won that one so easily, actually. There's a connection between creative and crazy, I tell ya.)