Friday, October 18, 2013


From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Vulgar and tasteless 'Book of Mormon' opens Broadway series at Saenger

The long-awaited return of a hit Broadway musical to the venerable arts palace should be cause for celebration. Instead, however, it begs a simple question: Just where is the line? At what point in the overwhelming coarsening of our culture do we finally say, “Enough”?

Despite the anticipation and the hype, and despite the multiple Tony Awards and its blockbuster status, “The Book of Mormon” is little more than degrading, offensive trash.

More here

Okay, I haven't yet seen The Book of Mormon, and probably won't anytime soon because, you know, big time theater is for the rich.  But some day, yeah, for sure.  I just need to get a better gig.  But I digress.  I think that, given the content of Mahne's review, I can comment fairly, in spite of the fact that I haven't seen the show.  That is, I'm a huge South Park fan, and have a pretty decent understanding of what Parker and Stone do with their humor, which, according to the review, is the case in point.

So I'll just cut to the chase.

Yes, South Park is extraordinarily vulgar, as is, I'm sure, The Book of Mormon.  And a lot of that vulgarity has humorous value in itself.  Yeah, sure, I like fart jokes.  Get over it; lots of us do.  But the true value and creativity coming from all this vulgar humor is that there is a sort of meta-consciousness about it.  Parker and Stone are well aware that a percentage of the population is totally turned off by this stuff.  And that's the point.  They WANT some people to be offended by their work.   Not for its own sake, well, maybe for its own sake, but also as cultural criticism.  

That is, when laughing at Parker and Stone's fart jokes you are also laughing at the abstract group of uptight, moralizing, finger-wagging, shaming, conventional, clueless, establishment-embracing pussies who have been annoying you since you were in kindergarten.  You know, the kind of people who dismiss South Park, and The Book of Mormon, as trash.  And the two South Park creators are really good at it, too, finding subtle ways to shift their targets of criticism from week to week and from topic to topic.  I mean, it's pretty amazing how they manage to get so much mileage out of shit humor and the like.

Remember the episode of South Park when it was revealed that U2's lead singer Bono is in reality simply a walking, talking, sentient piece of feces?  That's brilliant in and of itself, but, for my money, the episode's best moment is when Randy sits on the toilet for an extended period, grunting and groaning, while the phrase "Emmy Award Winning Series" flashes on the screen.  Now, if you can't understand that there's a lot more going on here than just a guy taking a shit, then you're part of that group I described above, which means you're the one being ridiculed.  And you deserve it, too.

Clearly, Times-Picayune theater critic Theodore Mahne falls into this group, as well.  Actually, I shouldn't be so harsh: of course you're not going to think it's funny if you're the butt of the joke.  But still.  He obviously just doesn't get it.  And that renders his qualifications for this job somewhat problematic, to say the least.  I mean, it's okay to not like this or that show, but a critic ought to understand what he's criticizing, or he's a total failure as a critic.

The way he spins it, you'd think he'd gone to see an Adam Sandler movie.  And I'm quite certain The Book of Mormon is NOT an Adam Sandler movie.