Monday, March 5, 2012

On Being a Good Christian Bit**

WINTER PRESS TOUR 2012 - The cast of ABC's "GCB" posed for a photo op at Disney/ABC Television Group's Winter Press Tour 2012. (ABC/RICK ROWELL) MIRIAM SHOR, BRAD BEYER, KRISTIN CHENOWETH, LESLIE BIBB, ANNIE POTTS, DAVID JAMES ELLIOTT, JENNIFER ASPEN, MARISOL NICHOLS
By Lauren Yarger
Amdist political battles over women's rights regarding access to contraceptives and Rush Limbaugh's apology for calling a woman a slut and prostitute, it's interesting to see the launch of ABC Television's new show GCB. That's Good Christian Bit**es, for those of you who don't know, and it really begs the question of "just when is it OK to use derogatory terms when describing women?"

Wait, some will cry -- they changed the name. When the original title was announced, about a year ago, the network experienced backlash from religious and women's groups who were rightly offended. So for a brief period, they renamed the show Good Christian Belles, since the premise deals with a former "mean girl" who returns with her children to her Texas hometown after her husband dies. Quickly, however, ABC renamed the show and on the show's web page, next to the now just initials title, it announces that GCB is based on the book Good Christians Bit**es by Kim Gatlin who is a writer for the series.

So I'm not stupid. I know exactly what the name of this show is, but I have to wonder about the audience ABC hopes to attract. Is it aimed at Christians? They are, television and the movies have found, a lucrative market if they can be tapped, but there's one problem. How do you define "Christian?" Whether in churches or in the entertainment industry, the term can vary quite a lot in meaning and what it means to you, might not be what it means to me. In the entertainment circles in which I move, defining one's self as a Christian can mean a number of things, including:
-- you aren't Jewish
-- you go to church occasionally
-- you were brought up going to church, but no longer go yourself
-- you were baptised as a baby
-- you are a nice person
-- you are a spiritual person

So if ABC is targeting that crowd, they are going to miss the "born againer" crowd, those who profess a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. If they are targeting this crowd, they probably won't interest the politically correct, all-inclusive, God-doesn't-judge-anyone crowd or those not interested in Christian or religious themes. Take the religious factor out, and the creative team is heavily male, so I wonder whether they even are actively targeting women.

At the very least, using the term "bit**" so casually toward women offends me. I also balk at using new phrases like "pimp my car" or listening to rap music, which through the use of any number of derogatory terms,promotes mistreatment and abuse of women. I am also tired of Christian women being fair game when it comes to attacks by anyone who feels like taking a pot shot (Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, for example, are called everything from stupid to horrible names by people who disagree with their political policies, but I don't hear a national outcry or see FaceBook posts demanding apologies for them.)

To reiterate a point often made about GCB, I doubt very much whether ABC would have considered airing a show about Good Muslim Bit**es, or Good Black Bit**es or Good Gay Bit**es (which of course, would be just as offensive to me.) But because they are women, and Christians to boot, they apparently are fair game.

In a sea of television shows already devoid of positive, strong female characters, I would have welcomed a show about a group of good Christian women. I wouldn't have expected them to be perfect, or for the storylines to be squeaky clean. Life is full of complications, and none of us is perfect (that is, after all, why we need Christ in the first place.) How pleasant would it have been to watch a television show about women dealing with the routine of their lives who drew strength from their faith? I would have watched and been a ready audience for advertisers willing to support such programming, but those making decisions about what we see on television overwhelmingly aren't Christian or women, so they aren't motivated by wanting to put Christian or solid women's programming on TV. They simply want to make money and they think that if Christian is in the title, we'll be happy.

Instead, I was turned off immediately by the title and had no interest in watching, despite the intriguing casting of self-proclaimed Christian Kristin Chenoweth, whose work I know from the Broadway shows I review. The fair and unbiased critic in me balked at dismissing the program without watching it, however, especially after I started getting tons of questions from my readers about whether or not I would recommend they watch the television show.

I did watch the pilot, which premiered last night, and came away unchanged in my offense to the title and to the use of the term "bit**." It was used twice in the pilot. I also have no answer to the question about whom the show is supposed to appeal. The "Christian" parts are rather stereotypical and the women are portrayed as shallow sex objects. I won't be watching again.

Here is a summary (and I am not making any of it up):

The first scene is of a woman beginning to perform oral sex on a male, who is distracted and drives their car off the road. It turns out he was the husband of Amanda Vaughn (Leslie Bibb) Carlene Cockburn (Chenoweth) reminds them that they shouldn't be talking like that on the phone -- that they should resume at church.

Carlene, using scripture, falsely welcomes Amanda. Real estate agent Heather Cruz (Marisol Nichols) takes advantage of people's personal tragedies to bolster her business and offers to help Carlene find a place of her own away from the mother she can't stand. Gigi spends her time teaching her young grandson how to mix drinks and her granddaughter how to tease "big hair" and expose her breasts so men will be attracted to her.

The big plot action revolves around a mystery admirer who gives Amanda a new car and $100,000 worth of items from Neiman Marcus. Could it be Zac Peacham(Brad Beyer), husband of former beauty queen Sharon (Jennifer Aspen), who can't stop eating and gaining weight? Zac paws and kisses Amanda at his car dealership, but she rebuffs him. Instead, she gets set up on a date to the Longhorn Ball, the annual "meat market," with a ranch foreman who turns out to be the gay lover of Blake Reilly, who runs a fashion business with wife, Cricket Caruth-Reilly (Miriam Shor), another of the girlfriends.

Carlene encourages Amanda to drink, even though she's an alcoholic, saying that Jesus prefered wine to water. She steals the Neiman Marcus card so they can find out who sent it to Amanda, saying that it isn't stealing, it's research, and that God hates failure, so they have to find out who sent the card. Carlene asks her oilman husband Ripp (David James Elliott) whether she should tell Sharon that Zac and Amanda were kissing at the dealership. He suggests instead that they have sex on his desk. Previously he had told her he was turned on by her lesson about David and Bathsheba in Sunday School.

Carlene uses scripture to threaten one of her friends with a loss of business if she doesn't continue harassing Amanda. Bribery keeps local businesses from hiring Amanda for any job and she ends up taking a waitressing position at Boobylicious, a sort of Hooters place. One of the girls' sons snaps a photo of her bending over and Carlene uses it to confront Amanda. This is a righteous community, she tells her, and Sharon agrees saying they have a moral code.

God's name is taken in vain.

3 comments:

Cindy said...

I couldn't have said it better. I wanted to give it a chance instead of just outright condemning it, so I did attempt to watch. I may have seen 20 minutes before turning off the television. I don't know who their target audience is, but I won't be among them.

Rich and Joyce Swingle said...

Lauren, thanks for saving me the time.

Thistlefur said...

Ditto. The creators of this one must have an audience in mind that I've not met!

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Lauren Yarger, Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

In 2008 she was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater with a Christian perspective for Reflections in the Light (http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/) and is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection. She also is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com

She also reviews books for Publisher's Weekly and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She formerly was Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp, a national theater web site bsed in New York and a reviewer for American Theater Web.

She also served as Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. and worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.

She is a freelance writer and member of the Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and The CT Critics Circle.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger lives with her husband in West Granby, CT and has two adult children.

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All contents copyright © Lauren Yarger 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, contact masterworkproductions@yahoo.com.

Scripture from THE MESSAGE Copyright 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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