I pause to be excited with Taylor Orsi, an aspiring comedienne, who came up with a little video. Now she is a youtube star. She and her boyfriend, Jared, invented a “syndrome” and created a fake PSA (public service announcement) for it. It has more than three million hits so far; it got them featured on the Today Show; and, finally, it was misquoted in my cell meeting last week.
In my cell their fake syndrome was named “accidental bitch face.” One of our members was tagged with it by her boyfriend, because when she is not smiling, her face has a natural downward turn to it and she looks sad, or even like she might be scowling. Taylor Orsi calls that “resting bitchy face” and made a video about it. The video included the male counterpart: “resting asshole face.” For those of you still interested in the culture being formed here in America, here is their video: http://youtu.be/3v98CPXNiSk
It is always hard to respond to these things, since it is so tempting to give Taylor and Jared exactly what they dish out: mockery. We have all been repeatedly taught to do that, by the last 25 years of comedy. I don’t want to play that game, but I do want to scorn a movement that invaded my cell with shame (in the name of fun, of course) and sent three million people fanning out into the population to look for certain faces to mock. And I do want to be amazed (and deliberately not accepting) that we can appeal to the now-built-in narcissism of American youth who have been told to “say cheese” so much that they are rebel against it by pointing out people who get tagged for not doing it all day.
The Today Show people treated their joke as an actual syndrome and Taylor treated her appearance as an actual star turn. For those of you still able to watch the Today Show, here is the segment: http://youtu.be/Xf-zXyfO7X8.
It is always hard to take these things seriously, because it is very hard to figure out whether the media is making fun of itself and secretly mocking their “reality” guests. The way I see it, Taylor Orsi found a group of people to exploit; then the Today Show found her and exploited her hope of fame to use her wit for a few minutes. The producers brought in their plastic surgeon expert to talk about how faces work. The staff lifestyle coach said that if you have the condition you can help yourself out by remembering to smile. She really said that. They filmed it.
What is the media teaching us?
Lessons from the culture:
- Smile all the time, it will keep you safe.
- Exploit people (even if it shames unsuspecting victims) to get well-known.
- Make fun of yourself or act like everything is “no worries” to keep yourself unaccountable.
- Women, especially, are expected to be smiley all the time like Today Show hosts, even when making real news into fake news [Erin Burnett].
It is hard to move with Jesus into these things. But where else would he be but with the bitches and assholes? And who else would he be instructing but the new Pharisees, judging people with their powerful media and rules of behavior, replete with experts to back up their claims?
Can Jesus save us?
I think this whole situation needs a Savior, even if I will be mocked for getting serious about something that was just a joke to begin with.
Jesus might start off by affirming Taylor who implied that her whole bit could be summed up with a moral to the story: “we should give each other a break.”
But I think he might go deeper than that to suggest that rather than just being accepted, everyone needs to be forgiven. Leaving people alone is not quite the same as loving them with a self-giving love. How about looking at yourself in the mirror and considering whether you can even see yourself the way God sees you: the forgiven, the beloved who is destined for your unique fullness?
And I don’t think Jesus would shy away from showing a little fury toward the powers that be (like the Today Show). Through Isaiah he says:
The Lord enters into judgment
against the elders and leaders of his people:
“It is you who have ruined my vineyard;
the plunder from the poor is in your houses.
What do you mean by crushing my people
and grinding the faces of the poor?”
declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty. (Isaiah 3:14-15)
What do you mean when you mock and exploit people? Or don’t you know you are supposed to mean something?
When you get a momentary boost at someone else’s expense, what does that mean? Or don’t you know that what you do makes a difference?