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Friday, December 18, 2009

Religious Life (the Fan Video Version)

This new video has been making the rounds. It's an Internet viral video, so I'm not going to psychoanalyze it too much; I'll just say that it's a short fake trailer that takes the underlying themes of chasteness, devotion to love (or the old-fashioned, traditional-American version of it), and religious celibacy and -- well -- blatant-ifies them.

I don't get all the jokes. I don't think I'm supposed to. It's one of those things that's less ha-ha funny and more that it resonates with a specific community -- in this case, Mormons. ("You got your mission when Howard W. Hunter was president," one of those jokes, took me 15 minutes on Google to figure out completely.)

But -- as those of us who are religious fundamentalists who hang out with fundamentalists from other religions are fond of saying -- the stigma is the same. "Twilight Years" is about Mormons who don't get swept up immediately in marriage. Any kind of not-100%-kitschy viral video about 30-plus-year-olds on the Upper West Side will have a different vocabulary of inside jokes, but, done smartly and sympathetically (and with just a bit of creepiness, just to keep things honest) would look a lot like "Twilight Years," I think.

And there are some things that just transcend cultural boundaries. Like this bit of dialogue:

"How old are you?"
"How long have you been eighteen?"
"Fifteen years. Are you afraid?"

This video also led me to another Mormon web video and web-storytelling series that I'm currently obsessed with, The Book of Jer3miah. The New York Times loved Jer3miah, although that didn't directly translate into hits for them -- their second episode is still languishing with a mere 3,000 hits, miniscule for a viral video. But it's geniusly composed, exquisitely plotted, and, on top of that, done by undergraduate students at Brigham Young. Who are taking classes in new media studies. Maybe I was wrong -- maybe all religious fundamentalists aren't the same. Yeshiva University and HUC, you'd do well to start up classes like this.


Jeff Parkin said...


I'm glad you discovered "The Book of Jer3miah" and even gladder that you're enjoying it. Thanks for the kind words. We've attempted to look at faith head-on, to examine if belief and faith should be different for us today than it was with the Old Testament prophets. It's been a fascinating journey. Some of the most interesting feedback we've received is from other Mormons who worry about what non-Mormons will think of us if they happen to watch the show. Since you appear to fall into that latter category(!), I'd love to hear what you think when you finish watching.

As for singles at large, your post was really insightful (and accurate!). The stigma _is_ the same!

Your comments about religious fundamentalist universities were particularly interesting. Your charge for Yeshiva University and HUC to start up New Media courses was awesome. To the best of our knowledge, BYU was not only the first university to ever produce a web series, but the first to produce an unapologetically LDS web series. We've gotten some nice response from critics and viewers, yet actually getting the project to happen was a real challenge! Religious schools have traditionally seemed to embrace new technology somewhat slower than the rest of the world. There are certainly plenty of pitfalls associated with media. But there are lots of really cool things as well. My guess is it's probably similar in your neck of the woods. Yet I'm certain that exploring faith with faith through New Media is essential. It's really cool to read what you're thinking about. Keep it up!


PS I've tried registering multiple times for the "MyJewishLearning" site, but never had any there a problem with that site?

matthue said...

Jeff, thanks for the good words! I'm totally psyched for the rest of it, and I have about a zillion questions. Inside the ARG-world and out of it. Are you working on another season or another project? Are you still an undergrad? What was your role in the whole affair -- is there just one writer and one producer, or do you team up or switch around?

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