#07 Oh What A Circus: Celebrity Worship, and The Cost to True Devotion
I was listening to Evita today (note: I may be starting quite a few conversations this way in the coming months, over excited as I am for the new Broadway revival of the show which opens in a week and a half.) and got to thinking about a few things. In case you don’t know and shame on you, if that’s the case. I mean, it was made into a movie starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas if you’re that ignorant. Watch it. Or better yet don’t, just download the original Broadway version, starring Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin,(Yeah, Inigo Montoya! He can sing? Did you know?) Evita is a pop opera about the doomed Eva Peron, who was the wife of Aregentina’s President Juan Peron, who may or may not have been a fascist…it’s a little murky when you look into the real historical facts, but as far as the musical is concerned, he was basically a dictator.
What isn’t murky, even when you look into the historical facts, and was the reason why Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber decided to write a musical about her, was that Eva herself was a full blown (and slightly terrifying) phenomenon in Argentina. Even after her death, the military regime that ousted Peron banned her image from being displayed, for fear that the Peronists (Juan’s political party…having a political party named after you doesn’t bode well for the “not a dictator” label, btw) would use her as a rallying point for the people. She was immensely influential.
Evita opens and closes with Eva’s funeral, the opening then truncated by the narrator Che (no, not that Che) declaring that “Aregentina has gone to town over the death of an actress,” and “when they’re bringing your curtain down, demand to be buried like Eva Peron!”
I’ve admitted to being a pop culture junky. I prefer the frivolous, the mass produced and the just plain silly. But even I felt a little sick a few weeks ago when my home state of New Jersey and the whole world seemed to be wildly obsessed with the death of Whitney Houston. Now, I’m not trying to deny deny Ms. Houston’s talent or impact on popular music. She had an immense voice and her hits are unmistakably some of the best in the genre. However, the fact that for seven days the whole world seemed to focus on absolutely nothing else, was a little bit absurd.
When I was listening to Evita, I realized how prevalent this phenomenon is in our culture, maybe not to the extent that it was presented with Eva Peron, but it’s still there. I think about this, think about this disconnect. This ability for our culture to connect with these distant “stars” and yet be so distanced from God and faith.
It’s idolatry in the oldest possible sense, simple as the Golden Calf in Exodus. And it’s a sin I struggle with on a certain level, so I think when I see it on a major level it disturbs me very deeply.
But then on the other hand, it gives us a song like “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.” So I can’t entirely disdain the practice…