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Author Topic: American churches in the media  (Read 3248 times) Average Rating: 0
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The young fogey
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« on: October 18, 2002, 10:50:54 AM »

Got started on this topic on another board.

Covering both news and entertainment...

All of mainline Protestantism and all of evangelicalism/pentecostalism get lumped into two big groups. Luthepiscomethopresbytereformegationalism and Southern-accented villains/buffoons. Except when the media want to jab the Catholic Church: then the Episcopal Church is convenient owing to its amusingly similar titles and polity (hey, look, everybody, 'women priests'). When it comes to those issues, this statistically insignificant, country-club denomination (Episcopal) gets inordinate attention. That and it used to be the prestige social-class denomination in America.

Catholics are a high-profile presence in the American media thanks both to longstanding suspicion/anti-Catholicism in the culture from the get-go - the US was founded by people from the home countries of the 'Reformation' - and to massive 19th-century immigration. There are a slew of positive, negative and innocuous/silly stereotypes, from the new one of the pedophile priest to older ones of 'Godfather'/'Sopranos' Italians and every other priest in a comedy sketch having a stage-Irish accent.

Eastern Orthodox aren't on the American radar screen, except for ethnic food festivals or when sitcoms want to tell ethnic jokes about Eastern Europeans (a few awful episodes of 'Taxi' and one of 'Seinfeld'). It'll probably keep being the best-kept secret in America owing to massive ethnic attrition shrinking its already small American presence, but it will live, owing to the small countermovement of American conversions.

Byzantine Catholics seem downright invisible.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2002, 02:11:27 PM by Serge » Logged

Hypo-Ortho
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« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2002, 01:53:53 PM »

Serge<<when sitcoms want to tell ethnic jokes about Eastern Europeans (a few awful episodes of 'Taxi' and one of 'Seinfeld').>>

You wouldn't want to forget the wedding episode from 'Friends,' now would you, Serge.  Joey hasn't shown up yet from his acting job to perform the wedding, so our Friends conveniently find a vested Greek Orthodox priest with a squashed kamilavka on his head (who has just performed a Greek Orthodox wedding) at the same hotel where the Friends' wedding is to take place and tell the priest they are Greek.  Joey shows up in the nick of time and the priest is shunted aside.  (Orthodox weddings taking place in a hotel and *not* in church?  Farfetched.)

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The young fogey
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« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2002, 02:14:27 PM »

I don't watch 'Friends' - have seen one episode in eight years, only out of curiosity - but heard something about them using a Greek Orthodox priest in one episode. Thanks for the info.

I did see an episode of 'St Elsewhere' (1980s) where Ed Begley Jr's character, Ehrlich, was marrying an ethnic Greek. IIRC they got the Greek Orthodox church setting and the priest's gear right. One of the few respectful depictions of such on an entertainment TV program.
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« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2002, 02:14:57 PM »

[so our Friends conveniently find a vested Greek Orthodox priest with a squashed kamilavka on his head (who has just performed a Greek Orthodox wedding) at the same hotel where the Friends' wedding is to take place and tell the priest they are Greek.]

What makes it even worse is the fact that Jennifer Anniston whose father was brought up in the Greek Orthodox Church and who herself, was baptised in the Greek Orthodox Church goes along with it.

Orthodoc
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« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2002, 02:30:39 PM »

Maybe the, I'll admit, lovely Ms Anastassakis never was catechized.
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Hypo-Ortho
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« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2002, 02:30:56 PM »

Orthodoc<<What makes it even worse is the fact that Jennifer Anniston whose father was brought up in the Greek Orthodox Church and who herself, was baptised in the Greek Orthodox Church goes along with it.>>

Which accounts for the episode getting the Greek Orthodox priest's vesture right, but not much else.  Whatever Jennifer might have contributed to this episode had to be minimal.  And one has to question her respect for her ancestral Faith since she did go along with this farce, which included lying to the priest.

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Mudriy
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« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2002, 04:30:19 PM »

Reader Serge stated: "Byzantine Catholics seem downright invisible."

Pretty much. But I think I remember hearing something about Robert Urich's up bringing in a Byzantine Church in a newspaper obituary.

I remeber the Seinfeld joke about Ukraine when Kramer and George were playing risk on the subway. I thought it was funny.

I am from Ukraine! Ukraine is not veek! Ukraine is strrrong!  Grin

Well I think here is the reason why, even icluding Orthodox. PEOPLE AREN"T EDUCATED. Everyone knows about the RCC and Protestant churches but the Eastern Orthodox are reserved for weddings on TV or a few references here and there. Our Eastern faith isn't streamline. We aren't noticed. We are overlooked. Eastern Orthodox? What? Or my favorite, Eastern Catholic? Wait you guys aren't under Rome right?

So what I am trying to express is if we were a larger entity, more visible besides gold domes, then we would be in the media more. But let's pray that future media coverage will do us justice.

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« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2002, 04:34:52 PM »

Sometimes Robert Urich's Byzantine Catholic background was mentioned but more often he simply was listed as 'Catholic'. And - to add insult to his Ruthenian and Slovak heritage - I once saw him described as 'Czech'.

One way I'd love to see Orthodox move beyond sitcom-ethnic-joke fodder is to take a stand publicly for prolife, which the OCA does do every year at the national protest march in Washington.
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« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2002, 04:43:26 PM »

Reader Serge stated: "One way I'd love to see Orthodox move beyond sitcom-ethnic-joke fodder is to take a stand publicly for prolife, which the OCA does do every year at the national protest march in Washington. "

Good point. Even at local life chains. We have gone several times and not run across Eastern faithful. My parents were even chairs of a large large prolife organization here in So. Cal. Not one Eastern person, at least that we didn't meet. But the RC's were all out with rosaries and signs and Protestants, too.

Another big thing is we get EWTN with our Dish Network. they do amazing stuff with Catholic media.

Why can't there be an Orthodox Channel or at least some show that airs on some public channel. Is there? If we are going to promote our churches and (tele)evangelize,  the media is a darn good way to do it nowadays.
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Hypo-Ortho
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« Reply #9 on: October 18, 2002, 11:39:14 PM »

I don't watch 'Friends' - have seen one episode in eight years, only out of curiosity - but heard something about them using a Greek Orthodox priest in one episode. Thanks for the info.

I did see an episode of 'St Elsewhere' (1980s) where Ed Begley Jr's character, Ehrlich, was marrying an ethnic Greek. IIRC they got the Greek Orthodox church setting and the priest's gear right. One of the few respectful depictions of such on an entertainment TV program.

Serge, because I wait until a film I want to see badly enough gets on video cassette or DVD so that I can see it in the privacy and comfort of my own home without the huge expense of theater admittance tickets and inconvenience of travel, etc., I haven't yet seen the recent popular ethnic comedy, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding."   However, from all reports I've seen, including Orthodox ones, both on TV and on the Internet, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" scores big for its positive portrayal of Greek Orthodoxy and ethnicity and appears to be a film well worth seeing and enjoying.  Anyone on this forum seen it yet?  Your reaction?

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« Reply #10 on: October 19, 2002, 12:32:39 AM »

I loved "my big fat greek wedding" which i saw last week.  It was funny, and positive about Orthodoxy.  There are a few cracks such as the dude's godmother is going to be a girl who always is adjusting her big breasts, to make the point that maybe not everyone is in it for the religion, but hey that's how reality is!  and i had to restrain myself from chanting along with the cantor in the baptism and wedding scenes!

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Hypo-Ortho
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« Reply #11 on: October 19, 2002, 12:44:36 AM »

One way I'd love to see Orthodox move beyond sitcom-ethnic-joke fodder is to take a stand publicly for prolife, which the OCA does do every year at the national protest march in Washington.

Excellent point, Reader Serge!  And in the forefront of the Orthodox Christians for Life contingent in both good and bad weather consistently every year in January has been the newly-elected and enthroned Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, His Beatitude, Metropolitan +HERMAN.  Whatever one may think of His Beatitude, he fearlessly takes the Church's prolife teachings seriously and very public.  I hope that he continues to do so now that he is OCA Primate.  What a statement that will make, especially to the Primates of the GOA and AOCA!  (Now where are the hierarchs of the other Orthodox jurisdictions on this issue?)

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Hypo-Ortho
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« Reply #12 on: October 19, 2002, 02:26:17 AM »

And - to add insult to his Ruthenian and Slovak heritage - I once saw him described as 'Czech'.

Um, Serge, what's wrong with being described as 'Czech?'   >:  (My late maternal Czech grandfather, Georg Hubaczek, who was killed long before my late mother could even get to know him, is buried in no less an Orthodox city than Kiev!)

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« Reply #13 on: October 19, 2002, 02:45:20 AM »

I loved "my big fat greek wedding" which i saw last week.  It was funny, and positive about Orthodoxy.  There are a few cracks such as the dude's godmother is going to be a girl who always is adjusting her big breasts, to make the point that maybe not everyone is in it for the religion, but hey that's how reality is!  and i had to restrain myself from chanting along with the cantor in the baptism and wedding scenes!
anastasios

I can't wait to see it, Anastasios.  Then I can laugh---which is good for me--and chant along too, just as soon as "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" is out on video cassette.  

The last time I saw Orthodox liturgics presented well in a secular film was in "The Deer Hunter," which I saw in a theater in Boston, where I was accompanied by a bunch of Uniate diaconal candidates from the Melkite eparchial seminary.  But there was very little to laugh at and much to cry about in that anti-Vietnam War film.

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The young fogey
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« Reply #14 on: October 19, 2002, 07:45:05 AM »

Of course there's nothing wrong with being Czech - my point simply was Urich (actually the family name is Juric^) was not Czech.

Glad you asked for my take on 'MBFGW'. While relatively good for the genre, at least being respectful enough to get the church stuff right, it still falls into the usual pattern of using the Orthodox as part of telling ethnic jokes about Eastern Europeans. Here's what I wrote about it after seeing it.

'Dox on Film: My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Copied from my now-gone original message board (BeSeen has gone under)

Saw this slightly ridiculous but ultimately sweet, feel-good movie, the semiautobiographical work of its naturally cute star, Nia Vardalos. (She'd look better still with straight- bobbed hair but the perm fit the culture of the character she was playing.) I was expecting the self-hating/ethnic-joke aspect to offend (like when George on 'Seinfeld' converted to 'Latvian Orthodoxy' to impress a girl, or worse, Latka, Simka and Fr Gorky on 'Taxi' - I HATED that) but, though I know few Greeks (the Greek-Americans I know didn't like 'Greek school' either), it seemed to be a caricature of real things, good and bad, one observes about the group. The Church stuff seemed refreshingly accurate (unlike the TV trash mentioned above) - Nia's secular WASP fiancT (the main source of the movie's plot and tension) is baptized and chrismated to please her family (immigrant diner-owner Papa is initially dead against his daughter going out with one of the xenoi, natch). The wedding itself was interesting - seemed to be a hybrid of real Orthodox stuff and some Western flourishes. Besides the organ (a borrowing from Protestant practice the Greeks actually have), there was the 'Wedding March' up the aisle. Was this a concession to moviegoers' expectations or are Greek weddings in the US really this hybridized?

SCTV fans, note: lovely Andrea Martin, who is actually Armenian, plays Nia's worldly-wise aunt who helps Nia start her new life away from Papa's domineering.

Although there was premarital sex, overall the romance in the movie was charmingly old-fashioned and not at all like the mess that dating among secular people really is.

The tension between American individualism and old- country family togetherness gone wrong gives something for us Byzantine Christians to think about. I realized how American I am and thought of the challenge of reconciling that with the communal aspects of the faith. The ultimate message from the movie is good: American-style assertiveness need not contradict our Orthodox faith.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2002, 07:53:37 AM by Serge » Logged

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« Reply #15 on: October 19, 2002, 09:20:49 AM »

After watching the film, I said they might as well have called it the big fat Lebanese/Syrian wedding.  We have much in common with these Greeks.

Ah, the ya'ya (who wears the same outfit as my great aunt minus the intimidating visage).  We could have used her against the Turkie back in the Great War. <Grin>  She was a showstopper, no matter if some may perceive her character as a crude joke or insult.

Incidentally one can track the number of Greeks within the audience by keeping an ear out for unrestrained chortles and outright laughter at a certain prank some male members of the family play on the groom.  People should be chuckling before the subtitles get the rest of the viewers "in" on the joke.

Final comment: a beardless Orthodox priest. Oi! And if that hybridized wedding is typical of Greek parishes, ROCOR shocktroopers might be required.

In IC XC
Samer

PS The film proves twice as fun when you have a sizeable Greek presence in the crowd.  Seeing their reactions is worth the admission price.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2002, 09:27:01 AM by SamB » Logged
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