Readings & Musings

Take It From Me: You Don’t Have to Be Religious to Appreciate Jesus Christ Superstar

I’ll admit, I’m not a religious person so sometimes just hearing the words “Jesus Christ Superstar” together isn’t necessarily going to grab my attention in a positive way. However, I am a person peripherally aware of a lot of culturally relevant works of art, so hearing those words in that order is something different altogether. Even though I’ve never seen the play or original film, created by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, I’ve definitely heard the “Superstar” song because it’s one of the greats (or so I’ve been told) among musical numbers, and I was also really into Cats as a child. Therefore, I listened to a lot of Andrew Lloyd Webber compilation CDs in the 90s and you can’t forget those goose bump-inducing chords and chants at the beginning of that song. Yet, as a church-going but skeptical child (and an even more skeptical and non-church-going adult), I didn’t fully delve into this musical because I assumed it would be preachy, and even at a young age I was not about being preached to.

Obviously, I was wrong. The rock opera isn’t so much about “religion” or “Jesus” but about a story of people, relationships, points of view, choices, consequences, guilt, and acceptance. You know, a story about life. But even if you’re not interested in the morals of it all, you can still come for the fantastical musical set pieces and softly sung, yet deeply human melodies. My curiosity for turning on NBC’s live rendition of Jesus Christ Superstar really fell into the latter category—and I wasn’t disappointed. Granted, I had it on more for the sake of checking in to see how this live production stacked up against the others (perhaps only Grease and Hairspray beat it for me) and of course the fear of missing out on Chrissy Teigen’s live tweets (what I’m officially deeming FOMOOCTLT…rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?).

From a newcomer’s perspective, the show was energetic, heartfelt, and had Alice Cooper in it. What’s not to like?! All kidding aside, I actually came away from it with much more appreciation for the show, its cast (talking about you, Brandon Victor Dixon!), and the fact that it’s great to see live musicals on television in this age. But the most important moral lesson for me, because I suppose it doesn’t hurt to have some sort of moral takeaway on Easter Sunday, was that I shouldn’t have ever judged this show by its name alone. So, I’m glad that a modern production of a 70s musical starring John Legend wearing an extremely deep-v shirt helped me realize that you have to give everything a real chance before you can judge it. Plus, Chrissy Teigen’s tweets were pretty entertaining, too.

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Survivor’s Most Troubling, Yet Beautiful Moment Ever

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Still processing what happened on Survivor this past Wednesday. What happened transcended the game, and one castaway crossed a line that couldn’t be un-crossed, doing something awful that had nothing to do with gameplay: he outed someone as transgender that wasn’t wanting or asking to be outed. Sometimes Survivor brings out the worst in people, albeit usually within the confines of gameplay with the result of being entertaining TV for those watching (case in point: Johnny Fairplay’s lie about a dead grandma who wasn’t really dead! It was wickedly epic.). This was something different altogether. But then, as we see in the other tribemates’ reactions and Zeke’s courage and grace under unthinkable circumstances, Survivor brings out the best in people too. The Tribal Council was upsetting, repulsive, and moving all at once. There’s much to learn here about how such an act can hurt someone (and in some cases put them in physical danger or worse). Just as there are plenty of moral dilemmas that arise on whether CBS should have aired this in the first place. But I think they made the right choice—this is a real thing that happened, and it has consequences for real people. Props to Probst for handling this how he did and being an ally for Zeke. You can read Zeke’s powerful essay to get his perspective and learn how growing up watching Survivor, and now playing Survivor, has impacted his life for the better…and hopefully continues to do so!

Zeke in his own words: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/…/survivor-zeke-smith-oute…

Wednesday night’s Tribal Council: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5BXqrOSNKn0

Resource for being a better ally of transgender people: http://www.glaad.org/transgender/allies

 

Dear Mindy Kaling, Let’s be BFFs

I was recently just telling a friend about the time when I was in sixth grade and my class went on an awesome overnight field trip to SeaWorld, where we got to have a sleepover in the Shark Encounter exhibit. Yes, be jealous. There was a large room where most of the class slept, sans chaperones or teachers nearby, but before we went to bed the SeaWorld staff said that a few of us could sleep in the glass tunnel of the actual aquarium – meaning just a few inches of glass would separate us from these so-called human killing machines as they lurked all around us in the dark. I was so in. How could you not take such an awesome opportunity? What I didn’t realize at the time was that such a decision meant that I would forgo the first ever (and last) opportunity I would have to play spin the bottle, as all the “cool” kids chose to do while a handful of us actual cool kids slept in a glass tunnel. With sharks. Basically, this moment pretty much encapsulates my entire life, at least my life into my early twenties, of my interaction-with-boys to moments-of-nerdiness (but actually awesomeness) ratio. Long story short, it’s this kind of story that makes me think that writer/director/actress/just-all-around-cool-person Mindy Kaling and I could easily be best friends. I finally got around to reading her funny collection of essays in the book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) and I can totally relate. Firstly, the title alone sums up fears that I am so not as cool as I think. Also, I love funny women that are straight-laced and nerdy, and therefore non-druggies, yet you can tell they would be so much fun to hang out with. That is, if you love talking about classic SNL moments (which I do) and awkward childhood memories that never involved sports and boys – because those two things were never your forte – but did incorporate the fact that you went to drama, band, and yearbook camp (that last one does in fact exist). I love Mindy’s unabashed love for romantic comedies, even though she knows how trite they can sometimes be.  And I absolutely love that we share the same comedy hero – Conan O’Brien – of whom she has had the good fortune of interning at his Late Night show. I love a lot of other things about her and the book, but really you should just go read the book for yourself, especially if you’re a fan of The Office and the amazing Kelly Kapoor.