tv programmes

S introduced me to Buffy the Vampire Slayer a little while ago. I’d seen the occasional episode on TV, but never watched them all in order. The other day, I watched the final episode, having previously watched the preceding 7 series, in order. From this you might be able to tell that I like the show.

<lj-cut text=”Some minor Buffy spoilers within”> For anyone who’s not had the pleasure, the series follows the eponymous Buffy, a teenage girl in the Californian town of Sunnydale. Sunnydale is build on a Hellmouth, a centre for supernatural evil. Buffy is the Slayer, a chosen woman with supernatural strength and agility, a teenager in High School as the show begins. The story follows an arc that takes Buffy and her friends through their school years to university, with a new enemy each season.

The show’s appeal lies in its affection for its characters, its humour, and its ability to switch from humour to horror without clashing gears. Like other long running shows with a story arc (Babylon 5 springs to mind) the show rewards the viewers’ perseverance by actually doing stuff with its characters, whether it’s the development of the main characters or reprising cameos.

You can object (and many have) to inconsistencies in what seems to be called the Buffyverse. Why don’t guns work there, except for that one time? Just how much daylight does it take to kill a vampire? Why do so few of the villians investigate the possibilities of explosives (and when they do, fail to apply them to the greatest threat, viz, the lady herself)? Since when were there mines near London? Just where is Spike’s accent from, anyway? But that’s not the point.

The point is that BtVS has a story about people to tell, and does so rather well. I hear Firefly is quite good, too.

The BBC screened Jerry Springer – The Opera last night. It was musically brilliant and very funny. Although I thought the ending was weak, I can see how problems of theodicy aren’t going to be answered in a comedy opera. So, leaving that aside, a good time was had by all.

However, the broadcast attracted protests from Christians for scenes in the second half of the opera, in which Jesus and Satan swear at each other, Jesus is played by the same actor who played a nappy fetishist earlier (and wears a very similar costume) and Jesus is described as “a little bit gay”. Stephen Green, the leader of the hitherto unknown evangelical pressure group Christian Voice, has been extensively quoted in the press: you can read his arguments on the group’s website (along with his charming views on gay people), but in brief he objects to the BBC’s decision to broadcast something mocking his religion, and also points out that they would not dare do something similar to, say, Islam.

The BBC is a public service broadcaster funded by the TV licence fee, a tax on television owners (Americans always find this astonishing 🙂 The responses from the public on the BBC News site include many objections from Christians to being forced to pay for the screening of something so offensive to them. Of course, they’re not forced to pay at all: owning a television was not required by the Bible last time I looked, so their situation is similar to the National Innumerates Tax payers who object to how Lottery money is spent. That aside, like many other taxes, some of the money is bound to be spent on things we don’t agree with. We submit to taxation because the benefits seem to outweigh the downsides. Despite putting out an awful lot of tat about home decoration and cookery, the BBC still makes some of the best TV and radio in the world. I might object to paying for Songs of Praise (actually, I don’t, as I like old hymns), but I like Radio 2, Radio 4 (except The Archers, obviously, which is blasphemous and should be banned) and Strictly Come Dancing.

Christians don’t and should not have the right to prevent the screening of programmes to which they object: this isn’t America. An attempt to use Britain’s old blasphemy laws to prosecute the BBC (as some of the Christian groups have been threatening) will be the end of the blasphemy laws, not of the BBC’s ability to screen things Christians don’t like.

Green’s second point is more telling though. The BBC wouldn’t screen something which was offensive to Muslims (or Sikhs, obviously), for fear of violent repercussions. What Green has missed is that this is to the credit of British Christianity: compared to these other religions, it has fewer followers who are prepared to use violence to further their religious ends. As I’ve said elsewhere, I find Islam and American conservative Christianity worrying because of the violence they incite in some of their followers, and hypocritical in their whining about persecution and expectation of tolerance towards them when they do not practice tolerance. Let’s be clear: I am an atheist and believe all theisms to be wrong, but some are more wrong than others.

If Green wants some advice from an atheist, it is this: by all means protest, but not in the expectation that the BBC is morally obliged do as you say. Rather, protest to get across your message about what you think Jesus is like, and where the opera has it wrong. Play up the fact that your protests are non-violent. Get across your larger concern for this country. That’s how to be part of the tradition of free speech in this country, which is both your right and the BBC’s.

A packed weekend. “Special” General Dancing on Friday was fun (it was special because it was in a bigger hall and there was a bar, both of which count as good things). Lots of orange people around, all fake tanned in preparation for the Varsity match.

We watched Strictly Come Dancing on Saturday night. It was hugely good fun. The new format is pro-celebrity rather than having professional couples dancing against each other. Predictably, the couples where the man was a professional did best. Girls have it so easily in ballroom 🙂 CDC’s own Erin was the best out of the couples with a celeb bloke, with her partner Martin Offiah pulling off a creditable waltz. Full marks to them, nil points to the East Enders “star” who mostly stood there bowlegged while the woman did around fancy stuff around him. Pshaw!

The BBC’s site helpfully points at CDC, but alas, the first news item you see on the CDC site at the moment tells prospective beginners to bugger off and come back next year. Sort it out, readers. Update: they sorted it.

Didn’t watch the Eurovision, we went to Trinity for Formal Hall instead. Our host was most apologetic about the racuous behaviour of the undergraduates, who belted out “Happy Birthday” to one of their friends in 6 part harmony (I think it was a choral get together). I was shocked, I tell you. Bring back the birch and National Service.

CDC’s Tea Dance today was at Downing, which turns out to be a pretty college. Dancing on a sunny Sunday afternoon is a pleasingly civilised experience. The room had a little balcony to disappear onto. All very Jane Austen. We lost Varsity, of course, but I know which club I’d rather be in.

Rounded off the weekend’s cultural delights with a concert from CUSO. I’m not really an expert on classical stuff, preferring death thrash metal, but Elgar’s Enigma Variations was good, and the bassoon concerto from Holloway was interesting.