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Location: Kansas City, Missouri, United States

Doing my part to irritate Republicans, fundamentalists, bigots and other lower life forms.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Getting Biblical

Today's lesson comes from The Book of Daniel.

Not the one in the Old Testiment, but the short-lived NBC television series that began last month, produced wailing and gnashing of teeth among the fundamentalist set who prefer their biblical allusions straight (in ALL senses of the word), and then was unceremoniously dropped by NBC. The cancellation of the show gave the aforementioned fundies - primarily the foaming-at-the-mouth members of the Tupelo, Mississippi-based American Family Association - the opportunity to pick up their hairy knuckles from the ground and cheer, claiming their blather and bluster was behind the cancellation of "The Book of Daniel."

To hear the show's creator, Jack Kenny, tell it, the rabidly homophobic AFA was not the proverbial lion's den where "Daniel" met his fate. Instead Jack Kenny has placed the blame on his show getting axed squarely on the shoulder of ... (drum roll please!) ... me. And you. And all the rest of us queers who didn't rush to the show's defense and stand up against those nasty ol' bullies at the AFA.

Here's what Mr. Kenny had to say in a piece he penned for the

Shortly before our premiere on January 6, 2006, The Book of Daniel wound up at the center of a controversy. Advertisers had already been skittish (as they had with Desperate Housewives, Queer Eye, NYPD Blue—any show that pushes the envelope), and this controversy, started by a very small group of bullies in Tupelo, Miss., pushed them further away. Every show lives or dies on numbers, and ours dwindled due to lack of advertisers and therefore lack of budget and support for promotion. It’s just an unfortunate truth about network television. Shows get less and less time to find an audience.

But my beef is not with NBC, nor with the advertisers, nor even with the American Family Association. We all know what the AFA is—a small group of loud-mouthed bullies who traffic in hate and fear and have been using and promoting homophobia to raise money for years. No, my issue is with my own community: the LGBT community.

In the AFA’s first very extensive e-mail attacking our show, they named me, Jack Kenny, the show’s creator, as a “practicing homosexual.” They played on that fact and the fact that there was a gay character in the show to say that I had no business writing about Jesus or Christianity. I tried to turn it into a joke (which is what it should have been) by saying I was not a “practicing homosexual” but had actually gotten quite good at it. But their attacks continued. Where was my community when I was being gay-bashed, quite openly in a very public forum? Where were the protests? Where were the articles in the gay press?

I've thought about Mr. Kenny's words for several days. I've set the subject aside and tried to write on other topics, but my thoughts kept creeping back to Mr. Kenny's empassioned plea. Perhaps my case of blogger's block can only be addressed by putting pen to paper (ok, well, for the literalist among us, "putting fingers to keyboard") and responding to Mr. Kenny. Here's what my response would be:

Grow the fuck up!

I watched your show, Mr. Kenny. It was interesting. I'll give you an "A" for originality and an "A-" for casting. Aidan Quinn is definitely watchable and I'd probably tune in to watch him reading the telephone directory. Your casting of the "Jesus" Quinn's pill-popping Episcopal priest talks to, on the other hand, was a cross ("Cross"? Get it?) between the perpetually stoned surfer dude played by Sean Penn in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and the Buddy Jesus dashboard figurine from "Dogma." You not only managed to piss off the fundies with that depiction, but you managed to awake a few of my long-dormant Puritan genes.

As for the rest of the cast, I'll give you points for giving Quinn's character a gay son and not putting him in a dress, but what were you thinking with the rest of the cast? A wife who was a lush. A rebelous, shoplifting, drug-dealing daughter.

Here's how one publication summed up the cast:

The new show is called "The Book of Daniel," which is first and foremost a tired carbon copy of the outrageously dysfunctional suburban family shtick, but with the twist that this time, the Fool is played by Our Lord. Episcopal minister Daniel Webster is hooked on Vicodin and sees Jesus Christ regularly. His wife is an alcoholic. His son is gay. His daughter sells marijuana. His adopted Chinese son is a teenage sex machine. His female bishop, who asks him for one of his "Canadian headache pills" for the codeine, and later raids his office for more, is having an adulterous relationship with his father, who's also an Episcopal bishop, whose wife has Alzheimer's and keeps talking about penises.

Personally, it sounded like a winner to me. I don't mind some well-intended pokes at organized religion from time to time, but it seemed "The Book of Daniel" kept bouncing back and forth between poking at organized religion and then laddling on some sappy sentiment. I was never sure whether I should be laughing or reaching for some insulin.

My whole response to The Book of Daniel" was basically one of ho-hum.

According to Mr. Kenny, that wasn't the right one. I should have ran to my e-mail and starting sending out endless versions of e-mails to NBC asking them to save the show and not listen to those crazy AFA folks. After all, it had a gay character, so it was my DUTY to save the show.

Guess I shouldn't have been so wrapped up with lesser issues like writing to Ford Motor Company when AFA was claiming it forced Ford to cut its advertising in gay publications. Or writing my state legislators to keep sexual orientation in an anti-bullying bill and maybe ... just maybe ... supporting legislation to add sexual orientation to the state's categories of non-discrimination. Or letting my national legislators know what I think about issues like the so-called Marriage Protection Amendment and the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Or trying to come up with options for friends with AIDS who are suffering from state Medicaid cutbacks. Or writing letters to the editor about the wire-tapping of Americans. Or any of a few hundred other issues that might actually affect real peoples' lives just a little bit more than a television show.

And don't even compare your experiences to a "gay-bashing," Mr. Kenny. Of all the whining and hands-on-hips-foot-stomping you did in your piece in the Advocate, that's probably the one statement that pisses me off the most. How dare you compare what you experienced in having your show cancelled to what thousands of us here in the part of the country you no doubt contemptously refer to as the "flyover" live with on a daily basis.

To quote a line from "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," "Get down of that cross, honey. Someone needs the wood."

Sure, you wrote what could have been an interesting television series. Based on the two episodes I saw, my response to the show was lukewarm at best.

So to paraphase something the Aidan Quinn character's imaginary Post-Modern Jesus Dude might say: Like, Dude, because you're neither hot like my double-Dutch mocha decaf latte nor cold like my refereshing Diet Coke in a Big Gulp cup, I will spit you out of my mouth.