The Church Play Cinematic Universe
June 26, 2022 7:54 AM   Subscribe

From the YouTube comments "When Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses on that door in Witenburg he was humming that "Happy" song"
posted by Gorgik at 8:01 AM on June 26, 2022

I was definitely ready for a Long Jenny but this one felt kinda….dispirited?

But so is everything else right now so fair enough.

Some part of my brain kept wanting her to talk about the York mystery plays.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:01 AM on June 26, 2022 [1 favorite]

I really wish my in-laws' church embraced British panto traditions as this church has. Likely because, judging by the amount of gray hairs in the congregation, the youth pastor is doing pastoral care of "youths" in the 40 to 50 year old range.
posted by Ashwagandha at 8:31 AM on June 26, 2022 [1 favorite]

Whenever you're dealing with Apocrypha, there's always a thin line between fan fic and heresy. The Church of the Rock seems to have trampled all over the line in all directions.
posted by dannyboybell at 8:53 AM on June 26, 2022 [4 favorites]

This one is incredible. She is so frickin' awesome. I like the stuff much more off the beaten path than Star Wars or whatever. THIS is curation I can get behind.
posted by tiny frying pan at 9:45 AM on June 26, 2022 [6 favorites]

I've lost track of how many "oh, noooo!"s I've gone through and I'm not even half way through the video
posted by JDHarper at 9:46 AM on June 26, 2022 [7 favorites]

(It's like, I appreciate she has the patience to watch and take notes on all the Land Before Time movies, and did I watch her commentary? Yes. But was it sooo hilarious like a specifc church's specific and horrible plays? No. This is a gem.)
posted by tiny frying pan at 9:47 AM on June 26, 2022 [1 favorite]

mandatory potato at 1:00:01

(Metafilter: mandatory potato)
posted by rufb at 9:53 AM on June 26, 2022 [8 favorites]

I love Jenny but I had to bounce after 5 minutes because the christian cringe was just too much.
posted by Pendragon at 10:59 AM on June 26, 2022 [2 favorites]

But as a Patreon supporter I can really recommend her Patreon. The monthly ramble videos are great.
posted by Pendragon at 11:02 AM on June 26, 2022 [3 favorites]

Seeing Jenny's patreon list scroll by every time just makes me marvel at this new future of independent creators.

There's ~720 hours in a month and most people have, what, 100 hrs of attention to spend from that.

We're not quite arrived in the microtransactional future of low-friction renumeration of incremental attention but Jenny's sure made it work for her.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 12:01 PM on June 26, 2022 [3 favorites]

My comment on the video, which (in hindsight) was probably better suited to Metafilter:

This super weird Christian pop culture mashup stuff goes way back, and it's definitely not just a Canadian thing. When I was a kid in the US, back in the 80s, my babysitter took me to something called "Battlestar Galactica" (the program had a big cross for the T in Galactica) that turned out to be a Star Wars-themed evangelical thing. There was nothing Galatica-y about it at all, it was 100% a Star Wars ripoff. Their Darth Vader was actually played by a girl, and at some point she renounced evil and took off the mask to reveal that she was the girl we'd all known she was from the instant she arrived on stage. (The boobs in her costume were kind of a giveaway, as was her clearly female voice and the long red hair sticking out the back of her cheap mask.) Then in the 90s I saw a thing on Christian TV where they did a bizarre Star Trek parody that featured the Next Generation characters sharing the bridge with original series characters, fighting off Satanist Klingons. I'll never forget the song that went, "And the joy, joy, joy is down in my heart... and if the Klingon doesn't like it he can sit on his phaser, sit on his phaser and die!" I wonder how far back this insanity goes. In the 1930s did they do shows where, like, Flash Gordon was fighting the devil? Did people used to watch Popeye or Dick Tracy get crucified?
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:33 PM on June 26, 2022 [9 favorites]

The internet hasn't forgotten either.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:14 PM on June 26, 2022 [4 favorites]

To paraphrase Hank Hill: “Can’t you see that you’re not making Christianity better, you’re just making theater worse!”
posted by Ranucci at 5:16 PM on June 26, 2022 [19 favorites]

Ok but how much of the church budget goes to those sets? A nearly full-sized rotating pirate boat? A Star Trek TOS-era deck with functioning door and lit up computer screens? Smoke machines, lights, costumes; that has to be a significant outlay.

I mean, I've put together some jokey church stuff and it was a struggle just to have enough mics and people willing to help put the bare-ass sets together.
posted by emjaybee at 6:03 PM on June 26, 2022 [5 favorites]

“This one is just a straight up jukebox musical, which is honestly very disappointing to me.”

I thought I had lived through the worst the church play as a genre had to offer, but I see now how naive I was.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:28 PM on June 26, 2022 [3 favorites]

I mean, I've put together some jokey church stuff and it was a struggle just to have enough mics and people willing to help put the bare-ass sets together.

The last Easter play I was involved with, Jesus was played by a flashlight.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:32 PM on June 26, 2022 [7 favorites]

Catholic school plays were pretty meager, But at least there were scripts.

Leave it to Biblical literalists to have no understanding of how to write

This video made me sad, though, because I knew enough Christian separatists growing up in the 90's for whom these kind of plays were the Church's replacements. Mitigation for restricting kids to 'biblical' productions--most of the audience for these plays were probably never allowed to see the real "Back to the Future" or "Toy Story" because of their culture war.
posted by eustatic at 6:33 PM on June 26, 2022 [3 favorites]

Seriously. So much money just to proselytize to an audience who already knows the message. It's as amoral as you might expect!
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:46 PM on June 26, 2022 [1 favorite]

I feel like I'm making the baby Jesus sad just by watching this.
posted by hippybear at 7:02 PM on June 26, 2022 [3 favorites]

Oh I freaking love this!! I'm almost done watching, I've just hit Pumbaa and Timon, and I'm having so. much. fun.
posted by MiraK at 7:03 PM on June 26, 2022 [2 favorites]

I've been doing a lot of reading about the Medieval English Mystery Plays lately. Acting wasn't a profession yet, so the different guilds around town were assigned different bible stories, possibly thematically tied to their work (e.g. the shipwrights might do Noah's Ark). All of which is to say, the focus on spectacle, the thin plots, the clunky writing, the passionate amateur performance -- it's been there for centuries.

I love this so hard and am trying not to think too much about the likely very shitty politics of the church involved.
posted by HeroZero at 8:01 PM on June 26, 2022 [3 favorites]

I take hope in the fact that they didn't do these things during the last couple of years and that they were willing to make fun of Trump... two things that are very much not in line with many of the churches out west that set my teeth on edge.

That said I'm going to enjoy this and not look to deeply into them.
posted by cirhosis at 8:44 PM on June 26, 2022

Also the true potato reference is a little more than a minute later...
Probably some hit song for you freaks in Canada

I can't even imagine trying to explain Stompin' Tom Connors....
posted by cirhosis at 8:52 PM on June 26, 2022 [2 favorites]

Came here to rep for the very niche mennonite jokes, v v into v niche mennonite jokes.
posted by PinkMoose at 9:10 PM on June 26, 2022 [3 favorites]

I am, in general, a big fan of the schlocky amateur skit, as a genre.

When I was a kid, every summer I attended a drama-themed day camp, the culmination of which was the performance of a skit written and directed by a drama teacher using input from the kids. It was often a thin parody of some recent pop culture, just like these church plays. For example, one year we performed "Ace Antenna, Set Detective," in which Ace had to foil the evil Dr. Inter Uption (portrayed by yours truly) by following him into a television and chasing him through a series of TV shows and commercials. It was tremendous fun to perform in as a kid, and the drama teacher inserted lots of jokes that went right over our heads (nothing inappropriate, just too sophisticated for us and/or referencing things from decades before we were born) to keep the parents engaged.

More recently, when I was in graduate school, we had an annual scientific retreat, at which there was a tradition for the Ph.D. students to put on a skit mocking the faculty, and the faculty to put on a skit mocking themselves and/or the administration. Due to interest and general acclaim (not to toot my own horn too much) I ended up writing the skit pretty much every year, using input from other interested graduate students. The skit was, again, an opportunity to bring in some pop culture references and parodies, but more importantly a chance to make ridiculous in-jokes. (My favorite joke that we did was one year when the skit was horror-movie-themed, and one of our faculty had just been recruited away from our department to head up a new Max Planck institute based in Jupiter, Florida -- we had two aliens named Max and Planck, speaking with ridiculously overdone German accents vaguely inspired by the Hans and Franz SNL sketch, show up and abduct him to Jupiter. My favorite sketch that the faculty ever did was Waiting for Steve, a note-perfect parody of Waiting for Godot about the much-anticipated but ever-delayed arrival of our newly-hired department chair -- it was a thing of beauty.)

So like I said, I love the schlocky amateur skit, in general. And yet there's something about these ones that are just... uncanny, perhaps? Part of the joy of the amateur skit is that you're throwing together something silly, with few pretensions of saying anything bigger than some funny references and in-jokes, that relies on basically no resources to work. But here, they have production value! The sets are complex and well-made, there's real lighting and sound, there are choreographed dances and action. There's some actual money that went into these plays. And yet the writing is not merely schlocky, it's even less clever than what my childhood drama camp counselor wrote for a bunch of 10-year-olds to perform, and has less to say than my written-in-a-day skits intended only to relieve the pressure after a long day of scientific presentations and talks. There is, if you'll pardon the phrase, no soul in these productions.

Anyway it's a great video analyzing this weird phenomenon. The whole thing leaves me feeling unsettled.
posted by biogeo at 9:29 PM on June 26, 2022 [7 favorites]

Actually, you know what, their crucifixion scene from their Avengers play was actually kinda dope, I'll give them that one.
posted by biogeo at 10:21 PM on June 26, 2022

Which play has the stepdancing? I skimmed and didn’t catch any.
posted by Comet Bug at 11:15 PM on June 26, 2022

OK, this was weirdly fascinating. It also seems like a microcosm of those films where they have tens of millions of dollars to spend on CGI but can’t be bothered to write a coherent script.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 12:35 AM on June 27, 2022

> "Which play has the stepdancing?"

The pirate one.
posted by kyrademon at 3:29 AM on June 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

So much money just to proselytize to an audience who already knows the message. It's as amoral as you might expect!

I'd much rather religious organisations of all kinds spent their money on goofy nonsense to entertain their congregants than on evangelising to me or anyone else. Yes, in a sense, it'd likely be better if they donated it to a positive outside cause, but (a) that's true of everything everyone does for fun and (b) I'm far from confident that the donations of an evangelical Christian church would have positive effects by my standards.

You could argue that there is an inherent hypocrisy in Christians doing this sort of thing, but I don't think it good to take seriously the claim that Christianity requires a higher standard of behaviour than another faith or a lack of faith. I often spend money selfishly and against my ethical beliefs. I buy things I don't need from sources I cannot properly vet, when I could give that money to better causes. People are very likely dead who would be alive if I had made different choices. There are reasons, some very good, why I made these choices, but even so, I don't think my agnosticism makes me less culpable than anyone else, or that an avowed Christian morality either would or should have made any difference to those choices.
posted by howfar at 5:13 AM on June 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

So cringey. So good.
posted by BekahVee at 5:48 AM on June 27, 2022

I can't even imagine trying to explain Stompin' Tom Connors....

the only thing that needs 'splainin is why the whole entire planet hasn't been listening all along.. heave high, heave high ho
posted by elkevelvet at 11:23 AM on June 27, 2022

"What do you do with a risen savior?"
Star Trek? Pirates? (Hanging a dead body around is indeed pleasant!) "Robin of the Hood?" DA FUCKITY?!
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:13 PM on June 27, 2022

"Bonus points for pyrotechnics when Jesus comes out of the dumpster."
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:21 PM on June 27, 2022

This is pop culture Christian mashups from hell. Cowboys doing Gangnam Style for Jesus?!
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:27 PM on June 27, 2022

Anything is OK when you do it for Jesus.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:41 PM on June 27, 2022

Anything is OK when you do it for Jesus.

From jump-humping to torture! (and...this, along the way)
posted by snuffleupagus at 12:37 PM on June 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

Bruce is gonna be so mad Clark gets to be God.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:50 PM on June 28, 2022

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