Sunday, January 15, 2012

Singing Nuns, Catholic Ghoulgirls, Stereotypes, and Me

Movies often use stereotypes. I don't have a problem with that. "Stereotype" means:
  • Noun
    • A conventional or formulaic conception or image
  • Verb
    • Treat or classify according to a mental stereotype
Movies, the sort I'm thinking of, are entertainment. They've got maybe an hour and a half to two hours to set up characters, a setting, and enough of a plot to keep the audience interested.

It's possible to do deep, insightful, characterization and trenchant probing of humanity's core in a movie: but I think most folks would rather see a few song-and-dance numbers, a helicopter chase, or whatever is in vogue today.

Using stereotypes like 'spunky girl reporter' or 'crusading environmentalist' can save a lot of time and get the story to the exciting bits. Like I said, I don't have a problem with that.

Problems can start when folks forget that stereotypes are "conventional or formulaic conceptions:" a sort of mental shorthand that boils a complex reality down to something short, simple, and sometimes not much like the original.

A Typical Catholic?!

Here's a short list of Catholics in the movies, from the 'good old days:'
Granted, the 'angsty artist' movie focused more on the "artist" part than the "Catholic" aspects of Michelangelo's job as a sort of interior decorator.

These days, Catholicism in the movies seems more likely to show up in something like "Catholic Ghoulgirls" or "Tales from the Catholic Church of Elvis!" On the other hand, "The Passion of the Christ" was produced in the 21st century. Unlike so many 'Biblical' movies, that one got it right. And that's another topic.

Where was I? Catholic ghoulgirls, an angsty artist, and a singing nun. Right.

Some of the world's 1,100,000,000 or so living Catholics probably fit some of the stereotypes for Catholics. It would be odd if a few didn't. But we're not all ignorant louts, talented nuns, or dedicated reformers.

My Irish ancestry lets me be sort of close to one of America's stereotypes for 'being Catholic.' But I'm also half Norwegian, and was raised across the river from Fargo, North Dakota. I've got a decent singing voice, but I wouldn't make a good 'Irish Catholic' of the Father O'Malley variety.

And that's okay. I figure that God makes each of us a bit different for a reason: and I've posted about 1 Corinthians 12:7-10, 14-17, 28; 14:9, 23 before. (June 1, 2011)

Slightly-related posts:


Brigid said...

"I wouldn't make a good 'Irish Catholic' of the Father O'Malley variety." Definitely not. You'd have to be a tenor.

Brian Gill said...



Well, I *can* sing tenor. Nobody asks me to do it twice, though.

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.