Friday, April 13, 2018

But . . . It's not an Easter Story ("Jesus Christ Superstar" Live in Concert)

It's probably the case that no one else cares about this.

And honestly, while I do care about this, I'm probably more concerned that the Monday after Easter passed without me buying any discounted Caddburry Creme Eggs meaning that I haven't had any at all since I ran out of the ones someone sent me last year (thanks for that) because that had been a year without Caddburry Creme Eggs too, and someone took it upon themselves to help change that by mailing me some.  (Really, loads of thanks.)

Yet, I do care.  It bugs me.  It's been bugging me since Easter Fool's Day.  (April Fool's Easter? April Easter's Day?)

There are doubtless reasons for it being played on Sunday.  It's possible that other musicals are played on Sunday and that's just when it's scheduled, for example.  But ... but Jesus Christ Superstar is not a Sunday story.  It's not an Easter story.  It's a Friday story.

Like Godspell, created at about the same time, it ends with the crucifixion, not the resurrection.  Unlike Godspell it's got a narrower focus.  Godspell adapts the entire Gospel of Mathew along with bits of Luke and John (no love for Mark I guess), while Jesus Christ Superstar has a very specific focus on the events leading up to (and including) the crucifixion.

Jesus Christ Superstar is thus a Friday story.  It's about the events that led directly to what happened on Friday (not earlier, indirect, influences) and it ends in the culmination of those events on Friday.  This is not a story for Easter Sunday.  This isn't even a story for Holy Saturday.  It's composed of solid unapologetic Friday.

It's part of why I like "Could We Start Again Please" (something I didn't know was controversial, by the way.)  Probably not a coincidence that thus far, "Could We Start Again Please" is the only song from the musical I've used in a released work (unless I forgot something.)*

Anyway, "Could We Start Again Please" is about people, true believers who were invested heart and soul in the cause, recoiling at the fact that it seems to all be crashing down.  With the exception of a cryptic statement or two, Jesus never really warned anyone that the plan called for everything to end in blood and pain.

They're part of this powerful and growing movement that's all about love to the point that there are times where Jesus takes a stance of "Fuck Lawful, I'm Neutral Good!" in order to help (sometimes even save) people, and now what's happening is nothing like that.  They didn't see it coming and they want a do-over.

This is version that I've always known (and the only non-"Live in Concert" video I'll link to here):

(Not an important note, but for me this has always been Mary's song.  Peter's solo could have been sung by Mary losing nothing and quite possibly to the betterment of the song.)

This song doesn't work as an Easter thing.  On Easter, Jesus is back, Hell may or may not have been Harrowed, and, while the plan is still completely inscrutable, at least the whole "You're gonna get yourself killed" thing is no longer hanging over them all.

Things are no longer a matter of faith.  Jesus died.  He came back.  Things are happening on a cosmic level.  The song is very much on a human level.  It's not addressed to ascended God-mode Jesus.  It's addressed to [guy from Nazareth, with whom we've been hanging out] Jesus.

The song only works on or before Friday.  On Saturday things are a matter of religious faith and religious doubt.  (And ordinary grief.)  On Sunday things are a matter of, "Wait, has Ishtar knocked down the gates of the underworld‽" *pause* "Are you going to eat me?"

It's only on Friday that it's about friendship (and loyalty I suppose) and non-religious interpersonal connection.  It's only on Friday that Jesus is a person you're  Sorry.  Bad wording.  Gods are people too.  It's only on Friday that Jesus is a human being you're worried about because you care about him as a human being.

On Saturday it's a bit late for that.  He's dead.  No, we can't start again (please or no please.)

On Sunday everything is different.  He's been there and back again and is no longer the same hobbit you once knew.

This is not just about my favorite song in the musical though, nothing in the story is about Easter.  When Caiaphas and his underlings donned their (awesome) hooded sci-fi black-coats and sang a conversation live on NBC it was all about Friday and yet it played on Sunday:

And it's bothersome to me.

In part it's bothersome to me because we don't live in Easter.  Friday and Saturday are more relatable, just as Advent is way more applicable to one's ordinary life than Christmas.

Friday is when Donald Trump was elected President of the United States.

Saturday is when the people in charge are openly discussing how many poor people should have to die so the rich could get even richer (remember the whole "Let us cut Medicaid to pay for tax cuts for people who are already paying way less than their fair share in taxes" thing?)  Or when . . . just turn on CNN, you'll see plenty of fucking Saturday.

Sunday never seems to come.

And it's not that I particularly want a bunch of depressing shit dumped on us all**, but if you're going to make a "Things seemed to be going good and then the leader of a (mostly) peaceful movement was executed by torture" production . . . why put it on the wrong day of the week?

"From now on we shall only show Friday the 13 movies, Freaky Friday, and other things with 'Friday' in the name on Sundays!" would get you some weird looks, I think.

- - -

And, going back to the whole "Friday is more relatable" thing, Jesus himself is really at his most vulnerable in the garden when he's begging God not to have him die, or at least give him a better understanding of why he has to die.  (Not an invention of the musical to humanize Jesus, remember.  It really is in the Bible.)

On Sunday he's back and presumably has a decent understanding of the grand plan.

Not that Gandalf the White is a horrible or uninteresting character, but Gandalf the Grey is . . . I don't know, more there.  (And I wasn't planning this many Tolkien references.)

- - -

So, yeah, there's my "You played it on the wrong fucking day" rant.

Why this long after Easter?  Kim Possible.  Today (or was it last night?) I was thinking of a scene that'll be for Part III of Life After (presently only the three chapters of Part I exist) and the thing is, music is a huge part of who Jacob is, and Shin's gotten good a picking up when he's saying something he's lifted from a song (even when it's a totally innocuous or commonplace phrase), so thus this happened:

Jacob: How did you ever beat me?

Shin: Anything's possible for a--

Jacob: Then sprout wings and fly, grow a second head, levitate, summon a stir-fry, (♫) change my water into wine (♫), or--

Shin: What are you quoting this time?

Jacob: (♫) I only ask what I'd ask of any superstar:
What is it that you have got that puts you where you are? (♫)

*Ghost of Nanna Possible joins in with Jacob*

Both: (♫) Oh I am waiting, yes I'm a captive fan.
I'm dying to be shown that you are not just any man. (♫)

*Shin has face-palmed by now*

Shin: Don't encourage him.

- -
- - -
- -

* I used "Could We Start Again Please" in one of the very few scenes from the Band Story that I've actually written.  The scene is simply entitled, "_very_ late middle" and definitely contains spoilers for the story, but spoilers are only a problem if you actually expect me to write the whole story (I'd certainly like to, perhaps even love to, but I don't give it high odds) and are willing to wait until that actually happens.  If it happens.

** Lonespark will doubtless remind me to write up the post about why this is emphatically not the time for dark and gritty reboots but instead a time that calls for the light and fluffy utopianism of things like the original Star Trek.  (Which hasn't aged well, because they were sexist racist schmucks, but we're flawed so whatever we make won't age well either.  This, though, isn't about posterity, it's about what we need now.)

The short version is that while art does reflect life and can certainly be employed to great affect to draw attention to bad things the powerful/comfortable don't notice or refuse to notice, mainstream art also serves as a counterbalance.

When times are good, things get dark and gritty.  When times are bad, things get light and fluffy.  Fiction serves to provide you with what life does not.  If your real life is dystopian, then the time has come for a Utopia with no dark underbelly.  If your real life is utopian then crank up the tragedy.

So it has been for thousands of years.  (At least two and a half thousand.)  Thus we don't need asshole entitled man-child Kirk and Vulcan getting blown the fuck up.  We need, "Things are bad, but somehow, someday, we will make it to a better place.  A world without racism, or sexism, or homophobia, or transphobia, or any kind of institutional oppression.  A world without poverty or want.  It looks terrible, but let me show you a vision of the good things to come."

And sweet fuck I just described the meta commentary of the original Star Trek as an Advent narrative which was never part of this line of reasoning before.

And, yes, this has been the short version.  There's a reason that It's been months upon months and I've yet to write up the full version.

The short short version just hit me.  Pop-fiction, artistic styles, and so forth exist (in part) to say: "This, too, shall pass.  Here's what it will/could/might look like when it does:"


  1. I don't feel as strongly about it as you do, but I get what you're saying.

  2. It might not be practical, but I really wish they would play things like this on Friday, and that people might think about why. Maybe as part of a special slate of programs for Holy Week. The journey through dramatically different ways of thinking is something I can get a lot from, even as a non-believer - although that's probably mostly Fred's fault.

  3. >>>When times are good, things get dark and gritty. When times are bad, things get light and fluffy. Fiction serves to provide you with what life does not.

    To be completely honest, my reaction to "When times are good..." is "*When* are they *ever*?!"

    (Some whining ahead, feel free to ignore.)

    Sometimes I need some seriousness and depth in my happy fluffy escapist fun. But, well... My current main fandom is supposed to be "light and fluffy", for the record. And maybe it is, compared to the stuff I don't watch. But I'm tired of being told "oh, this season will be lighter, this season will be fun!!!" when "fun" means everyone just ignores all the awful things that happened last year, and then new awful things ensue. When I wish for "some seriousness and depth" I don't mean "please, kill more characters to demonstrate that The Stakes Are High". (Also don't mean "please, add some nazis". Also *very much* don't mean "this relationship seems too consensual, please, make it less so".) I want to look forward to the each new episode instead of dreading what it might bring.


    1. >To be completely honest, my reaction to "When times are good..." is "*When* are they *ever*?!"

      To be completely honest, it's my reaction too.

      I don't think it's an accident that the "good" times Greek Tragedy offered a counterpoint to were only good if you a) were a male Athenian citizen* and b) ignored (or callously disregarded) everyone who wasn't just like you.

      Regarding the present, there has never been a time in my life when turning on the news didn't provide more suffering and unpleasantness than I could ever possibly need in my life.


      * That's redundant, by the way. Women, no matter how Athenian, couldn't be citizens at that point in the history of Athens. A woman (gender assigned at birth and not subject to change) who would have been able to be a citizen had she been born male, occupied a very specific spot in the hierarchy.

      They were free, and thus above all slaves. They were Athenian, and thus (at least theoretically) above foreigners. They were emphatically not citizens.

      For some reason this only just hit me (I almost posted before it did) in spite of it being right in front of me for years on end and completely describing exactly how women were conceptualized by the Athenian men of the time.

      There's another group that fits into that exact same slot: children.

      That's the category Athenians stuck women into. Free members of the household who couldn't be trusted to run their own lives. While male children would eventually outgrow this status, assigned-female people never would.

    2. This has certain synergies with Athenian attitudes toward pederastry. Particularly if you're looking at something like Plato's Symposium, where Socrates basically equates being the bottom in a sexual relationship to a form of apprenticeship.