Monday, October 17, 2011

Political correctness and humor on the Open Graph

From Eastern Mennonite University, 1200 Park Rd, Harrisonburg, VA 22802, USA
Satan from "Coffee With Jesus"
via Radio Free Babylon
Sometimes you look into the vast world created by the immanent frame and never know the frame itself there. This can last for years, a lifetime even. It's normal. Then...sometimes, the immanent frame winks back at you. And you feel very small.

This happened to me this morning on Facebook. I posted on my wall strip #118 of the webcomic, Coffee With Jesus, created by the strange and wonderful folks at Radio Free Babylon (RFB). The link I just provided is misleading, though, because I discovered the comic not through their website but through Facebook.

For some reason, after the recent and dramatic changes on Facebook, there has been a proliferation of image sharing across pages and profiles like I had never seen before the changes. Most involve what I call "copy/paste proselytism" in image form, something that had been going on within Facebook for years (e.g. "I hate pants! Copy/paste this message as your status if you want to see the downfall of the hegemony of pants!"). Anyhow, this is how I stumbled onto RFB and Coffee With Jesus.

Some people took offense to the third frame of the comic in which Jesus threatens a white middle class woman that "I'll turn you into the burqa-wearing third wife of a Pakistani street vendor." Now, I have to admit, this line made me squirm a bit, too, especially coming out of the mouth of a satirical cartoon Jesus character. Satirical character or not, they're still calling him Jesus, whom I take very seriously, and such a threat is decidedly un-Jesus-like. The words used to critique the comment in the third frame were "sexist" and "Islamophobic," which I actually kind of agreed with to an extent...but still felt the larger point was lost. (I was actually resonating with the episodes critique of "coexist" bumper stickers).

But then something strange happened when I stepped away from the office for a lunch meeting and came back an hour later. The RFB had already put up strip #119 of Coffee With Jesus, and it was in direct response to the conversation that had been going on in the comments thread on my Facebook wall.

It was this moment that the frame winked back at me. Like so much Neo, I said "Whoa..." and then (unlike Neo) laughed for a good minute, so much so that my co-workers asked what was going on. This was the kitty-cat/de ja vu in The Matrix.

Hats off to the sharp social media wits at RFB for surprising someone who spends quite a bit of time trying to examine the frame of online social media. They caught me off guard in a moment theological reflection, chewing on their cultural and ideological critique.

So watch out, netizens, because satirical cartoon Jesus and Satan are watching...and discussing over coffee...

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