Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Resurrecting the family newspaper

Jay Bullock has his undies in a twist because some off-off-off-Broadway play's advertisement had the misfortune of being in poor taste on Good Friday.

The "play" is really a circus geek act where the performers contort their penises for so-called comedic effect. Not exactly Shakespeare and not exactly new. Three-year-old children do the same thing when they "discover" themselves, but grow out of it quickly. I'm just surprised it doesn't have a federal grant covering the show's costs.

On Good Friday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran ad announcing the show's return to Milwaukee, "The Res-erection Tour." The ad had run before without objection but this time the ad's timing rankled.

Mark Belling of WISN, Patrick at Badger Blogger, and a horde of relatively sensible people pointed this out to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The newspaper, not completely insensitive to their readers, acted accordingly.

And as it turns out, all the bullying from Belling, the religious right, Patrick and others on the blogs must have done a number on that nameless "some vice president of advertising" since the paper caved and pulled the ads.

I don't know why Bullock is so surprised. After all, the play's producer and the owner of the theatre both recognized why the ad was offensive and wrote a letter to the editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel to apologize. Bullock has an e-mail from them explaining,

In keeping with the comedic tone of the show, return engagements such as Milwaukee, are being referred to as part of the “Res-erection” tour. It was an unfortunate coincidence that an ad featuring this language ran on Good Friday. Producer David J. Foster and William Stace, owner of the Miramar Theatre sent a letter to the editor of the Journal-Sentinel on March 25th apologizing to those who may have been offended, and explained that the same ad runs year round wherever the show is being presented, and was never intended to make light of the religious holiday.
Whether or not the ad was meant to make light of Easter, I think a reasonable person can infer that the ad was mocking the actual event, The Resurrection of Christ, and regardless if it runs Easter weekend or the Summer Solstice the ad is in poor taste.

I do think the newspaper should have run the letter to the editor, and I can imagine that the newspaper's only reason for not doing so was to spare themselves further embarassment. Hardly sufficient grounds.

The ad is now being run on Jay Bullock's blog, and I'm sure it's being run in the Crazy Shepherd. (Somebody check that for me, will you?) That's fine for Bullock and I hope he charged them full-freight. I'd encourage the show's producer to purchase an ad in every local blog that will accept their advertising.

But there is something to be said for preserving the family newspaper. Just as there are things that I write on the blog (certainly PG-13) that I would never write in my newspaper column (between G and PG), I would hope that the newspaper I read would be of the same sensibility. It's not a matter of dumbing down as it is avoiding gratuitous offense. There are certain ads that are just more appropriate for the back pages of the Crazy Shepherd than they are for the entertainment section of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and we shouldn't be shocked when the community expects the newspaper to live to a certain standard.

That being said, I think the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is very hypocritical in this regard. I hope the advertising salesman who had to explain to his superiors why he accepted the theatre's ad quickly opened to the sports page and read aloud the latest lunchtime special for Heartbreakers.

But at least the controversy gives Bullock a chance to shamelessly self-promote himself. He plays a guitar? Who knew? I also loved Bullock's tag for his post, "Legitimate Theatre." Bastard children not allowed entry? All the performers know the actual identities of their fathers?