Religious Life (the Fan Video Version)

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This new video has been making the rounds. It’s an Internet viral video, so I’m not going to psychoanalyze it too much; I’ll just say that it’s a short fake trailer that takes the underlying themes of chasteness, devotion to love (or the old-fashioned, traditional-American version of it), and religious celibacy and — well — blatant-ifies them.

I don’t get all the jokes. I don’t think I’m supposed to. It’s one of those things that’s less ha-ha funny and more that it resonates with a specific community — in this case, Mormons. (“You got your mission when Howard W. Hunter was president,” one of those jokes, took me 15 minutes on Google to figure out completely.)

But — as those of us who are religious fundamentalists who hang out with fundamentalists from other religions are fond of saying — the stigma is the same. “Twilight Years” is about Mormons who don’t get swept up immediately in marriage. Any kind of not-100%-kitschy viral video about 30-plus-year-olds on the Upper West Side will have a different vocabulary of inside jokes, but, done smartly and sympathetically (and with just a bit of creepiness, just to keep things honest) would look a lot like “Twilight Years,” I think.

And there are some things that just transcend cultural boundaries. Like this bit of dialogue:

“How old are you?”
“Eighteen.”
“How long have you been eighteen?”
“Fifteen years. Are you afraid?”

This video also led me to another Mormon web video and web-storytelling series that I’m currently obsessed with, The Book of Jer3miah. The New York Times loved Jer3miah, although that didn’t directly translate into hits for them — their second episode is still languishing with a mere 3,000 hits, miniscule for a viral video. But it’s geniusly composed, exquisitely plotted, and, on top of that, done by undergraduate students at Brigham Young. Who are taking classes in new media studies. Maybe I was wrong — maybe all religious fundamentalists aren’t the same. Yeshiva University and HUC, you’d do well to start up classes like this.

Posted on December 18, 2009
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