Friday, September 28, 2007

Folsom Street Follies

There is a fascinating dynamic around this:



Christian groups claim it is provocative, and are trying to boycott Miller Beer, one of the event sponsors. Some people claim that this demonstrates Christian anti-gay bias, because of "selective outrage" regarding parodies of the Last Supper.

I agree with Andrew Sullivan, who says it is an unnecessary provocation.

Here is what is happening: You stick your thumb in a favorite target's eye, then use the target's outrage as evidence of their bigotry - because the target - a frequent punching-bag - hasn't been scrupulous in responding to previous slights by others.

And no one is supposed to notice that the conscious and deliberate (this is an advertising campaign after all) selection of the target is itself evidence of bigotry.

The Fair press release claims innocence and surprise, and a certain smug pride in pushing the envelope:

Andy Copper, adds “We hope that people will enjoy the artistry for what it is – nothing more or less. Many people choose to speculate on deeper meanings. This is one artist’s imagining of the ‘Last Supper’, and we have made it our own. The irony is that da Vinci was widely considered to be homosexual. In truth, we are going to produce a series of inspired poster images over the next few years. Next year’s poster ad may take inspiration from American Gothic by Grant Wood or Edvard Munch’s The Scream or even The Sound of Music! I guess it wouldn’t be Folsom Street Fair without offending some extreme members of the global community, though.”
To Andrew's point about gutlessness, and it's defender's reference to "parody", "irony" and "camp" - here is my parody of what next year's press release might be:

September 25, 2008

FOLSOM STREET EVENTS™ LAUNCHES POSTER DESIGN FOR 25th ANNUAL FOLSOM STREET FAIR™
Poster image draws inspiration from the annual Islamic Hajj, in a poster entitled: Masjid al-Harem.

Folsom Street Events has released its latest poster design for the 25TH Annual Folsom Street Fair. This year, the official poster, drawn by renowned artist Theo van Gogh, uses well-known community members as players in a strikingly original interpretation of the annual, worldwide pilgrimage to Mecca. The poster is the second in a series that draws from well-known paintings, album covers, movie posters, or other iconic images. Community members celebrate exuberant sexuality by donning their S/M regalia, and dancing around not the Kaaba, but a 10 story phallus.

According to Andy Copper, Board President, “We are extremely pleased with the outcome of this poster, and we are looking forward to a particularly inspirational event season. There is no intention to be particularly pro-religion or anti-religion with this poster; the image is intended only to celebrate the sacred roots of raw sexuality. It is a distinctive representation of diversity with women and men, people of all colors and sexual orientations. Just as Mecca draws people of all races throughout the world, we hope people from all continents will come come celebrate with us!”

Folsom Street Events acknowledges that many of the people in the leather and fetish communities are spiritual and that this poster image is a way of expressing that side of the community’s interests and beliefs. This year, Folsom Street Fair is dedicated to “San Francisco Values,” previously used against the San Francisco community for its support of sexual diversity and now used by Folsom Street Events as a way to reclaim power by the fetish community.

Andy Copper, adds “We hope that people will enjoy the artistry for what it is – nothing more or less. Many people choose to speculate on deeper meanings. This is one artist’s imagining of a pilgrimage that is at one both sexual and sacred - all we did was adopt the iconography of Mecca and make it our own. The irony is that homosexuality has a long and wonderful history in Islam. In truth, we are going to produce a series of inspired poster images over the next few years. Next year’s poster ad may take inspiration from American Gothic by Grant Wood, the flag raising at Iwo Jima, or even Raphael's 'The School of Athens' - community members are already preparing for roles in that one!"

When asked about the murder of the poster artist, Theo van Gogh, and the worldwide rioting that has claimed dozens of lives, Copper said: "I guess it wouldn’t be Folsom Street Fair without offending some extreme members of the global community, though.”


Let me summarize my thoughts this way. I consider myself a Christian, and am not personally offended by the poster. I think there are Christian anti-gay bigots and I think there are gay anti-Christian bigots.

I am not offended by sincere, deep, and pointed criticism, so I support Salmon Rushdie, Christopher Hitchins, Richard Dawkins, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. . . the list goes on. I admire brave people who challenge and take great risks.

What I am offended by is childish pride in giving flippant, shallow offense. What I fear is the balkanization of our society - a pluralistic society is a rare, precious thing, and groups that dance around the edges of gratuitous insults play with fire. When societies unravel everyone suffers.


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