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Essay

sacrificing virgins

By August 30, 2013 4 Comments
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In the Southpark episode “Britney’s New Look” Stan, Cartman, Kyle, and Butters decide to make some money by snapping a photograph of Britney Spears who happens to be holed up in the local Komfort Inn. They eventually make it into her room only to find that Spears has attempted suicide. Stan and Kyle decide they need to help the now badly scarred Britney escape from the overwhelming presence of the media. They take a train to the North Pole (as a voice over establishes a Frosty the Snowman motif) only to find that the train somehow has been diverted back to South Park. As they scramble off of the train a media hoard chases down a distraught yet resigned Britney. Kyle is relieved to see his parents, begging them to intervene, only to hear them say that it is inevitable… Britney must die. Stan and Kyle are told that the ancient practice of sacrificing virgins to ensure a good crop (the corn crop) is still alive and well. Only, Americans can’t stomach the violence and blood of an actual sacrifice, so they do it through the media. Young women are chosen and groomed to become stars and they are sacrificed to the media for the good of the community by ensuring a bountiful harvest. Eventually, those who are chosen must die. In their wake, new women are chosen and groomed so the cycle of prosperity can continue undisturbed. The episode ends with everyone pulling out a camera to snap pictures of a dying Britney. A doctor, the same one who treated her wounds early in the episode, looks for a pulse and declares her dead. The scene cuts to a corn field and supermarket – the sacrifice has worked as the harvest was a success.

The scariest part of the episode is the very end. As people mill about the supermarket heads turn to watch the TV tell about a successful 15 year old girl with the screen name Hannah Montana. “Looks like next year’s crop is going to be even better,” someone says, as the episode ends. Cut to 2013 and the pictures of Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana) engaged in an obscene dance with Robin Thicke at the MTV Video Awards. The media backlash has been brutal, and hypocritical, blasting the obscene sexualization of Hannah Montana as they show the video clips and pictures over and over in between commercials that objectify women for monetary gain. The media has sensationalized the story, shamelessly using it for their own purpose, appealing to some higher moral code even as they wipe the blood from their hands. The prophetic message of Southpark is that as a media obsessed culture we are all complicit – Miley Cyrus has to be sacrificed for the good of the people, the prosperity of the nation, and for corn crops everywhere. 

Jason Lief

Dr. Jason Lief teaches courses in Christian education and youth ministry. A Northwestern College graduate, he served as the chaplain for Pella (Iowa) Christian High School while earning a master’s degree in theology from Wheaton College Graduate School. He also completed a doctorate in practical theology from Luther Seminary. He previously taught theology and youth ministry at Dordt College for 10 years. Dr. Lief is the author of “Poetic Youth Ministry: Loving Young People by Learning to Let Them Go” and "Christianity and Heavy Metal as Impure Sacred Within the Secular West: Transgressing the Sacred.”

4 Comments

  • Mike Weber says:

    Laura Leonard, writing for "her-meneutics", a Christianity Today publication says this

    from "Jesus Loves Miley Cyrus,"

    Jesus loves Miley. Nothing she could do could separate her from his love. Even more than she needs to know how we feel about her dance moves, or her drug use, or her sexual history, she needs to know that truth. The world needs to know that. The way we talk about other people, particularly those we condemn, communicates a lot about who we are and what we are about to other people who are "outside," even when it's not their choices we're berating in a public forum. …

    We don't know Miley personally, so it's easy to bash her. We never have to look her in the eyes and watch her face as we call her performance trashy. If we did know her, maybe we would think more deeply about why she made those choices, and how we can help support her in a way that keeps her from making them again.

    In our eagerness to hate on her, we forget that we know Mileys, women and men who have so deeply absorbed the messages that in-your-face sexuality is the easiest way to get attention, and that attention is the same thing as value. God offers more to us, and he wants more for us. That is a response worth communicating – Jesus loves you, Miley, and he loves all the Mileys of this world. He can't stop.

    For the full article follow this link:
    http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2013/august/jesus-loves-miley-cyrus-vmas.html?start=2

    Another thoughtful response has been made in a letter to his 8 year old daughter, by Dan Jackson at "Action Speaks,"

    from "Dear Daughter, Let Mylie Cyrus Be …"

    Daughter, you may never reach national prominence in any field; you may never stand on a stage in front of millions of viewers; your picture may never grace magazine covers and movie posters…but you will humiliate yourself. You will most certainly make some huge mistakes. I can promise you that you will disappoint some people in your life. Probably all of them, at some point. You will have regrets, and will probably have some sleepless nights and upset stomachs because of some of the things you will say and/or do.

    And when that happens, the people will talk. You will hear similar words: failure, pathetic, selfish, hypocrite, disappointment. And the words will hurt more than a thousand sticks or stones. And even when the words stop, the looks – the disapproving, distrusting, disappointing looks – will continue to remind you of your shortcomings.

    And so, my daughter, what I want you to know most of all is that when this happens – when you let the world down – I will lift you up. What I want you to know is that you are mine. You are precious. And no action – curing cancer, public twerking, or anything in between – will change that. There will be people who try to tell you that your identity and worth are wrapped up in your achievements or popularity or salary or position or purity, but those people are wrong. They are wrong about Miley and they will be wrong about you. Your identity will never – can never – be earned by any amount of rule-following, moral-keeping, or by any amount of ladylikeness.

    You are mine. And you are precious. Always.

    You are God’s. And you are precious to Him. Always.

    To read the whole article follow this link:
    http://theactionspeaks.com/?p=3238

  • Steve MVW says:

    Great post, Jason! I know only slightly more about South Park than I do about Miley Cyrus and the VMA's, but your take, South Park's take, seems so similar to Rene Girard and mimetic theory. We scapegoat–shaming, persecuting, banishing, executing–one person to relieve social anxiety and return to equilibrium. If we all tsk-tsk in disapproval about her, then we can all feel that we have taken a stand against immorality. We're good people once again and our society has a moral rudder and maybe there will even be a good corn crop.

  • Merkles says:

    But even you, Jason, say it was an obscene dance. I agree that it is hypocritical of the media to selective bash those that they set up like Lindsay lohan, etc. but there is also space to condemn and make moral statements about what should be moral norms in a society. Are you claiming that we are all complicit so we cannot make judgements? What do you posit as a solution to what you even claim is obscene?

  • ... says:

    As a Britney Spears fan when I saw the title of the episode I was a little worried, it is South Park after all, but I was actually really proud of the creators for standing up to the media and average American public the way they did. The American public is so desperate to blindly hate someone that they choose to hate on innocent people that haven't done anything wrong, it really is like human sacrifice.

    I always wondered when the new "hate train" begins why people hate those celebrities so damn much. Justin Bieber might be committing crimes but there are many people out there who are way way worse and before that there was quite literally no reason to hate him. Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears have been very sexy pop stars and a little controversy is expected from their lyrics and performances but the blind hatred is completely ridiculous and over the top.

    During 2007, people were especially hating on Britney, calling her a train-wreck when basically everything she did was harmless to other people. Think of it, why is it so terrible to shave your head, talk in a British accent, flash the paparazzi or whatever. As for the umbrella incident, that was literally the only thing she did that was truly harmful during three years of paparazzi/media hell. Demi Lovato punched her backup dancer in the face but no one took that very seriously and most people were willing to forgive that as a one time incident and move on despite that being worse than simply denting a van. Not to mention, basically everyone I know (including myself) has done something worse in their life than that one umbrella incident and most of it was unprovoked or required very little provocation. In Britney's case she experienced 2 years of extreme provocation between endless paparazzi harassment, media exaggerating and mocking her ruthlessly, and a country desperate to crucify someone. Finally, after those two years of harassment, one team of paparazzis crossed the line, and she finally just snapped from all that abuse. Even still, you can still see that in the vast majority of videos from that time; she really tried her hardest to be polite and nice, even to the paparazzi, despite the abuse.

    People may attack her for those two years of her so called "meltdown", but I'm pretty sure that she handled that difficult situation better than anybody I know would have handled it including myself, and better than any other celebrity has previously or since.

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