Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

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Mass Cultural Heaven

On New Year's Eve, we returned to the annual holiday lightfest in Tucson's Winterhaven neighborhood for a second stroll, this time with Kim's co-worker Karen and the astonishingly cute Akita she raised and now gets to sit for from time to time. It was a mellow evening and the perfect outlet for Skylar's desire to have a dog. But this go-round sharpened our already sharp sense of the divide between the community's conservative Christians and its more liberal residents.

As a smart person, particularly a smart European person, might expect, the facility for American-style kitsch was amply demonstrated by both camps. This was also true of the neighborhoods we visited northwest of Tucson. Mass culture remains a prime site of ideological struggle, with each side trying -- and doing so pretty consciously, from what I could tell -- to claim the power of Hollywood for themselves. I know everyone is tired of Cultural Studies scholarship that discerns ideological resistance in acts of everyday consumerism. But sometimes the evidence is too strong to ignore.

The first time I saw this display, I laughed at the absurdity of it. On second viewing, though, my reaction was more serious. Even if I perceive the irony in this nativity scene, its creators are almost certainly not being ironic. All that work that my friend Joel Schalit and his collaborators did on the Christian Right back in the early 1990s has proven eerily prescient. Maybe I should force myself to watch Passion of the Christ.

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