OpEd Columns

I Am Not An Anti-Christian, Liberal, Low-Carb Eater (NDWorks 4/1/04)

Hey Ted, any interest in writing an op-ed column on reality TV?
I got the email last spring from the good people at News And Info. Hmm, I’ve never written an op-ed. Not exactly sure what makes a successful op-ed columnist. But I do watch reality TV. (And you do too, so put the nose down.)
Sure, count me in.
Thus began my year-long venture into the world of the op-ed writer. My personal POV on matters of the media. I wrote on reality TV. I wrote on the Little League World Series. I wrote on the black hole of local TV news, the jabbermouths of talk radio, the TV timeouts at ND football games, Janet Jackson’s right breast, the pummeling in The Passion.
Boston Globe, Chicago Sun Times, and now a monthly 700 words in the Indianapolis Star. I’ve learned a lot.
I’ve learned that no matter how I arrange the words, there’s a socially induced dyslexia in readers that processes paragraphs and spits out stereotypes.

On The Passion I commented…”This wasn’t suffering. It was a pay-per-view professional wrestling match taken way, way over the top. A mutilation in overblown close-ups and Dolby THX surround sound.”
Strangers wrote back.
“How in the world could you find the violence in this film unacceptable…I feel very sad for your students for they will not learn to make fair comparisons by you.”- Carmel, IN.
“You must be very hard hearted not to have come away without feeling what a price HE paid for you. I feel sorry for you.”-West Baden Springs, IN
…Try reading the Gospels (all 4) or at least the passages relating to the time period of the film. Then read Isaiah 53, a prophecy of the passion of Christ. Try it (IS 53) in several versions to get a nuance of language. Then see the movie again.”- Greenwood, IN.
On talk radio I wrote…”Irritating and instigating, the key to successful talk radio is the same thing that makes Billy Blowhard the most popular kid in the eighth grade. Be the magnet of attention. Obnoxious enough to catch the notice of the closest pair of ears, clever enough to stay out of trouble with those you're lampooning.”
More strangers responded.
“You’re just another liberal college A- hole. May God have mercy on you. Now go tell some more liberal lies to your students.”- email.

“When my son and I visited Notre Dame in October, we were told that the majority of the faculty were Christian. I wonder where your faith is, as you attack the very people who are in the forefront in trying to protect our religious freedom and heritage.”-email.
“I sure hope the kids in your class are listening to talk radio a little because I am sure they are getting exposed to a good amount of liberalism and dare I say a little bit of information lacking in facts...”-email.
The perils of voicing an opinion.
Despite never mentioning religion or politics, I am seen as religiously lacking and politically poisoned. I live in a time when my written thoughts sadly define me as one of two possible profiles.
Liberal or conservative. Believer or pretender.
Congratulations America. We’ve triumphantly oversimplified, downsized, and pigeon-holed the most diverse melting pot of people ever thrown together under one Constitution into two homogenous choices. No matter the topic.
Are you in or are you out? Low carb or low fat?
If you can’t define yourself by one word, you must be wishy-washy, confused, or an academic.
I’m not liberal. I’m not conservative. I eat carbs and fat. What’s wrong with me? I’m Catholic but apparently to some, not a Christian.
I’m trying the best I can…. not to be a stereotype. That’s a hard thing to do these days.

Ted Mandell teaches in the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre at the University of Notre Dame.
Copyright 2004 Ted Mandell

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