Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Dear Prudence video

Well, it's been a decent amount of time since the last pagan-themed sh*t storm hit the blogosphere. I suppose we were due. I'll cut to the chase:

Meet Prudence - aka Emily Yoffe - who writes/records an advice column/video blog for Slate.com. You can check out her other videos here. And, I encourage you to do so. It's important to see her other videos, because then you'll get a feel for the sarcastic humor that's embedded in the animated vignettes preceding Prudence's advice. But...she dared take on a pagan topic...and that means the collective pagan blogosphere must erupt in anger because she didn't treat us with respect or reverence or...I dunno...make sure to say Gerald Gardner 7 times while beating her dirty pentacle rugs with a besom and serving patchouli tea at her coven gathering. Here's the video:




Isn't it awful? To read some of the other bloggers, you would think that the animation only shows a Baphomet-styled, goat-headed guy pouring blood all over poor innocent Kent amidst a montage of other animation clearly showing how pagans are evil and silly. Except... I also saw a good deal of making the ingenue Wife of Pagan look like a silly little girl with angels circling her head and wanting to blow poor agnostic Kent up with lightning.

All in all...the first minute, the animated bit, seems not only harmless, but as though it's poking fun at both sides. When everyone is equal, I'm fine with a good ribbing - especially in animated form.

Then, on other blogs, I'm told that Prudence seems to clearly have no understanding of Wicca, that I'm missing the fact that the video implies the Agnostic-Turned-Wiccan was being treated as a Christian-in-Waiting by his wife. I'm told that Prudence's advice should have been to just force the woman to accept her husband, no matter what faith - or lack thereof - he has, and that Prudence completely missed out on saying this.

One problem...there's actually a video...with recorded words...by 'Prudence'...that one can play and listen to over and over should they choose to in order to hear what she actually said. Let's go over it together, shall we?

Prudence's first piece of advice is that, over a course of a marriage, people change, and that this should be seen as a good thing because otherwise a lack of change could lead to a stagnant, unfulfilling marriage. I can get behind that. She further goes on to say that, at the beginning of their relationship, the two accepted one another for who they were, religiously, but that Kent has 'radically underwritten' the rules of their relationship. That's true, as well. Having a change of religion, a change in one's idea of the divine, is one of - if not the most - radical changes someone can undergo in their lifetime. It does, indeed, change many aspects of how we behave. We now find comfort in different sources, different ideas, different pieces of literature and historical figures, etc. She says this radical underwriting of the rules of their relationship comes from Kent's adoption of a set of belief's the Wife deems 'sacrilegious.'

And...here's where all the hunting wildly for a pagan slight starts to fall apart. When you read some of the other blogs out there, you are told that Prudence is sympathizing with the wife and calling Kent's belief in Wicca 'sacrilegious'. I'm sorry...did we see the same video? She says if the wife considers it sacreligious. 


Then we are told to get up in arms because Prudence makes a bad joke about Kent having incantations with 'eye of newt and toe of frog'. But, that is in reference to the wife's letter in which she says Kent is practicing 'white magic spells'.

The finger is pointed at Prudence, because she suggests that they need to see a therapist. What she actually says is that they might want to see a 'neutral' counselor to help them work this out. However, if what they find out is that Wicca is now the organizing principle of the husband's life, and the wife just can't get over that, then their marriage might be over.

And that's true. If the wife cannot find a way, through neutral counseling and discussions with her husband, to understand and accept this new change...then they may not have a future.

But let's look at the facts of the matter. Kent did change the rules of their relationship, and drastically so. Telling someone you've decided to go from ambivalent about the divine to adopting a faith that your church says is evil and 'of the Devil' can be quite jarring. I completely sympathize with the reaction of the wife in question, and applaud her for seeking advice. I also applaud Prudence for saying that the wife might just want to consider this one of many changes that will come in their life together, and that they should try to find neutral ground on which to work this out.

Look... Usually I can see where an argument might be made in which the pagan in the story might have been slighted, but I see nothing wrong with the video. I see something wrong with trying to spin it to look as though it is making us all out to seem 'Satanic or cultish', as one blogger put it. The animation is highlighting the letter writer's fears in a humorous way, but we should take a moment and pause and realize...those are probably the very fears the wife is wrestling with. Is my husband really a Satanist, a devil-worshipper, a practitioner of 'black' magic now, like my church might be telling me?

I think this is one "pagan news" story that shows how we will try and spin anything to be 'pagan news', as long as the topic can tangentially be misconstrued as 'anti-pagan'. I'm calling bunk and saying that this was good advice. I would hope that I would be as level-headed and encouraging of neutrality as Prudence advised.

What do YOU think, Rioters? Am I missing something in the video? Is this a pagan bashing that I'm just blind to, or is this one more example of trying to make news where there isn't any?

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

23 comments:

  1. To be perfectly honest, I saw this linked on Facebook by Star Foster and I couldn't figure out what the hoopla was about. Everything you've said above echos my own sentiments on the issue. Though, like I said on Twitter, I have this suspicion that people find offense in things because they are looking to find offense in things. If taken at face value, the video it not hateful or discriminating. If you want to pick it apart, over analyze it and make it into some big anti-pagan advice video, then that's what people will find.

    I see this no different than people looking for sexual themes in Disney movies, or pagan undertones in Harry Potter and so forth. If people want to find it, they will find it. It's part of human nature to want to twist things to mean what we want them to mean. And of course, many of the people who are linking this ad nauseum with the same "they don't understand us" tripe are joining a cause so they have a cause to back. Drama llamas, the lot of them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey...I just met you...and...this is crazy...but here's my number, so call me maybe?

      I love your comment. I'm glad you're a Rioter. You make me feel better about our community.

      FL

      Delete
  2. I'm with you, too. Frankly, I feel for the wife considering she seems to be seeking some sort of advice and considering the animation, I'm not sure the advice is delivered in a way that's conducive to reception. Other than delivery issues with respect to the video, I think the treatment is somewhat stereotypical, but so are others in the Ask Prudence vein.

    Do I wish that a devil headed co worker wasn't pouring a bottle of goat's blood in front of a painting of a witch flying on a broom hadn't been in the animation .... yeah. But, I don't think it's as froth-worthy as some others have made it out to be. I do wonder what the video may have looked like if "Kent" were to be spiritually moving toward Islam, for example, though or if "Kent" were to be seeking a different form of Christianity from his wife, like the Mormon faith for example.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Usually I try not to watch the stupid animations (they're usually awful), but oh YIKES, the animation on this. What is with the "my name's not Kent?" thing anyway? Um, duh, but is it that important to point out every 2 seconds? This is right up there with Taiwanese animation.

    But that said...the advice isn't bad. I used to like Emily Yoffe more before she started slamming childfree people (she's one of those "I changed my mind because my husband wanted a baby and now I think everyone should have one" people), but this probably could have been even ruder and snarkier than it was, I suppose. And I can't argue with what she said about it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And if you pay attention, the goat has a sign on him that says his name is Kent!

      I found that amusing, thought others would to.

      Delete
  4. All of this just makes me tired. I've stopped paying attention to quite a few Pagan blogs and sites because of the "spin" and the oversensitive/combative nature. Your site has been refreshing, and I think your analysis of the situation is pretty spot on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks CK!

      I am fully aware that I share my opinions, but I attempt to at least quote, cite, and report facts properly (without spin). Facts first, opinion second.

      FL

      Delete
  5. I've watched it twice, and actually, the second time around I found the animation kind of funny. I mean...the letter itself is kind of over-dramatic (as almost all advice-seeking letters are) and the animation points that out.

    As far as the advice goes, Prudence/Emily Yoffee is right on about a lot of things. Most Christians *do* view Wicca and Paganism as sacrilegious, especially if there are occult and magic practices involved. And the husband has subverted her expectations, and has changed the rules of their marriage. They do need to see a counselor if this is a problem for her. The last part about "breaking the spell" of their marriage could really be true--people certainly divorce for less. It has nothing to do with Wicca in particular; changing religions is monumental.

    All that said--my other beef is that it's not Prudence's job to do our PR for us. That's our job. She has a responsibility to Slate to provide them with the service of advice-columnist in the manner that they want--slightly sarcastic and irreverent. Check. If we don't want to be seen as goat-blood-drinkers and new-age woo-woo priests, then that's on us, not her.

    ReplyDelete
  6. *sigh* Oh dear. Well...I agree and disagree with both sides. "The truth is 'twixt the horns", as they say.

    Yes, the animation is meant to be blown out of proportion for comedy's sake. It rather reminds me of what they do in Mythbusters. Yes, I thought it was funny and wasn't terribly offended--except that we don't know exactly where "Prudence"--or whoever makes her videos--is coming from.

    If a Pagan had made the video? We'd have a few laughs and move on, because we know its obviously not serious and just for humor's sake, making fun of the stereotype. But we don't know that. It is just as possible that the creator is being sensationalist, drawing on stereotypes to rile people up about the situation. Again, we simply don't know. We can infer, we can assume, but as this image is coming from a non-Pagan who's stance we don't know, the response is 'better safe than sorry' and trying to correct any possible misconception. I don't think people need to get up in arms over it, but it could be potentially worrisome.

    Switching stereotypes for reference: if one thinks that Native Americans shouldn't be offended by their representation in Peter Pan, or that African American's shouldn't be offended by the Tar Baby (etc.) in Song of the South, then by the same token Pagans shouldn't be offended by this. If, however, one thinks that such things ARE offensive and people should at least be better educated on the matter, then...well, you get what we have. A little much uproar perhaps--the community seems to have a bit of a hair-trigger--but not wholly insensible.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Phoenix GreenmistMay 16, 2012 at 3:06 PM

    I saw nothing really offensive in the video nor did I find Prudence offensive in her response. Personally, I was more offended by the wife's letter but that is just me. I have been married for 12 years and my husband has changed his religion and our are vastly different. I still love him very much and its his choice. Religion is personal not a group decision.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Phoenix

    ReplyDelete
  8. I read both Inciting a Riot and Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom. I can't believe how different the reactions are. Everyone there is throwing a fit about this video and I'm sitting here laughing at it.

    I mentioned that reading what you wrote here might help them understand why getting angry about it is just silly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We're all entitled to our own opinions and reactions to something like this.

      Expressing our opinions is hardly "throwing a fit".

      Just sayin'.

      Delete
  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. First I usually go out of my way to ignore videos, and memes of this sort so I hadn't even seen it when I read today's blog.

      And my thought are these:

      Holy Cow! (and I do mean Holy Cow) The glaring reality that I see is that NO hubby did NOT change the "Rules" at all. The ground Rules were that they would respect/accept each others religious inclinations. "Acceptance" is the "Rule". Hubby merely changed his own beliefs.

      If wifey cannot accept his beliefs, then SHE is changing the Rules, as I see it.

      Dear Prudence, and her production team are just annoying Gadflys, seeking to sensationalize something about which they obviously have little or no knowledge. Please let's find something of substance to discuss.

      Delete
    2. I see your point, Eliora, and I respect it. Let me take it away from religion for a second. What happens if the husband decided to tell his wife he wants to try being in an open relationship? Or that he's bisexual and just never told her? What would it mean for their relationship if he saw Food, inc. and had the epiphany that he - and his family - needed to become hardcore vegans?

      There are a lot of rules - or norms - in relationships. These are things we come into a relationship learning and understanding about one another. When someone makes a change in areas such as religion, political viewpoint, career, sexuality/sexual desire, or a desire (or lack thereof) for children, these can become deal breakers for couples.

      I understand that it seems like the rule was that, as you put it, 'they would respect/accept each others' religious inclinations'. However, don't you think that the letter is implying the acceptance or tolerance was based on the norm of the relationship, that she could accept him having a lack of faith and showing up for support at her church from time to time. That's the guy she met. That's the guy she married.

      Let's also acknowledge that, for most Christians, Wicca is a scary word. Someone becoming introduced to Wicca and Paganism can be seen as worse than non-belief, as many of the Christian faith believe Wicca to be a form of devil worship. So, she could accept a lack of belief, but hearing that her husband might worship the devil? That can be scary.

      Both husband and wife have a right to be heard, to be understood. Both, too, have a right to not feel belittled or pressured when it comes to matters of faith, one of the most personal of life paths. However, when we change the norms in our relationship in certain key areas, we must understand that we are not just changing them for ourselves, we are changing them for the other person, too.

      Kent has had the time to process, to understand his growing interest and faith in the Wiccan path. His wife is just now attempting to wrap her head around it, and she needs the same benefit of time and understanding. I do believe the advice for neutral counseling was sound, but the reminder that there is a very real issue being brought to light that might become a deal breaker in their relationship.

      If I have any beef with the video, it is the same beef I have with talk show therapists: it's too damn short. These people aren't even in the video, and time constraints disallow any semblance of respect for a real situation. Though, I could apply that argument to just about every advice columnist, TV psychologist, and self-help author in the mediasphere.

      FL

      Delete
  10. I was in the same place as Kent in my previous marriage. I had time to think it over, in terms of what I believed, what I wanted to practice, etc. I approached the subject as delicately as I could with my now ex, who was never actively practicing, in terms of his faith. His family is Catholic, but hadn't been part of the church for decades.

    It amazed me when I spoke with him about it, he jumped on the Catholic bandwagon almost immediately. Whatever else I wanted to practice was fine, as long as it wasn't THAT, according to him. I tried to be respectful about it. I had time to mull it over before I said anything. I don't doubt it came as a complete shock to him.

    I did my best to assure him that I wasn't going to release anything evil in this world (one of the fears he expressed), and that I believed (and still do) in leaving people alone (non-willing participants), in terms of the magical aspect of my practice. Per his request, I gave him a starter book to read, and let him observe one of the rituals. I never pressured him to practice. I told him to take all the time he needed to contemplate what we had discussed. At least he was willing to try to open up to the topic. It was all I could ask for.

    I think it was one of the big factors that led to our divorce. I don't hate him for it. I'm not surprised. I'm not angry. People change, whether they are in a relationship during that time or no. It happens. It's part of the journey. I know quite a few people that fear change. If I'm honest, I do too, but not nearly to the extent I used to be.

    But people do change. And I think the suggestion of neutral counseling was good advice. It's not just one person in the relationship, after all. And if both parties are not willing to listen or compromise, then it does affect the relationship (at least I have personally found that to be true).

    ReplyDelete
  11. I could have ignored her post if "Dear Prudence" were an equal opportunity discriminator. Would she put up a cartoon in which a someone of the Jewish faith was portrayed with a huge nose and was hoarding a bucket full of gold? Or portray someone of the Islamic faith with a bomb strapped to their chest?

    All would be insulting, but at least if she mocked everyone she could be happily ignored as a nut.

    The biggest issue for me, however, was the almost non-existant actual advice. I'm sure it's on par with all of her non-existant advice, but the subject was more personal for me, so it's the one that I had to complain about, lol.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I definitely sympathize, Mrs. B. I didn't take it as personally as everyone else. I saw it for what it was: a 2-minute video much in the same vein as all her other 2-minute videos. I suppose one should keep in mind that she hasn't done a "Jewish" or "Islamic" video, because she hasn't been presented with the opportunity. But, she's had the chance to make fun of young people, old people, parents, people that don't want to be parents, lawyers, and a whole host of others. As far as I'm concerned, that makes her an equal opportunity satirist.

      Again, my beef with the advice is the same beef I have with just about any media therapist: there's not enough time. There's not enough time in a 2-minute video or an hour-long talk show to fully unpack all of the issues that might be present. I thought, given what it was, it was decent advice given in a tongue-in-cheek fashion.

      FL

      Delete
    2. Strangely, she didn't choose to make a catchy, satirical video for this post: http://www.slate.com/articles/life/dear_prudence/2010/06/no_child_of_mine.html

      And in this video response about a woman's Jewish boyfriend, he's not pictured as a "stereotypical" Jew.

      So she has been presented with the opportunity, and passed on it for other religions. And that is where the offense lies for me.

      Delete
    3. URL for the Jewish video that I forgot above: http://blip.tv/slates-dear-prudence/dear-prudence-chinese-jewish-christmas-5157713

      Delete
  12. See here's the thing... when I first saw the video, it looked to me more like Prudence was lampooning the wife's view of Paganism (the angels constantly floating around her head, depictions of her as a very prim/ Victorianesque "church lady" - it made her seem like a characture of the "uptight Christian"). I thought the video didn't seem too much different from what Mel Brooks did in Blazing Saddles. I have heard many people denounce that movie as racist because of it's liberal use of the "N" word and other stereotypes. But in my opinion, the over the top usage in the movie points out how ridiculous (not to mention wrong) racism really is.

    I watched the clip again to see if my point of view changed. I will say that the brevity of the clip can make it hard to make a fair determination. Perhaps the goat-headed co-worker was too over the top. If so, the question then is, at what point does stuff like this cross the line? And not just for Paganism, but for any group?

    ReplyDelete
  13. The problem with advice columns in general is that they can't always offer specifics. Prudence did encourage the couple to seek counseling, and a neutral party would be able to help them far more than any column. With a letter, a column writer can't feel out the exact beliefs of a person, and so has to offer more generalized advice.

    I personally thought that there was one thing lacking in Prudence's advice; it's not a huge thing, and you'd have to know where to find it. But it's a tool that can help the wife decide if the marriage is still right for her.

    James Clement Taylor wrote a paper, "A Christian Speaks on the Faith and Path of Wicca," that uses biblical references to create a perspective on Wicca that is, unfortunately, away from the perceived mainstream. (There are Christians I have known who know I'm pagan, and they appear okay with that. I've only ever had one person actively trying to turn me Christian, and I know I'm lucky on that front.)
    Taylor's paper can be found here: http://www.aquariantabernaclechurch.org/a-christian-speaks-on-the-faith-and-path-of-wicca

    ReplyDelete
  14. LOL... this is so hilarious....just what a good Christian woman would think if her husband told her he decided to explore Wicca..... LOL.... too funny. The advice given was neutral to both parties and did not make any derogatory comments about either faith.
    But there are people who love to scream "persecution!!!" at everything and constantly fed that "offended" energy. Yet, we have no problem poking fun at Christian faiths and criticizing in Pagan forums.....

    ReplyDelete

What I'm saying right now: