Stephen Colbert in 'A Colbert Christmas'






Blogger calls unexpectedly sincere song "a remarkable event in modern popular culture," but conservative writer blasts the TV special and questions sincerity of Colbert’s religious beliefs.



Inspired by my The American Culture article on A Colbert Christmas, a blogger named Dr. Zaius has written a follow-up item on the popular Infinite Monkeys blog. Zaius (who also placed a comment on my original article here) gives a strong endorsement of my assessment of the show’s final original song, characterizing it as a significant cultural event:

I dare to call this a remarkable event in modern popular culture. Modern comedy, especially on Comedy Central, drips with cynicism. The network’s biggest shows—South Park, The Daily Show, The Sarah Silverman Program and (perhaps to a lesser extent) the Colbert Report—take potshots at everything traditional in America. I find a good bit of that funny, but start to get tired of it after extended exposure. It’s always been a mystery to me how a network that makes its bones by continually mocking (often in bad faith) the values of Middle America thrives. Perhaps the majority of America—the non-elites—are not as stupid as Jon Stewart seems to think we are, and we have the self-confidence to laugh at ourselves.

Yet, on Comedy Central no less, Colbert presents a little song that is sincere, respectful, honest and (gasp!) wholesome. Note that Colbert produced a "Christmas" special, not a "Holiday" special. The distinction is important, especially in today’s climate.

Where else, except the classic Peanuts Christmas Special, does one hear any explicit and respectful reference to the Christian meaning of Christmas in mainstream culture? Imagine for a moment that the Peanuts special didn’t already exist. Is there any chance that someone in Hollywood today would produce it—and it would be eagerly broadcast by a major American network? I think not. We’d end up with some bland "Sparkle Season Spectacular" devoid of any meaning. Ugh.

As noted earlier, the full article is available here.

And, providing an alternative point of view and proving once again that conservatives just don’t understand or appreciate popular culture, here’s a denunciation of A Colbert Christmas by L. Brent Bozell III, in which he questions the sincerity of Colbert’s religious convictions. Bozell first notes that Colbert has acknowledged that he is a practicing Catholic and in fact teaches Sunday School, facts which one would think Bozell would find appealing but which he instead sees simply as a means for the mainstream media to insinuate Colbert into unsuspecting Christians’ homes:

His adoring entourage in the secular press tries to smooth over his satires of Christianity by insisting he’s a Sunday school-teaching Catholic family man.
Colbert told the Associated Press that he thinks his Christmas special is “sincerely strange, but strangely sincere.”

I think Colbert’s self-assessment of his intent behind the show is accurate, though I agree with Bozell that most of the program is not very good.

After a defensible but excessively angry critique of most the show, Bozell dismisses the duet with Costello as halfhearted, calling it "a half-earnest song about believing in the Christmas spirit" and falsely claiming it conflates Christianity and Islam:

Once again, Comedy Central merges together Christianity and Islam like they were two different brands of poison. If Colbert doesn’t believe that God judges people when they die, why is he teaching children at church? What has he been teaching? Certainly not the passages about judgment all over the Bible. More to the point: What Catholic parish in its right mind would allow this man to teach religion to its children?

Those who read my article on this subject and Dr. Zaius’s follow-up will find an alternative perspective on the issue—and one that refuses to dismiss popular culture out of hand without really trying to understand it.