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Thursday, March 03, 2005

The Eucharist and Comedy

There was a rousing good discussion over at Amy's blog concerning this post about an episode of the NBC sitcom "Committed." The plot revolved around two non-Catholics receiving Holy Communion by mistake. Some people thought the point was about respecting other people's beliefs, given how the characters try so hard to give back the Host so as not to commit sacrilege. Mishaps come one after the other, which I would normally consider funny but for the poor choice of the Host as the prop. The Host gets mixed up with crackers. One of those crackers drops into the toilet and the characters had hilarious, horrified reactions to that -- they thought it was the Host. The toilet gets flushed and the cracker bounces back up with the characters exclaiming that it was a miracle. I'm not comfortable with the idea of the Host figuring in on that sort of comedy. As the Anchoress says, the Holy Eucharist is not sitcom fodder. The real presence of Christ and all that. I think there are better ways to get the message of respecting other people's beliefs without using the Eucharist as the prop. In fact, if that was the point that the episode meant to make, it's ironic that the episode cheapened the Eucharist and offended Catholic sensibilities. I don't have too much trouble with Dante's Divine Comedy, with serious points made at the expense of clergy and the afterlife, among other things. Perhaps today's sitcoms simply aren't cut from the same cloth. I know that Dante Alighieri's literature, even if graphic and brutal, were not trivial commentaries. I can't say the same thing about many sitcoms of the 21st century. Perhaps it's because they're mostly about ratings, not art. Perhaps because they trivialize their subjects, making light of them for the sake of making light of them. Perhaps because they really don't care whom they offend. I believe Dante Alighieri seriously cared whom he offended, because he seriously cared about his message, and he had to offend the right people with the right message. I think the "Committed" episode cited earlier has only one message: lighten up. That's a terrible way to show respect for someone's beliefs.

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