I sat down to write about Christmas With a Capital C, the anti-atheist Christmas movie from a bazillion years ago, but I didn’t get through 10 minutes of the movie before I turned it off. It wasn’t because of the politics. It wasn’t because of the bad acting or script (but surprisingly high production values). It was because of poor Daniel Baldwin. He spends the entire movie DESPERATELY trying to be his brother, Alec Baldwin. Specifically, Alec Baldwin’s character Jack Donaghy from 30 Rock. But without the jokes. Or the charm. Or the chin.
It would be like watching one of Steven Colbert’s siblings do an impression of the Colbert Report for Christian Broadcasting Network. After the initial laugh, you realize this guy is only getting work because he looks like his brother’s famous character. His whole life is completely overshadowed by his brothers work. It’s just depressing. I can’t watch.
Instead, I thought I’d talk a little bit about the Mayan Apocalypse, Native American Shamanism and cultural appropriation. There’s a really great short film called “White Shamans, Plastic Medicine Men” done by a Native American tribe in the 1990′s. It’s not strictly debunkery, but the documentary goes into why white “shamans” are full of crap. I’ll give you a minute to watch a bit.
A LOT of “woo” borrow symbols and ceremonies from other cultures. From “Asian” medicine to “African” voodoo. They think it lends legitimacy to their woo. (Sort of like how having the discount Baldwin might lend legitimacy to your movie) Often, the woo practitioners will turn around and pretend that their Frankenstein woo is exactly the same as the symbols and ceremonies from the other culture. (Sort of like how the discount Baldwin is only worth something if he pretends to be the famous, sexy Baldwin) This is called “cultural appropriation.” That’s when you cherry-pick the things you like from another culture, suck them dry of their original meaning, and take the remaining husks for your own use. Is it bad? Not always. After all, cultural appropriation from Mongolia is where we got Princess Amadala’s costumes in Star Wars Episode 1. And it won awards.
Maybe that’s a bad example.
Anyway, it puts me in mind of the Mayan Apocalypse hype. Everyone and their mother was posting something or other mocking those silly ancient Mayans. Because IF THE MAYANS WERE SO PSYCHIC THEN WHY DIDN’T THEY PREDICT THE SPANISH INQUISITON (har-har). But Mayans are still alive and kicking. Those Mayans are kinda pissed that the rest of the world is mocking them over doomsday fanaticism that has nothing to do with the real Mayan calendar was basically created by Coast to Coast AM and this jerk. Take a gander at his amazon page. Notice anything… shaman-y?
Did you know that the Guatemalan government used the day to promote tourism and hired a bunch of non-Mayan models to perform sham rituals at the Mayan temple? Cultural appropriation is for everyone!
Anyway, my point here is that sometimes we’re barking up the wrong tree. The Mayan Apocalypse wasn’t Mayan at all. It was 100% New Age babbling. If we’d picked apart Coast to Coast AM for promoting vaguely racist theories about the end of the world (the theories basically boil down to: I took a lot of drugs and realized dark-skinned people were too primitive to have built the pyramids – it must have been aliens/quantum consciousness! And the drugs said they’re trying to warn us!), we’d had saved a HUGE amount of trouble.
But hindsight is 20/20. Give the documentary a watch. It’s good stuff.