Monday, January 25, 2010

Westboro Baptist Church a bizarre new media narrative?

If you were to describe the Westboro Baptist Church to someone that hadn't stumbled upon them in the detritus of pop culture, they might think you were talking about a mockumentary or perhaps some edgy new sitcom. A 'church' which is really just an extended family all living in one big house under the leadership of an insane old patriarch, who fly around the country to protest at the funerals of dead servicemen because 'God Hates Fags'- it's a concept that has to be met with incredulity. Yet they are real apparently, even the awesome documentarian Louis Theroux has spent time with them, though I only know this because of the bizarre transmedia narrative of their existence.

The latest WBC stunt, in their typical, strangely attention-seeking way, is to protest Lady Gaga! I'm a little late coming to this because I've been travelling, but I mean Lady Gaga?? Good Lord! She's a singer, she's popular, and she likes the gays... so burn her at the stake? You could make an argument about the social, cultural and hence political power of celebrities these days, but that would imply far too much reason, intelligence and general sanity on behalf of the WBC. No, there can be only one explanation - they must actually be a fiction, a piece of performance art, an elaborate and ingenious media event.

Their reputation is such that now when they protest they are typically out-numbered several fold by anti-WBC protesters telling them to go home, and supporting whatever they are against. They have cultivated the ultimate anti-fan following. (There really should be a term for anti-fans) I quite liked Lady Gaga before, but now that I know the WBC wants her to burn in hell, I absolutely love her. By being the perfect, quintessential example of cruel, stupid, mean-spirited pig-ignorance the Westboro Baptist Church produce a sort of inverted golden seal of approval. It's pure marketing brilliance. The 'WBC' even sounds like some cutting edge media agency, whose dedicated performers could demand top dollar for their stamp of hate. It seems like just the sort of avant-garde chutzpah that her Ladyship Gaga would condone.


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