The end times are having a good week.
Now, of course, eschatology is nothing new. It’s a thing you can be a professor of, for fuck’s sake.
So I admit that the danger of engaging how everything from the gay bar to the sanctity of marriage is thought to be on its last legs means I might sound eschatological myself. To which I can only respond that I know an acorn has hit me on the head, and I’d just like to talk about what that acorn is saying. (Yep, a talking acorn.)
There’s no better place to start than with this classic episode of “The Golden Girls,” in which the main characters perform a musical version of “Henny Penny.”
The simplicity of the story explains so much about end-times theory, it’s uncanny.
Estelle Getty: “Henny Penny was waking up from a nap under an oak tree when an acorn fell and hit her on the head. […] Henny Penny, being a chicken, not the brightest bird in the world, immediately jumped to the wrong conclusion.”
Betty White, singing: “A piece of blue sky just fell on my head / The wherefore and why is best left unsaid / But I have a hunch, and it’s appalling / That, like it or not, the sky is falling!”
Getty: “Henny decided to take action.”
White: “I should go and warn the king!”
Getty: “And off she went.”
It’s one of those children’s stories you don’t really get as a child. It’s amazingly easy for Henny Penny to convince other birds (in this case, Rue McClanahan & Bea Arthur) that the sky is falling. It’s even part of her catchy refrain that “the wherefore and why is best left unsaid.” If the sky actually were falling, it would be so terrible that you might indeed need to make haste to warn the king – so why bother inquiring further?
This year, we’ve already lived through the rapture. And remember what Harold Camping said when it, uh, didn’t happen. It did happen, we just couldn’t see it.
Doomsday is traditionally confined to the realm of the nuttier fruitcakes among certain faith traditions.
Of course, it’s not always Christians. Sometimes it’s hippies (the type described in Le Tigre’s “Phanta”), or followers of a cult of personality.
And revelation seems to be contagious.
I started thinking about small-scale eschatology this week when Queerty published a little piece called “Is ‘It Gets Better’ officially useless?” The idea was that somewhat maybe kinda disingenuous contributions to the project by straight people had somehow rendered the project impotent to help its target audience, queer youth. To which I responded:
I call calling stuff over over.
Cognitive dissonance about sports teams making It Gets Better videos does not ipso facto delegitimize It Gets Better. That’s like saying straight people having butt sex makes butt sex “officially useless.” (Selected by Queerty as one of the ten best comments of the week.)
The week in doomsday got worse for me when I saw this charming (*ahem*) piece from Slate: “The End of Jewish Men?”
It was at this point I suggested that Slate change its name to The Sky Is Falling. For her part, my friend Mari called this type of journalism “ridiculously provocative reductive contrarian thinkpieces for the pseudo-intellectual who wants to feel subversive and edgy without doing too much thinking.”
Which brought me directly to Linton Weeks’ “The End of Gender?” today on NPR. This awful, awful trend piece treats postmodern gender [theory and practice] like a news item, all with an ad for a nice Pabst Blue Ribbon.
The end of the world as we know it, it would seem, is very hip. It doesn’t make it any less ridiculous, though. Kind of like those Kanye West sunglasses.
And it would be overly didactic of me to point out that the birds who were dumb enough to think the sky was falling were also dumb enough to believe there was a shortcut to the palace through the foxhole.
The journalism sky isn’t falling. But goddamit, stop throwing acorns at my head.