Thursday, January 3, 2013

Nuthin But Some Hound Dogs

Legend has it that Elvis has been impregnating women at a rate unprecedented for a man who has been dead so long; if you are inclined to believe he is dead. Such a physically active corpse should have no trouble doing a little extra tuning over in his grave. The actions of the Jordon School District Board of Education (JBE) should have little impact on “The King”’s daily routine.

The JBE has put their foot down on racy and inappropriate arts activities occurring in the high schools under the metaphorical heal of their collective boot. Herriman High theater students had been working since September on a performance of the Broadway musical “All Shook Up”, when they returned from Christmas break on 2 January they were told that the previous permission they had received to perform the musical had been revoked.

“All Shook Up” has a thin but popular plotline revolving around teen angst and an authority’s disapproval of “entertainment”. Some people trace this plot to Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, but the myriad of derivatives has cemented it as a well-worn plot device whose ties to any source earlier than the 20th century is accidental. It is more likely that the authors of “All Shook Up” owe more to the 1980’s movie Footloose than the play written in 1601.

In “All Shook Up” the thin plot is merely a vehicle to introduce a large selection of Elvis songs.

“In this show, we journey back to the 1950s for a story involving a teenage girl’s dream, a mysterious stranger with a motorcycle and a guitar, and various residents of a sad Midwestern town where fun and excitement are outlawed.” – Jessica Martin of summarizing the plot elements of All Shook Up.

Footloose, coincidentally, was filmed almost entirely on location in Utah.

The JBE contend that they had changed their policy over the summer. The Bingham High theater students had performed “Dead Man Walking” which had incited the condemnation of the Utah Eagle Forum. The Utah Eagle Forum cited –amongst other issues- that the “Dead Man Walking” contained "inappropriate use of biblical teachings."

Delivering the announcement of JBE's decision to the world at large was the lovely and talented former FOX "News" (KSTU channel 13) TV personality and current Jordon School District Director of Communications Sandy Riesgraf.

Since I have not stumbled upon exactly what the Utah Eagle Forum considers “inappropriate use of biblical teachings in “Dead Man Walking” I will conveniently assume that they are referring to biblical story of the dead man Lazarus walking from the grave. With this in mind the very idea of Elvis gyrating from the grave and impregnating women all over the world would be simply unforgivable.

“Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out” – John 11:43-44

Three of the seven members of the JBE are women, but the president is a man. Coach Rick Bojak has been the president since 2008, but he has a day-job as the Western Field Representative for Bigger Faster Stronger (BFS). BFS is a company that markets training materials to high school athletics programs. “Bigger Stronger Faster *” is the name of a 2008 documentary on steroid use that apparently did not show in Utah before it’s release on DVD in September of 2008.

The standout irony of the JBE decision is that it mimics the censorship that Elvis himself suffered through while he was alive. Many radio stations refused to play the subversive music of Elvis. Ed Sullivan famously refused to ever allow Elvis on his show, then recanted and paid Elvis over 10X what he thought was the maximum he would spend for an entertainer, then –after two relatively uncensored appearances- only filmed Elvis from the waist up.

“he gave an exhibition that was suggestive and vulgar, tinged with the kind of animalism that should be confined to dives and bordellos” -- Ben Gross of the Daily News. 8 June 1956

Elvis was considered a Southern phenomenon in 1956, and his second appearance on the Ed Sullivan show would occur on the 24th of October; less than a year after Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of a Southern bus. The JBE would decide that a musical featuring Elvis’s songs was inappropriate over 56 years later.

Last year on the 24th of October everyone was abuzz about the presidential debate that took place a couple days earlier. The president had kicked Mitt Romney all over the playground, and many zingers had been uttered. One of my favorites was when POTUS informed Mitt that 1980 called and wanted their foreign policy back.

“Governor, when it comes to our foreign policy, you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s." – Barak Obama to Mitt Romney 22 October 2012

Mitt was very popular in Utah, and it is not a stretch to suggest he was even more popular with the members of the Utah Eagle Forum. Perhaps they heard this zinger and decided that they would indeed like the Elvis-censoring social policy of the 1950s?

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