Friday, February 17, 2006

Satanic Panic on Reality TV

Satanic panic and religious ignorance/intolerance pop up in the strangest places. Would you believe...the Fox network? Friday's episode of the Fox program Trading Spouses (in which two women of wildly different lifestyles trade households for a week) featured a hypnotherapist and astrologer from Boston switching places with a devout Christian from Louisiana. Both women were white, middle-class mothers with several children and happy marriages, but the similarities ended there.
The Boston house was decked out with Buddhist prayer flags, hand-drawn mandalas, Buddha statues, and chimera statues ("gargoyles"). The long-haired patriarch of the family decided to welcome his new "spouse" by holding a backyard Solstice celebration at which guests were invited to throw incense on a fire "with good intentions and wishes for peace." The Lousiana mom, a morbidly obese women with a yawning gap between her two front teeth named Marguerite Perrin, visibly blanched and backed away from the fire as though her soul was in peril. She eyed the mandalas with distrust, believing they were "Japanese". As a guest host of the couples' call-in radio show, she stormed out of the studio upon learning that her co-host was a psychic. "I am a Christian and I do not approve," she said, before sequestering herself in the bathroom. ("They can shove this up their asses!" she growled behind the bathroom door.) She stalked out of the studio demanding to be taken to a church. "I won't have anything to do with the dark-sided...I don't believe in it."
Meanwhile, the hypnotherapist from Boston was introduced to family friends. As soon as the Christian coffee klatch heard what she did for a living, their faces turned to stone. "I believe in God," the woman offered, trying to bridge the culture gap.
A blonde woman snapped, "Do you believe in God...or do you believe in a 'higher power'?"
An awkward silence as the hypnotherapist grappled with this unwarranted hostility. The women glowered at her.
Addressing the camera, the blonde said coldly, "People who read tarot cards...they're of the devil."

There was no attempt at dialogue on the part of the Christians. This particular group embodied the worst of Judeo-Christian faith, just as the Muslims who storm newspaper offices in vengeance for political cartoons embody the worst of their faith. Naturally, reality TV shows are heavily edited and possibly even scripted and staged, so it's difficult to tell what actually occurred between these two families. But the temper tantrums and fits of irrational fear displayed by the Christian mother showed her true colors, and they weren't pretty. Gentle rebukes and calm conversations could have gotten her points across with equal strength. It's a shame when there's so little empathy among the faithful.

UPDATE: At the Trading Spouses website I discovered that Marguerite Perrin and her family reside in Ponchatoula, home of the allegedly Satan-worshipping, child-molesting, cat-killing, blood-drinking church led by Louis Lamonica. This could help explain Mrs. Perrin's extreme reaction to "dark-sided stuff". Also, Ponchatoula is known for its abundance of Christian churches, and the intense devotion of their congregants. This episode of Trading Spouses originally aired at the end of last year, not long after the case of the Ponchatoula Satanists surfaced.

Part of Marguerite Perrin's tantrum can be viewed at ifilm.

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