NPR lets me down

In some of the circles I frequent one’s cultural literacy is indicated by the fervor with which they support National Public Radio. For years I told people I liked it when I really didn’t. Then I owned to not really liking it, and around the same time I started to enjoy listening to it. I really became a fan when the economy took a bad turn. I was out most evenings at BC this year, so my winter commute back to Southie usually involved some commentary on the economy and the soothing tones of the NPR hosts.

Today I ran an errand mid-day and my radio was tuned to NPR. There was an hour long interview with Ryan Murphy, who created Nip/Tuck and who is currently debuting Glee, the new Fox show about a high school choir. The host of Fresh Air, Terry Gross, made this comment at the outset: “I had never heard of such a thing as a show choir. I assume this wasn’t just made up for your show”.

Oooh, that might be the blog post I have been searching for this week, I thought initially. Something pithy about how you haven’t lived if you don’t know what show choir is, and that would be the end of it. But later in the hour, after a few stops in stores, I started the car up again to hear the Terry Gross riffing on religion. That’s when things got interesting.

She brought it up because Murphy is gay. Her first question was about how his parents had dealt with him coming out since they were “religious” – there was no mention of creed or denomination, just the vague moniker of “religious” that seemed in context to be synonymous with homophobic. It was Murphy who brought up that his family was Catholic and that he had gone to Catholic school. “How did you endure Catholic school?” was the next question.

As the conversation progressed, Murphy explained that when he was younger he wanted to be Pope and had been told by his mother that the way someone became Pope was by not sinning at all during the day. So every day 6-year old Murphy would get up and pray that he wouldn’t sin at all that day. To me, that is charming evidence of the desire to do good. To the host this afternoon, it was the funniest thing she had ever heard.

She really wouldn’t let up on the Pope thing, and Murphy went on about how he had been fascinated by the lives of the Saints, and that part of his motivation was that he thought it would be ‘cool’ to choose who gets to be a saint. The interviewer still couldn’t believe that he had wanted to be Pope; she was amused when he admitted to having ‘practiced’ with a fake crozier – all I could think of were the dozens of friends I have who admit to having ‘played’ priest, or ‘played’ mass when they were growing up.

Murphy spoke really eloquently about how his Catholic upbringing had impacted his art. He gave the most credit to the ‘storytelling and theatricality’ (his words) of Catholic liturgy and sacramentals. It seems that his religious background is life-giving to him, and some follow-up questions on that would have made this into the interview that I wanted to hear. Instead Gross hammered home this idea that a Catholic upbringing must have been damaging to him, and she was operating under the assumption that he was now anti-Catholic.

One of the final questions was “How have you dealt with the fact that you are now essentially persona non grata in the Catholic church?” Luckily I restrained myself from screaming at the radio so that I could hear his answer, in which he refuted the premise of her question much better than my irked tirade would have. He said, in short “I still go to Catholic Church, and there are other gay people there, and everyone is warm and welcoming”. Amen, brother.

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1 Response to NPR lets me down

  1. Donald says:

    On a similar note, did you happen to catch Dan Savage on This American Life a few weeks back addressing being gay and Catholic? I’d be curious to hear your thoughts…

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