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Monday, March 29, 2004


The Dilemma of the Monday Morning Headline Writer: Jesus and Scooby Edition

Scooby Doo 2 Debuts at No. 1; Passion Slips to Third

It's Exceedingly Difficult to write anything on a Monday morning that ignores the weekend box office results. Grosses, per-screen averages, and second-week drop-offs are the numbers that define our world. Unemployment rates and national debt figures trickle away like butter substitute to the bottom of our super-size popcorn tubs, at least until the afternoon.

But on this Monday morning, the numbers have led us to a troubling conclusion. Talking, CGI dog sequel Scooby Doo 2's first-place finish is nothing short of America's clear rejection of Christianity. Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ has fallen to third place, its worst showing since its Ash Wednesday release. The end is nigh, readers, as our Nation has endorsed a marijuana parable starring a lisping, computer-generated canine abomination over a two-hour, spiritual exploration of the link between torture and triumph, sin and redemption. America's devolution into amorality and pagan ritual has inexorably begun. We suggest that you lock yourselves in your root cellars and await the Rapture. Soon, shock troops of the coming Apocalypse will parade down your local Main Street; whatever you do, don't open the door for the mob in the elaborate goat masks, no matter how many times they knock and profess to be simple, itinerant Bible salesmen.

In addition to the supremely justified end-of-the-world foofaraw engendered by Scooby Doo 2's weekend victory, the results have disquieting implications for America's headline writers, particularly those of a satirical or irreverent bent. We had no problems with last week's Zombies-Triumph-Over-Christ development; Jesus, after all (and as many have pointed out), was technically undead Himself. Regular readers know that of late we've had something of an obsession with the headline-writing craft, the economical art of informing and entertaining in bold-face type in as few words as possible. (Also, we are lazy, and headlines often don't require the construction of complete sentences. They also are aggregated easily into list form.)

So what's the problem, you ask? At first blush, the combination of Jesus, Scooby Doo, and Mel Gibson seems like that ever-elusive "comedy gold." But an examination of the raw materials of the headline writer should illustrate the pitfalls awaiting us:

Exclamations: Behold! Zoinks!

Proper Nouns: Mel Gibson, Scooby Doo, Jesus, Christ, Passion, Shaggy, Christians

Nouns: (Talking) Dog, Cross, Box Office, Audience, Bow Wow, Number One

Action Verbs: Debuts, Lifts (Leg On), Tops, Humps (Leg Of), Doggy-Styles

Even when you consider that italicized versions of Christ refer to the high-grossing film rather than the actual Messiah, there are many explosive permutations to be unleashed from Proper Noun/Action Verb alchemy of the above list. We're just not up to the task. As we noted, Judgment Day is upon us, and we're too busy hoarding toilet paper, Aquafina, and canned tuna in spring water to weather the fallout from indulging our more destructive creative impulses.

But we can't control what the reading public does with this list. Perhaps it will provide some fleeting diversion from listening to accounts of the marauding Apocalyptic hordes on your hand-cranked radios, once all of the puzzles in your Big Book O'Crosswords have been solved and canned vegetables consumed.

We only ask that you thank whatever God you worship that The Passion was bested by Scooby Doo 2 and not a Pauly Shore vehicle. He is obviously merciful and has allowed some opportunity for redemption. Bio-Dome 2 would have meant instant annihilation for us all.

About this site

This is the internet home of Mark Lisanti, a Los Angeles writer sometimes known as Bunsen. He is the founding editor of Defamer, a weblog about Hollywood, where he now serves in the nebulous capacity of "editor-at-large."
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