Written by Reverend Steve Sept. 1st, 1999 (in the normal calendar).
My parents are Latino. My mother was born in the small, primarily Latino populated, border town of Douglas, while my father immigrated here as a child. I was raised in the state of Arizona knowing very little, if anything, regarding my Latino background. This put me in a difficult cultural situation, a place where I was "too dark for white people, too white for the dark people," never seeming to fully fit in with any culture.
Therefore, trips to visit far away relatives were always an interesting, if not scary, culture-breaking experience for me, one of the few times when i would leave my American shell to experience a side of my culture I've never touched within myself.
One of the things that really intrigues me about Latino culture is their respect, adoration, and worship of religious icons, images, and symbols. This extends to pictures of holy people covering walls, giant statues of the Virgin Mary, the constant carrying of the rosary, and small plastic cards, usually featuring various saints that have the power to heal various problems and ailments.
My grandmother, or nana, is a frightening dogmatic woman. Born and raised deep within the heart of Mexico, she was raised with the dogmatic Catholic beliefs of submissiveness, respect, and discipline. She resides in Douglas now, where, as a child, we used to visit her regularly. Now that we're older and busier, we don't visit her much, but still try to now and again.
As a child, I remember the iconographical images adorning every room, every wall, all throughout her small house, and how they, honestly, used to scare me. The one that seemed to scare me the most was the 3-D picture of Jesus' last supper, ironically hanging right over the dinner table. As a child, and even to a certain extent into my teenage years, I would have nightmares about Jesus, his arms reaching out to me in 3-D.
But THAT ONE wasn't avoidable. There was another holy icon that my nana used to worship that I could and did avoid regularly. It was a six foot tall felt painting of Jesus dying on the cross, placed right next to my nana and tata's bed. His eyes were looking up towards the sky, his mouth open in pain, his forehead bleeding from the crown of thorns on his head. It illicited so much fear into me that every second I saw that painting I wanted to run away in fear and kill every member of my family as a sacrifice.
This adoration of images, not within Latinos exclusively but within a large amount of over-zealous Catholics and Christians, even extends to the area of "holy signs," where the face of Jesus will appear on a shoe and millions will come to worship it. Although joked about a lot, these "signs" do seem to appear, as I had the privelige to witness first hand.
A few months ago, right in the middle of summer, we went to the town of Agua Pierta, mexico for a family reunion. While we were there, we decided to spend a day in Douglas with my nana and tata.
We were driving down the main drag of the 9,000 population town when my mother said to my brother and I
"Do you guys wanna go see the holy water heater?"
Like yourself, we had no idea what the hell she was talking about, and sarcastically asked for a clarification.
"You didn't hear? Well, Chivi told your nana that there's some lady in town who'se set up a shrine in her backyard because her water heater has rusted in th form of the Virgin Mary. You wanna go see?"
This seemed so unbelievable and yet all too painfully true. In the interest of Woodism and Ed's followers, I just HAD to go see this!
Being an ordained Reverend as well as an ex-Catholic and a legal saint, I knew a thing or two about holy apparitions, especially ones dealing with Mary, the mother of Christ. I knew of a great many "Marian" societies that worshipped Jesus and feel that shaped resembling Mary and their appearances on things ranging from legs to doors to the shells of tacos is representative of society's fall. This is even more hightened with millenial fears and the hype over the supposed "Y2K" problem. Within the last twenty years, the virgin Mary has allegedly been seen in Florida, Texas, Amsterdam, Ireland, Queens, and, as far as I can tell, three times a day in Mexico including a diner show and a matinee on Saturdays.
I don't mean to take this subject in a lighthearted manner. Well, actually, yeah, I do! I've had experience with Mary signs before.
When I was ten, my mother and father took me to the worst, seediest, most dangerous side of Phoenix, Arizona, a place where hookers are known worldwide to walk the streets of Van Buren Avenue. There, a branch of a tree had grown to vaguely resemble the outline of Mary. I remember squinting, turning my head, changing the angle that I was looking at it, because for the life of me I didn't see any resemblance. Nevertheless, hundreds of women with veils over their heads cried and prayed to the tree branch, thanking Mary for appearing to them.
We walked into the white picket fence, around the house to the back where literally thousands of candles and flowers and prayers were lined up all around the water heater. In the middle of it, a two foot tall black stain that resembled many things ... dirt, rust, mud, spray paint, and food coloring. The woman who owned the house, a lonely widow with no relatives or children, seemed all too excited to have people to talk to, even strangers, since she talked to us for twenty minutes or more. Knowing very little spanish, I could make out only a few words in her long, bubbly rant, words like saint, miracle, Mary, Jesus, lonely, husband, and friends. She seemed to use the word friends a lot, a lonely woman with no friends finally getting to talk to people on account of a supposed miracle on a water heater.
Right at the end of her long, lonely monologue, she began pointing at me, shaking her finger in my face and speaking loud spanish. Knowing very little spanish, I could only pick out her frequent use of the word "evil."
Later, my mother told me that she was saying that I was destined to go to Hell for not believing in the water heater.
I don't believe in the water heater, but I do believe in this web page and this church.
Over the past few years, ever since 1996, I have been receiving a countless amout of letters and e-mail from all over the world, letters of encouragement and letters of thanks. People in Italy, Mexico, England, New Zeland, Canada, and here in the United States have been telling me how they stumbled upon my web page, how it cheered them up, made them laugh, and made them think. People from all over the world have been baptized into Woodism, telling me how much it has changed them. One particular Woodite in new York told me how, before Woodism, he was homeless and addicted to heroin but, with the help of Ed Wood's spirit and this web page, he has been able to give up drugs and break free from whatever chains binded him. Believe it or not, this web page and the beliefs herein have changed the lives on thousands.
Ed Wood might not be appearing on garage doors in Guatamala, but he has been changing the lives of thousands, and that is probably the greatest sign of all!
Written by Reverend Steve November 3rd, 1999 (in the normal calendar).
It's a living.
Actually, no, it's not.
But it's a fun job when you're a working class hero like me. I have no problems or qualms about being a saint, a reverend, a holy man, a pope, and a minimum wage video store whore. Hell, Jesus was a damm carpenter and I bet he made a whole lot less than I'm making. I'd like to see Pope John Paul the II work at a Blockbuster for a week, see how long HE lasts at a REAL job, the jackass! Hell, I'd like to see Jesus work at a McDonalds. But then again, he could walk on water and I can't even afford to get a car.
But I digress.
Depending on if you're an optomist or a pessemist, it may or may not be a good thing that I remain myself when I'm at work. I seem to have a sharp sort of edge that scares the "straights" in my life. I guess that when you're a twentysomething Latino male with painted fingernails, a serious under-eating problem, and the secret to inner spiritual peace, it goes without saying that there are no "norms." I guess that's why the customers like me ... or at least
The other day, I got my first ever complaint from a customer, one that I believe to be completely unfounded with no basis in the truth.
A customer complained because he was offended that I was discussing the theological aspects hidden within the subtext of the cartoon "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown."
HOW CAN ANY RIGHT-MINDED INDIVIDUAL NOT SEE THAT THE CARTOON IS A RELIGIOUS PARABLE OF ONE MAN'S STRUGGLE WITH HIS OWN BLIND FAITH TOWARDS GOD?!?
So I offer this, the seventeenth lesson, as my answer to the "offended man" so that he may realize what I have for years now, that the cartoon "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" is actually a deep religious parable of one man struggling with his own blind faith for a religion he does not believe in.
How could anybody not see the deep theological aspects of this animated cartoon? You just have to peel away the surface in order to dig into the spirituality that lies within. This might seem a bit bizarre, but its all true, so follow me if you will into the religion of the pumpkin.
What is the Great Pumpkin? Exactly what does the invisible Great Pumpkin deity-type figure represent in this story? Well, Linus says "The Great Pumpkin knows which kids have been good and which kids have been bad ... you'll be sorry!" There's a duality in this statement. First, it shows us that the Great Pumpkin has powers that could be attributed to omnipotence or omnipresence. He knows who is good and bad and therefore it can be concluded that he knows ALL in order to know who is good and bad. The second message this quote tells us is that the Pumkin is vengefull like God. Linus preaching "You'll be sorry" suggests that the Pumpkin should be feared. Also, does the pumpkin exist? No one knows, but those who believe he exists display blind faith, just like God and his followers.
Whis is the meaning of Linus and what values does he represent? Well, Linus is the sole believer of the Great Pumpkin and he believes in the Pumpkin with religious ferver and dogma. This is evident when Charlie Brown first attacks Linus about his belief. After their argument, a dumbfounded Charlie says "We are obviously seperated by denominational differences," a sly hint at the cartoon's religious meaning. Much like the saints in the early days of Christianity, Linus is constantly persecuted for his blind faith in the being known as the Great Pumpkin. But unlike the other kids, he doesn't mock, scorn, or judge. Much like the pumpkin patch he tends to, Linus is filled with "Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see."
What is Charlie Brown's role in the story? Well, Charlie Brown and Linus have a long history of deep, close friendship before the story takes place. However, the opening of this cartoon shows the two at odds with Charlie attacking Linus' belief in the Great Pumpkin. He even has the audacity to say to Linus "When are you going to stop believing in something that isn't true?" Imagine telling that to a Christian priest! Charlie Brown has attacked and destoryed the one thing other than his blanket that Linus holds dear. He has betrayed his best friend. And THIS IS WHY Charlie Brown receives a Halloween bag full of rocks. This is The Great Pumpkin's punishment for his betrayal.
What is the nature of Snoopy and what is he doing throughout the cartoon? Well, Snoopy is dressed as "a World War I flying ace" whose mission is "to find the Red Baron and shoot him down." This is a passion play, a parable representing the eternal struggle between good and evil. The red Baron represents Satan, everything that is evil with the world, and Snoopy is the fighter for good. The two fight and Snoopy is shot down. It is not coincidence that he ends up at the Halloween party, the decadent party that is set on attacking Linus for his piety. Here, Schroder plays the piano and deeply affects the mental stability of Snooy, causing him to cry one second and laugh the next.
What is the meaning of Lucy and her mood swings from anger to protector? In the study of religions and, more specifically, the Bible, there is a theory known as the "Madonna/Whore" theory. In short, male characters within the Bible and the lore of religions are rich and flavorfull. They are meaningfull and evil and lovable and run the gammut of emotions and characteristics. Unfortunately, this is not the case with the women of the Bible. Women are either portrayed as perfect virgins (Madonna) or evil, loose, decadents (whores). There is no middle ground for women in religion as there is for men. In this context, Lucy is wrestling with this theory within herself. Before the credits, she is seen choosing a pumpkin with her brother, bonding in a holliday tradition and playing the typical role of sister and protector. When next we see her, she is verbally and physyically accosting her own brother for his pumpkin/religious beliefs. Then, she resorts back to her protector role by throwing Snoopy out of the house. Then, she remains harsh and uncaring to him until the finale, when she sacrifices her own comfort to bring him in from the cold. She is representative of women trying to find their religious "middle ground."
What role does Sally play in the story? Well, Sally represents the average American follower of organized religion. She is hesitant about the Great Pumpkin and has serious doubts as to his existance and yet she goes to the pumpkin patch for reasons other than her own faith. She goes to the pumpkin patch out of sympathy for Linus and his plight. Could this be representative of man's continuing faith in religion simply on account of routine? Perhaps. But the future of religion, as Sally shows us, lies within the interpretation of the person. God lies within. You see, when Snoopy appears in the pumpkin patch, Linus sees him as the elisive Great Pumpkin and has a divine experience. Sally seens nothing but a beagle. It is the interpretation that counts, not the religion or the organization or the body of followers. It is what you see. Do you see a dog or do you see the pumpkin?
For me, that is Ed Wood.
This, I believe, is the true meaning of this cartoon. God, or whatever you want to call the force out there that has something to do with all this crap, has a bit of contempt for those who do not believe in something. We ALL have to believe in something. It doesn't have to be a mainstream belief and it doesn't have to be a belief system run by an accepted religious organization. Hell, it doesn't even have to be a religion so long as you have your whole being inside something that you love, care for, respect, believe in wholly, and would die for. The happiness of playing in a park, if it is pure and strong, can be as righteous as any prayer said in a church and, as hard as this might be to believe for some, watching an Ed Wood film, if it's watched with happiness and grace, can be as moving as meeting the Pope. Linus believes in something but not with all his heart. After all, he is the one that writes to the Great Pumpkin "P.S.: if you really are a fake, don't tell me. I don't want to know." Later on, near the end of the cartoon, he doubts the validity of the Pumpkin by using the word "if" instead of "when" (a memorable scene). this is why he does not see the Great Pumpkin. As much as he tried to make his exterior pumpkin patch beautiful and sincere, he could not do the same for his interior. Perhaps if he believed more in the existance of the Pumpkin, who is to say he would not have appeared? God, or whatever it is, wants us to have a belief. Times can be difficult for everyone and a belief is what can save us from our darkest times. God, or the Great Pumpkin, punished Charlie Brown for having no belief and he punished Linus for doubting his existance. All God wants is for us to believe in something with all our hearts.
For me, that is Ed Wood.