Jesus Doesn't Wear Prada
By Mark Morford
These are the things to imperil young girls.
These are the things to corrupt young gullible minds and short-circuit self-_expression and demean the desperately needed impulse toward spontaneous self-awareness and individuality and happy guiltless vaginal investigations.
These are the things to make Mary-Kate and Ashley's alarming and utterly demonic stranglehold on the world of vacuous saccharine multimillion-dollar teendom seem like a boring day at the mall, with lots of makeup and tube tops and Hot Dog on a Stick.
Here's the gimmick: Take a weird, modern conservative revisionist New Testament and wrap it in faux-hip fashion-mag duds and hawk it to unsuspecting young maidens who otherwise wouldn't get within ten low-rise jean lengths of the gray-bearded dust-choked finger-wagging dogma of King James and all his hoary misogynistic machismo. Clever indeed.
It's called "Revolve: The Complete New Testament" and it's apparently racing up the Amazon.com sales charts -- whatever that means -- as it sucks up all the accoutrements of a teen fashion rag and rams them through the cute Christian grinder of humorlessness and sexual rigidity and homophobia, and regurgitates them as kicky dumbed-down slightly numb virginal tidbits of advice and admonition and, yes, Biblical storytelling.
Because apparently girls don't already have enough dogma out there telling them what to do, a large enough mountain of misinfo and scorn and sexual mixed messages to sift through, and not a single source is telling them how to really tune into themselves, listen to their own unique voices, find their own sex and their own power and their own divine potency.
Nope. Instead they get this, a sweetly uptight, revisionist Bible cross-bred with a bad fashion magazine, full of Top 10 lists and quizzes and Q&As, telling them to "pray for a person of influence" every day and check the "godly" quotient of the boys they date and that Jesus doesn't really like it when they wear skimpy clothes and goth eyeliner. Yep, that should clear things right up.
"A 'Revolve' girl makes a point of dressing modestly. She might wonder to herself, Would God find this too revealing or too suggestive?" That's a direct quote from the ultra-prim Laurie Whaley, one of "Revolve's" editors over at Thomas "Bibles 'R Us" Nelson publishing house, whose picture graces a recent interview in the Mew York Times.
Wonder not, my children, at the status of Laurie's chastity. Wonder not at what kind of pristine white underwear she might be wearing. Wonder not at her desperate need for a Hitachi Magic Wand and a bottle of Anejo Silver and a long, hot summer night alone in her room. Oh, Laurie. Come back to us.
What, not scary enough? Fine. How about this: "Revolve" takes a decidedly conservative view of the Bible, condemns homosexuality, encourages virginity until marriage, and informs girls that excessive makeup and jewelry and revealing clothes are to be avoided and chastity is to be rewarded because, well, Jesus really loves baggy sweaters and granny underwear.
More? You got it. It also tells them to quietly shut up and always listen to your parents and don't take the initiative by actually calling a boy on the phone, ever. Did Mary Magdalene ever call Jesus? Of course she didn't. And "Revolve" tells these befuddled girls, in all seriousness, that it's best to let the males lead the relationship.
There now. All better. Screw the female cause. Screw individuality and divine feminine power. Sure Jesus loves you, Jenny, but he loves you more if you wear long shapeless wool skirts and minimal mascara and don't think too darn much, K?
And yet, weird little makeup tips abound in the book, outright groaners for all but the most painfully gullible Bible-belted girls. "You need a good, balanced foundation for the rest of your makeup," says one "tip." "Kinda like how Jesus is the strong foundation in our lives."
Yes that's right. Jesus is the Chapstick for the dry lips of your sinning self. Jesus is the holy Clearasil for your Satanic shin zits. Jesus is that amazing clenched feeling you get when you lie back and aim the shower massager just right and ... oh, never mind.
"Make sure that Jesus would be pleased with what you wear. You don't have to look frumpy, just make sure you look like a child of God." This is the advice. This is what passes for serious religious assistance. Has it really come to this? Are girls supposed to believe God really cares what they wear, and is watching their every purchase at the Esprit outlet like some supreme pervert stalker? "Revolve" says, hell yes!
"The fire of God's love burns out the sin the same way the hot steam routs the dirt out of your pores. This kind of relationship with God will do more to improve your looks than any amount of facials," reads the part on "Spiritual Facials." Isn't that clever? Doesn't it just make your colon clench right up in divine bliss? Sure it does.
Maybe you'd be tempted to think this is progress. Maybe you'd like to think it's somehow a good thing that Christianity and certain publishers of mutant bibles are trying to reach new audiences, to break down barriers and make themselves "hip" while striving to hook a new generation into Christianity's lair or gentle oppressive patriarchal fun.
Or maybe you think "Revolve" is really chock full of nice, safe, wholesome messages teen girls can really use in a world of teeming, roiling sexual anxiety and confusion and way, way too much Britney and MTV and premarital sex and poor condom awareness.
You would be wrong. "Revolve" is actually very much like a mind-control experiment, very much like some sort of sinister trick wherein they, like Christian rock bands, surreptitiously infiltrate a world the girls actually care about and use the teen's own anxieties and angst against them to instill a certain, narrow Christian agenda, induce a fluffy sense of guilt and shame, all the while imparting a bleached, sanitized morality that includes not a whit of funk or style or messy icky sex or intuition or sly winking cosmic knowledge. Almost makes "Glamour" look like "The Celestine Prophecy," no?
"Revolve" is basically a sheep in wolf's clothing, a prim training manual for future well-Valiumed housewives who let their husbands rule the roost and don't strive too hard for anything and don't think overly much or who have long given up notions of exploring the diversity of the world, or divinity, or sexuality, or much of anything, really. And yes, it's a bestseller.
"Revolve" devolves the teen cause. Not a word about how individuality is cool and self-exploration is way bitchin' and that they themselves are divine, are all-powerful, and that sex is a gorgeous powerful wondrous sticky joy to be respected and enjoyed and explored and consented upon and well learned. Heaven forefend. That way debauchery and hellfire lies.
Are these really the only choices? Is it really either vapid anorexic fashion mags or an uptight prudish revisionist New Testament designed to reduce the female teen spirit to shrill hollow pious guilt-addled automaton Formica?
Where, pray where, can a young teen turn for true unadulterated perspective and inspiration? For insight and anxiety relief and a big heaping dose of the gloriously convoluted, slithery, well-accessoried mess that is modern life? Hmm. Maybe that's why God invented books.