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The Secular Beatification of Stephen Fry

I have just read the following email from the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard, and I thought they wouldn’t mind me sharing it with you…

I think Stephen Fry is great, and why not give him an award, eh? I wonder what the motivations are though? Is it a sort of ‘middle-finger to religion’ publicity stunt? Is it some form of secular beatification? Or is it just about giving a nice guy an award?

I LOVE that previous winners have been Greg Graffin, Salman Rushdie and Joss Whedon, though… I’d consider myself a fan of all of them, though I had never thought about their ‘humanistic’ credentials really.

Greetings!

The Annual Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism is presented at Harvard University each year by the Harvard Secular Society on behalf of the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard and the American Humanist Association. Selected by a committee of 20-30 Harvard students each year, this award is given to a figure greatly admired by our students and community for both artistic and humanitarian reasons.

Now in its fifth year, we’re excited to announce that the HSS Cultural Humanism committee has chosen Stephen Fry based on what they feel is an outstanding contribution to Humanism in popular culture. (Buy your tickets now!)

Actor, author, comedian, Fry has worked for three decades in film and theater. Well known for his exploration of the US in “Fry in America,” Fry has also starred alongside Hugh Laurie (“A Bit of Fry and Laurie” and “Jeeves and Wooster”) and in a variety of award-winning films including V for Vendetta, Wilde, Alice in Wonderland, and his own documentary The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive. Fry has more than two million followers on Twitter. He’s known to European audiences as not only a cultural icon, but a passionate and compassionate voice for Humanism. Now we’re honored to bring his unique Humanist message to an American audience.

The award ceremony will take place Tuesday, February 22 at 8 pm and will feature a performance by Fry.

Previous winners of the Cultural Humanism Award are, in 2007, novelist Sir Salman Rushdie, in 2008, punk rock star Greg Graffin (of the band Bad Religion and the UCLA Faculty of Biology), in 2009, writer/ director/producer Joss Whedon (“Buffy,” “Angel,” Firefly,” “Dollhouse”) and in 2010 Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, the hosts of The MythBusters.

The Lifetime Achievement Award sells out every year, so get your tickets at the Harvard Box Office now! And to see the Facebook event, click here.

 

Religion on Screen: Red Dwarf 1 (and the Dalai Lama)

This morning I was watching Red Dwarf, Series 1, Episode 4 – “Waiting for God” (thanks Lindsey!) and there were some epic references to ‘religion’, and I suddenly thought that so many of my favourite TV shows/films etc. do have an awful lot to say about religion – maybe that’s why I like them so much, eh?

So, from now on I am going to attempt to share those moments with you as and when I discover them. I don’t intend to provide a compilation of pro- or anti-religious television moments (although, I guess that most of them might end being anti-religious, given that most of them will be comedy references), but just a compilation of some of the more ‘deep’ thought present in some of my favourite programmes.

Thanks to http://www.ladyofthecake.com/rdscripts/ for providing the scripts for this one. Please feel free to share your own favourite moments… I’m always looking for new material!

Firstly, Lister’s critique of the ‘point’ behind asking “The Big Questions”:

“RIMMER: Lister, don’t you ever stop and wonder: why are we here? What’s the grand purpose?

LISTER: Why does it have to be such a big deal? Why can’t it be like, like, human beings are a planetary disease? Like the Earth’s got German measles or facial herpes, right? And that’s why all of the other planets give us such a wide berth. It’s like, “Oh, don’t go near Earth! It’s got human beings on it, they’re contagious!”

RIMMER: So you’re saying, Lister, you’re an intergalactic, pus-filled cold sore! At last, Lister, we agree on something.

LISTER: What do you believe in, then? Do you believe in God?

RIMMER: God? Certainly not! What a preposterous thought! I believe in aliens, Lister.

LISTER: Oh, right, fine.  Something sensible at last.”

The following section comes from the part of the episode where Holly is revealing to Lister the extent to which the Cats (evolved from his own pet cat, and now personified by the Red Dwarf character “Cat”) revere Lister as “God” and have taken on his own life-ambitions as their vision of paradise:

HOLLY: “`Yea, even individual sachets of mustard.  And those who serve shall have hats of great majesty, yea, though they be made of coloured cardboard and have humorous arrows through the top.'”

LISTER: Does it say what happened to the rest of the Cats?

HOLLY: Holy wars.  There were thousands of years of fighting, Dave, between the two factions.

LISTER: What two factions?

HOLLY: Well, the ones who believed the hats should be red, and the ones who believed the hats should be blue.

LISTER: Do you mean they had a war over whether the doughnut diner hats were red or blue?

HOLLY: Yeah.  Most of them were killed fighting about that.  It’s daft really, innit?

LISTER: You’re not kidding.  They were supposed to be green.

And later on, when Lister his bemoaning his position as the God of the Cats:

RIMMER: You’ve just come here to rub my nose in it.  I could have been God, you know, given a different start in life, given the lucky showbiz break you had.

LISTER: I don’t want to be a god.  That’s the point.

RIMMER: Oh, vomitisation!  I don’t believe it!  “I’m God, but it’s a bit of a drag, actually?” Come on!

LISTER: I’m not a god!  I’ve just been … misquoted.

[…] RIMMER: Well, that would look spectacular, wouldn’t it, Lister?  God returns in all his splendour, and says, “Sorry, it’s all been a total cock-up!”

Excellent stuff!

To close, just in case I don’t get a chance to write another post before Christmas, I just wanted to finish with the following quotation from the Dalai Lama’s twitter feed this morning:

“It is clear that feelings of love, affection, closeness and compassion bring happiness.”

Talk about stating the obvious?

Merry Christmas everyone!