On a FB post today, I argued that one can only make sense of the “marriage” of 33 couples and the celebration of “love” by Queen Latifah and Macklemore at the Grammy’s by placing it within the entire 3 ½ hour liturgy that was the Grammys 2014 TV production. It’s from within this whole liturgy that we find what “love” and “marriage” might mean for the Grammys.
Love was celebrated loudly at the Grammys through music, numerous speeches and then 33 marriages. It was all performed before a celebratory audience and millions of viewers. And yet the Grammys didn’t reflect much on the question “what is love?” The songs, the art, the speeches all offered love as a given fact assuming everyone already knows what it means (isn’t that what artists do?). The entire Grammys production however reveals ideologies of love at work like a finely woven liturgy, does it not? It is a liturgy shaping our understandings and feelings of what love is all capped off with a wedding ceremony. How more liturgical can this be?
So I’m viewing this show Sunday night trying to dialogue with it as if a psychotherapist is sitting in the room with the Grammys and me. Beyonce/Jay Z lead off with the “Drunk in Love” performance. Love and marriage equals sultry, erotic and extremely sexual (and they’re actually married which makes it all very sentimental). Somewhere later steps in Robin Thicke, who after messing with some of the best songs of the classic rock band Chicago, sings “Blurred Lines,” a song criticized for its explicit predatory sex themes. Later comes of course Macklemore and Ryan Lewis with “Same Love” which again, though I appreciate the sentiment, I am not sure anyone knows which “love” is the one that is same for everybody. So I ask (anyone reading this post) “what does love mean for Grammys?”
From the FB post today there was a good conversation going on with this question. I took away three things.
1. Love for the Grammys is an ecstatic self expression. One of the FB commentators said that the “weddings” were not about “love” but were ecstatic expressions of “love,” much like “sex” is an ecstatic expression of “love.” This commentator is not a conservative fundamentalist. Far from it. But is this what love is for the Grammys? If so, this just proves the mess Christians find themselves in. As a simple test case, the Grammys show what the average person probably understands in affirming love and/or marriage. Yet is this what Christians mean? Is this what we affirm as love and marriage? Not judging just asking. Augustine, at the very least, is turning over in his grave.
2. Love for the Grammys may be unclear and confused but another of the FB commentators pointed out that the church’s example of love is also unclear and confused. It is so unclear, this commentator asserted, that the casual observer could not make a distinction between love in the church and love at the Grammys. Do you agree? If so, is not then the first task of the church to clarify and discern what love is, what marriage is out of who we are in Christ and how we are shaped into it for the world?
3. Love for the Grammys is a master signifier used by the industry to make money. In reality it really doesn’t mean anything. “Love” sells, it makes us feel good. And as a symbol on the Grammys, it hides the many abusive duplicities within the commercial music industry (sexualizing of love and women) all by making us feel better about ourselves. And so another FB commentator took note that there has been some backlash from the LGBTQ community against the way same sex/cross sex marriages were conducted and put on display to make the music industry feel good about itself while making a huge profit in the mean time. To me this is the classic way capitalism works and plays on social causes. Do you buy this take on the ideology of love, sex and marriage at work in the Grammys Sunday night?
To me then the Grammys illustrate par excellence why the church has to do a better job of listening and discerning as it lives amidst the world’s various culture industries. It is not enough to affirm “love.” Please can we agree that “affirming love” in our society means little to nothing? And it not enough to NOT affirm certain “marriages.” The current state of our culture as witnessed to by the Grammy’s reveals to us that no one knows what we mean by doing either?