In what is now a classic text in American religious history, Selling God: American Religion in the Marketplace of Culture, R. Laurence Moore documents the gradual entanglement of American religion “in the marketplace of culture” during the 19th and 20th centuries. Whereas 17th and 18th century Protestants “had special problems with markets that existed to make various forms of leisure and entertainment attractive,” with the gradual emergence of consumer culture, “religion itself took on the shape of a commodity… [and] looked for ways to appeal to all consumers, using techniques of advertising and publicity employed by other merchants.” By the latter 20th century, Moore snarkily reminds us, if you don’t commodify your own religion, don’t worry, “someone will do it for you.” (5-11)
Moore’s Law, if you will, would seem to apply to far more than merely religious products. Take, for instance, the wealth of You-Tube parodies of Rick Perry’s political ad “Strong,” and the cultural heavy-weights that have shown up therein. While some conservatives may continue to support the political philosophy Perry articulates in “Strong,” in these You-Tube spoofs Perry’s discourse is subject to all manner of satire, translated, for instance, into utter gibberish “so that it makes sense,” and read as crypto-homoerotic symbolism (e.g., the coat Perry wears in “Strong” closely resembles that worn by main characters in the popular film, Broke Back Mountain). More, “Strong” parodies feature a remarkable range of cultural icons, including: an animated Perry, zombie George Washington, a crash-test dummy, numerous pseudo-Perries, other Christians, Atheists and self-identified “godless heathens,” Rabbis both modern and ancient, that is, Jesus himself, and not once but twice, and even Darth Vader, typically sympathetic to draconian social agendas. Lastly, Perry satire is itself in the process of being rather extensively commodified, for instance, as Rick Perry toilet paper, which allows for the pleasure of “wiping one a-hole with another.” The lesson? If you don’t commodify your own Perry-ody, or any other popular cultural product, don’t worry, someone will do it for you.