Object Lessons: Rantings of a Lone Pamphleteer
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Hark! The SNL Freebie Song

I'm Catholic. I'm not much of one; I gave up even palms and poinsettias a while back. Somewhere deep down, though, I still harbor the respect drilled into me by nuns for Catholic dogma and Christian icons. For example, I cannot write "Xmas", but must write the whole, cumbersome, 9-letter word, because I still respond to the idea that "Xmas" is like "Crossing the Christ out of Christmas," as one nun told me.

After all, no matter what your upbringing, if you celebrate Christmas you must at a minimum acknowledge it's source in Christ's birthday, and the result: Christianity. Christmas is NOT a secular holiday, though it seems used by secularists as often as it's forbidden; for every atheist that puts up a tree, somewhere a government employee is forced to disassemble their tabletop display. For every secular song played on the radio, somewhere a church is overflowing with snowy-weather faithful singing traditional hymns.

I know I should be more jaded, more able to acknowledge the increasing secularization of Christmas. But I was shocked this morning when I rewatched the opening for last week's SNL. Now, I love SNL, and have watched it since I was an under-supervised nine-year-old. And I really liked the opening with Blake Lively (SPOILERS AHEAD) and an assortment of Muppet characters from Animal (Bill Hader) to Beaker (Kristen Wiig, I think); Gonzo, Fozzie, and others were well-represented by the cast. The Swedish chef (Andy Sandberg) started off by "smorgy-ing" with the hostess, and soon the ensemble of man-muppets began clamoring for a song

Gonzo: (Bobby Moinihan): Why don't we kick off the holiday season with a holiday song?
Blake: I don't know if we have time guys.
Chef: Smorg, smorgy, smorgy smorg, smorgy (to the tune of "White Christmas")
Blake: No, stop please.
Fozzy (Jason Sudeikis): Yea, she's right. We can't get the rights to that.
Beaker: Meme mi mi mimimi mimi
Blake: Maybe we should just skip the song and get on with the show

A few jokes later...

Gonzo: C'mon guys, she doesn't like us...
Blake: No guys, wait. I'm sorry. In fact, I know one we can sing
snow falls....
and the group sings the first verse of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing."

Now, HtHAS is a very religious song, probably most popular for ending the movie It's a Wonderful Life. Here are the original lyrics from the first verse:

Hark the herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled"
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With angelic host proclaim:
"Christ is born in Bethlehem"
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

But when SNL's motley group of man-muppets sang it with Blake, they used Animal, Chef, and Beaker (who normally don't speak) to voice some of the lines. What I noticed this morning on my second viewing was that the wordless muppets sang the lines of religious fervor which make the song a very, very Christian hymn.

Hark the herald angels sing
(Animal) Da ya ya da ya ya ya ya
Peace on earth and mercy mild
(Chef) Smorgy borgy, di borgy smorg
(Beaker, surprisingly coherent)Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
"Mi mi mimi, mi mi mi mi"
(Chef) Smorgy, borg.....
(All) Smorg smorgy.... smorg.

Why sing a Christian song, then take all Christian references out? Why choose a religious song and butcher it to secularize it?

Why not get the rights to a secular song, or invent a new one (as Adam Sandler famously did)? Or use a secular song in the public domain such as "Jingle Bells"?

The little Catholic girl in me was offended by this misappropriation of a beautiful religious hymn.



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