We are all familiar with the saying, though we may not know that its author was Mark Twain, and are ignorant of the rest of the quotation : ” . . . but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”
Most of us, in the year 2 A.D. (2 Anno Donaldi) cannot read of hear the quotation without thinking of the presidential election of the most preposterous candidate in American if not planetary political history. Every day we are glued to CNN to keep up with the most recent tweets, quirks, antics and gaffes of President Donald Trump.
In France, a recent movie centers on the election of President Jeff Tuche, a Redneck, ignorant Frenchman from the sticks (“Deep France”), who won millions of euros in the National Lottery and went on to become the greatest, and funniest, misfit President ever to mow the grass at the Elysée palace.
In the U.S. twenty-seven years ago, a star-studded film, an outrageous, brilliant parody, had a grossly overweight, vulgar, unknown rock singer in a Las Vegas strip-joint discover that he was the heir to the throne of “Great Britain and Northern Ireland and all her other lands and territories, Head of the Commonwealth and Defender of the Faith”; in short, he became the King of England, Ralph 1. John Goodman is perfect in the rôle, as are Peter O’Toole, John Hurt and Richard Griffiths. Like President Tuche, “King Ralph” (the name of the movie) is a fictional Head of State (check out the earlier post, “Fit for Purpose”, March 17, 2017). In a similar vein, Mr Chance, an uneducated gardener played by Peter Sellers in the movie “Being There”, becomes an improbable public figure, famous for his supposedly profound insights into matters political and philosophical, when in fact he is an illiterate speaking of the only domain he knows – gardening – to people like the President of the United States who mistakes his horticultural banalities for wisdom.
All three characters are the stuff of fiction, comicial parodies of the prestige attached to being a president, a monarch or a pundit. The closest religions have come to such send-ups is Jude Law’s portrayal of “The Young Pope”, the subject of an earlier post (December 12, 2016). Contrasted however with the other three movies, this parody of the Papacy is not only not a comedy but is more troubling because more credible. The Church, conservative to the core, has always preferred “the way we were” rather than “aggiornamento”. A Pope could, in reality, be elected and could really be driven, like the one in the movie, by a similar project for the reestablishment of a papacy that would renounce the “progress” made over the last century.
The word “progress” in the previous sentence is in quotation marks for an obvious reason. We are so accustomed to the way the Roman Catholic Church functions that we tend to forget how far removed from reality the institution is, and how much its silly beliefs, rules and rituals, its supposed possession of the truth, are stranger than fiction.