I remember Joni. Do you remember her?
When I was a kid, she was a subject of much praise in Evangelical Christian circles because, after diving into shallow water in 1967, Joni Eareckson she was left paralyzed from the shoulders down. She learned to paint and write by holding a brush/pen in her teeth. She recorded several albums of her music, and Billy Graham (1979) even made a film of her life.
In 1982, Joni married a guy whose last name was Tada. I’ve always been compelled to pronounce her last name like a trumpet fanfare, even in the 1980s, when I was younger and less cynical than I am now. Ta-Dahhhhh! Get it? Never mind. I might be the only one in the universe who gets my jokes.
I tell you all this because on the 15th of January, Joni was nominated for Best Original Song by the 84th Academy Awards. Then, less than two weeks later, her song was rescinded due to shifty promotional shenanigans by Bruce Broughton, one of the song’s writers.
You see, Broughton was one of the Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) for several years. Ampas is the governing board of the folks who release the Oscars every year, Anyhow, Broughton’s tenure ended in 2012 due to term limits. He emailed his Academy friends, asking them not to forget his song.
The song, like the film it was made for, is called “Alone Yet Not Alone.” It’s a nice song. Nothing amazing. Joni’s range isn’t very demanding, and most of the pieces notes fall within a sixth–so, not even an octave. It is a slow piece, almost too slow, really. The piece begins with a basso drone while she sings. Then piano chords take up the accompaniment. Then a there’s a key change, followed by a return to the original key with a full orchestra accompanying. She ends the piece on a high-floating tonic (not the booze, but the musical note C’, if you care).
Almost all Joni’s breathing sounds was removed during post production, which makes the piece come off slightly artificial. They also rely on heavy vocal echo to evoke a mood of, I dunno, echoey-ness?
Anyway, I have posted it below if you want to give it a listen.
What bothers me is not the song, nor Joni, nor even the shifty business that caused the Academy to yank Broughton’s very obscure song.
What bothers me this: why are Christians taking the rescindment as an attack against their faith? I’ve seen dozens of comments on Facebook and in blogs at Patheos.com, in support of Broughton and Joni. Many comments have the fanatical “The Liberal Media Is Out To Get Us” tone in them. One commenter said “In the end days, we Christians will be prosecuted for not worshipping Satin.” I wouldn’t know. I’m a cotton fiber guy myself, and I’ve yet to see the Devil’s fabric police.
My question is why? Why, in a majority-Christian nation, must we act as the martyrs we clearly aren’t? Is there really a war on Christmas over the holidays? Does that crèche no longer on the City Hall lawn really reflect the state of the evils of our nation? or do we need to be reminded to include others in our party?
Anyhow, back to “Alone Yet Not Alone.” Do Christians truly want an award nomination that was given under shady circumstances, or would you rather there be no taint on the nomination? To use more religious terms, which do you think God would prefer as a signboard pointing to the Kingdom of Heaven?
I also heard the accusation that The Liberal Media has come out against the film (which nobody has seen—it showed in 11 theaters, in limited release October, to get it primed for Oscar Time). It made $125,000 in the entirety of its release. Not that either of these numbers mean anything except this: nobody is equipped to judge this film if they haven’t seen it. It does seem slightly racist and xenophobic; and the acting is clearly not very good, judging from the trailer. Look for it online if you care. But 3 minutes is not much work to judge a film by.
The song is mediocre. The message is no more (or less) worthy than most hymns. The musicality is unchallenging and heartfelt only due to production glitz. Broughton stepped in his own crap, trying to publicize the thing, and now is using evasionary tactics to wipe off his shoe.
The first 45 seconds are a clip of Joni, praying.
I remember Joni. She’s not a bad sort. A little too happy, and those kinds of people make me a bit nervous, like a light tap against their glassy faith may make them shatter, but she’s okay. I’m not a huge fan of Christians who believe their house is collapsing when it’s not. Their mansion should have been made for them in Heaven, if I remember correctly. Take care upon whom you build your house. Again, if I remember correctly, it is supposed to be Christ, and not Bruce Broughton, nor Joni Eareckson Tada, nor even Billy Graham. Although, now that I think about it, Broughton did write the theme song for JAG. That’s gotta count for something, right?