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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Can you really sell your soul?

It's been a plot device in film and television for decades - and in literature for a lot longer than that - but I would hazard a guess that not many people believe you can actually sell your soul to the devil. However, based on the fallout from the 2013 MTV VMA, Miley Cyrus has succeeded.

I'm fairly certain that Goethe was not the first to fictionalize a mortal's pact with Satan, but his Faust is the archetype from whence we derive the term Faustian bargain. The literary Faust was a scholar, successful yet still dissatisfied. His deal with the Devil exchanged his mortal soul for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures. Goethe's character has been the basis for many of the literary, artistic, cinematic, and musical works that have ridden his creative coattails over the years. A Faustian bargain implies a situation wherein the person making the eternally damning covenant surrenders their moral integrity in return for some worldly gain - fame, fortune, power, or all of the above - albeit limited by their human lifespan.

Fortune and glory...until it's time to pay up...

So what did Ms. Cyrus hope to gain from her escapade? A BBC article today highlighted complaints by the Parent's Television Council, brought against MTV for several areas of the broadcast. Ironically, the article also revealed that Ms. Cyrus' father, Billy Ray, is on the PTC advisory board. Now before everyone starts dog-piling me for censorship, I'm just saying that if I had a 14-year-old daughter, these are not the role models I would want her emulating. MTV is free to raunch out as much as they like - just make sure the program's rating reflects the content you plan on broadcasting, please.

But back to the gain...the Beeb highlighted that, in addition to Ms. Cyrus herself boasting that her Tweet-per-minute count was greater than the Super Bowl, she would be reaping an expected 10-20% boost in record sales as a result of her performance. In fact, they noted, Ms. Cyrus' new album (do they still call them albums?) was already climbing the charts...and it hasn't even been released yet!

And lest we heap all the Faustian rubble on Ms. Cyrus alone, she had a partner in crime: Robin Thicke. And I really can't say anything else about that; I have no idea who Robin Thicke is other than, apparently, he is a singer and fancies himself a modern day Betelgeuse...perhaps Mr. Thicke's wardrobe was an unwitting Faustian reference in itself?

The most recent real-life reference I can find regarding someone making a deal with the devil is a legend that comes out of Haiti. The truth of the matter is, we don't really know what happened in Bois Caïman during a reputed vodou ceremony presided over by Boukman Dutty and Cecile Fatiman on August 14, 1791. Did the Haitians make a deal with the devil to get the French out of Haiti or were they just really motivated with effective leadership? Either way, the Haitian rebels were able to defeat tens of thousands of troops sent to quell the rebellion.

The best example - and advice - I would propose for Ms. Cyrus is to take notes in Matthew chapter four. The ego-driven fallen angel himself can be found attempting to entice Jesus with some pretty righteous pre-Faustian deals. In verses 4, 7, and 10 Jesus puts the Scriptural smack-down on the enemy, who promptly leaves to cancel the after-party.

My overwhelming feeling here is one of sadness. Yes we live in a free country and, as so many are prone to trumpet, "We can do whatever we want!"

But at what cost?

I'm thinking Billy Ray is keeping a light on and waiting for his daughter to come home. Hopefully the devil will let her out of the deal before it's too late.

What do you think?




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