Thursday, 8 May 2014

The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Rev

Graham at Diggingalot muses on why people call him "Rev". As a kind of parallel to the character on " Rev" that is. And I think it's something to do with how people think church ministers ought to be, and the fairly regular lack of correspondence with how ministers actually are.

Obviously, until Dibley, all telly clergy were men. They were always C of E or Catholic so they had to be, The telly has given us a long line of vicars who are posh, other-worldly, remarkably confident in their fluffy faith. To take Last of the Summer as an example - because it provides us with the longest televisual record in comedy vicars - the vicar in the first episode was very unusual for a telly vicar. He had a northern accent, nipped out of the church just before a funeral for a quick fag. He discussed doubt and faith - and the fact that in his job he wouldn't want people to think he was trying to live forever - with Clegg. Touchingly, like a real human. That was when Summer Wine was still in touch with reality - a kitchen-sink northern comedy-drama. The 35-year succession of vicars that followed - and there were a lot - lived in a kind of bumbling sanctity - posh, untroubled by the modern world or doubt. Just the kind of vicar people expect, in fact.

One would have to suppose it goes back to those dark days before the Goons - probably even before the First World War - when most people had contact with a vicar on a slightly more regular basis. In those days, your vicars were confident, upper-class, public-school-educated, well-connected - but obviously the dimmest son from the Big House, as the brighter ones would have been sent into the City or to run the Empire - that was what you got. There was an aura of bumbling sanctity - I like that phrase - about them.

Whereas now,  only about 50% of vicars are like that. Which means there's a roughly 50/50 chance you're going to get, at your wedding, funeral or (due to an unfortunate mix-up) goat-sacrifice or tree-hugging ceremony, a normal person who's a vicar. They may have a regional accent, or speak in normal English, not quoting the Bible like a vicar-bot. They may do disco dances at the end of weddings, or have a taste for beer not wine. They may be gay, or working-class. Or a woman. They may be prepared to accept some doctrines need investigation. They may - foolishly, normally - express doubts about whether the stoning of adulterers is still a valid part of the faith. Or even all of the above.

And when you do get that vicar, you'll say "you're not like a normal vicar". The bumbling sanctity isn't there. You've noticed it. And the correct answer would be, "at least 50% of us aren't" . But in fact, what your not-normal vicar will do is look confused, smile slightly, and turn the subject to something else. Because you may not think that s/he is a normal vicar. But in fact, to that particular vicar, they are what normal is. The thing you thought was a normal vicar, is a phantasm, an illusion - somebody they only bump into at the Cathedral for special occasions.

I don't watch Rev, so I don't know what a "Rev" is actually like. I bet he's still posh. But there's less of the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Rev out there than you imagine.

1 comment :

  1. I was sometimes told I was normal, in a rather surprised tone of voice. :-) "Rev" is definitely not not an example of bumbling sanctity and I love it.


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