As was widely heralded at the time, singer Carrie Underwood starred in a live production of The Sound of Music
broadcast in early December 2013. This production, as it happens, was widely panned by critics, mostly for what was described as flat and wooden acting on Underwood's part. Her sum-and-substance response to this criticism?
Plain and simple: Mean people need Jesus. They will be in my prayers tonight... 1 Peter 2:1-25
This is disturbing on several levels. Firstly, it unfortunately seems that Underwood can't take criticism as criticism, but must chalk it up to a character flaw, that of the critics being 'mean people.' Now I grant, there were undoubtedly some unduly sharp comments mixed in amongst the more dispassionate ones, but Underwood made no acknowledgment of any such distinction. She has not qualified that she simply disagrees with those critics who opined without rancor that the performance was uninspired, stilted, mechanical, or otherwise subpar (even if not "mean" about it). Instead, the presumption on her part (and on the part of some of her fans) is that her performance achieved some mythic level of sacred and absolute perfection
, from which all criticism must be illegitimate, and can not be accounted for by anything other than malice
on the part of those who would deign to level it.
And it takes us to a dangerous precipice in our society if people are permitted to shrug off all criticism as 'meanness.' It makes one worry that, when a person finds himself needing emergency brain surgery, he will be told on the operating table that "Jojo the retarded boy will be performing the procedure," and that any objections to an untrained, uncoordinated, mentally challenged person probing their brain with sharp instruments
will be met with hostile, self-righteous whispers of "hush!! Don't be such a bully!! Don't be so mean
Not that I'm comparing Carrie Underwood's performance to a retarded child performing brain surgery. That would be mean -- meaner, even, than Underwood is being in categorically decrying critics of her performance as "mean people" who "need Jesus." But the conclusion of that sentence by itself is a second level of discomfort raised by Underwood's comment. Some of her critics were Jewish
(as it is a longstanding fact that Jews do make up a population-disproportionate percentage of professional media critics); perhaps she didn't consider the antisemitic undertone of the proposition that her critics were simply, to some degree, mean Jews who need Jesus. And doubtless some of her critics were atheists
, and perhaps there were even some Hindus
(and at least one Pandeist
). So it would be at least disrespectful to people of these persuasions to suggest that their inability to praise the unquestionable flawlessness of this performance was a character defect attributable to not sharing the performer's "correct" religion. And frankly, at the same time, many of Underwood's critics were her fellow Christians -- so if her retaliation was directed at them, it presumes that any nominally Christian critics are false
Christians, those who don't really
have "Jesus" in the way that she
And lastly, there is the subtly dismissive contention that those critics will be in Underwood's prayers -- as if finding her performance underwhelming is not simply a character flaw
on the part of the critic, but a sign of sin
, a self-condemnation to a judgment of unworthiness by Underwood's God
. So at base, Underwood's own comment reduces her to an even pettier critic of her critics, and one who descends to an even deeper level of meanness than any of them by wrapping herself in a selfish invocation of superior holiness. The act of criticism, it seems, would cast the critics to the eternal fires of Hell
, from which they can only be saved by the grace of Underwood's employment of her saintly perfection, by her so generously using her direct line to God to spare even those who have so grievously wronged her by failing to offer praise.