The New Pornographers vs. Calvin College
In retrospect, this story seems a bit inevitable and yet, at the same time, almost impossible to believe. For those who don’t know (and shame on you!), the New Pornographers are a beloved indie rock band who have taken on the admirable task of filling the needs of a nation that has burned holes in their Replacements and Cheap Trick records.
They also have a great name, the origins of which are disputed (naturally) on Wikipedia. I’ve always appreciate their name, insofar as wearing the T-shirt when I’m flying tends to reduce the number of people who strike up pointless conversations with me despite my obvious investment in the book I’m reading. What I really like about their name is that they skip right over the cutesy nickname “porn” and go straight for the dirtier-sounding “pornography”. Plus, there’s a pleasant fissure derived from the dramatic difference between their sunny, cheerful power pop and the name, which seems dark and mysterious in all the ways their music really isn’t. I love incongruous band names, like The Smiths.
Alas, their name has caused them to be canceled from a performance at Calvin College. All we know from this press release is that the university determined that many of its students and staff were simply incapable of understanding irony. No, I’m not really paraphrasing to make fun of them. This was their exact conclusion:
However, after weeks of discussion and consideration, the irony of the band’s name was impossible to explain to many. The band’s name, to some, is mistakenly associated with pornography. Consequently, Calvin, to some, was mistakenly associated with pornography. Neither the college nor the band endorses pornography.
The ongoing battle between rock music and Christianity—at least conservative Christianity—continues to amuse and fascinate me. Rock musicians belligerently continue to do their thing with little regard for how many sad little wannabe rockers want to join the party, but are bound by their faith to avoid most forms of fun that are too, you know, fun. Calvin College seems to have a long history of bringing bands on campus to entertain the kids, including many that I’d probably think have content more troubling to conservative Christians than the lyrics of the New Pornographers.
But what do I know? I’m the kind of asshole who thinks that the real problem that should worry conservatives is that the family values teabagger crowd turned out in large numbers to nominate a man for New York governor who thinks it’s fucking awesome to send a bunch of people pictures of a woman being fucked by a horse, a situation that I highly doubt was fully consensual. But what do I know about morality? My brain’s been fried by overindulgence in power chords and peppy harmonies.