Via Huffington Post I discover that Playboy‘s Mexican edition has committed the predictable folly of placing on its cover a strategically partially dressed young woman to whom has been attached the caption “Te Adoramus Marìa.”
To no sentient being’s surprise this has aroused ire amongst the faithful, the more so because the edition came out the day before the celebration of the Day of the Virgin of Guadeloupe. The predictable round of apology and disclaimers has begun and this will pass as another minor skirmish in the eternal war between desire and faith…or whatever pompousity commentators will come up with to mark the occasion.
But what got me was not the cover, nor the very nice young lady depicted, nor her garment, meant, I think to evoke a kind of demure prayer shawl but looking like nothing so much as the tablecloth you pull out when the children are going to be sitting elsewhere. No, it was this line:
Playboy magazine apologized for a controversial cover featuring a scantily-clad woman resembling the Virgin Mary, Reuters reported. (Italics added)
I could go all serious here, and storm at the feckless fact-averse who cannot seem to face the notion that we don’t know who Mary was (not to mention the uncheckable sourcing backing up the claim of a particular sexual status), and hence have no clue about the appearance of one amongst all the young mothers – to -be in the Roman province of Galilee about two thousand years ago.
It may be conventional to depict Mary as a young, often dark-haired beauty, and the woman on the Playboy cover matches that broad description — but then so do lots of people who do not greatly resemble each other. (Think, e.g. of Halle Berry and Sarah Silverman, just to take two folks off the top of my head. And thanks for The Great Schlepp, Sarah, as long as we’re here.)
But rather than go into some long discourse on this as an illustration one of the ways in which claims of established fact by the faithful take forms unintelligible to scientific rationalists–and vice versa, I figured out how I could boil the whole argument down to the old Catskills punch line. Looking at the Playboy cover, all I could think was,
“Funny. She doesn’t look Jewish.”
Image: El Greco, “The Assumption of the Virgin,” 1577