Now Playing: Contraception! [Hyperbolic Tendencies] Feb21

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Now Playing: Contraception! [Hyperbolic Tendencies]

From fifty-foot posters of dead fetuses to buckets of real, human blood dumped on patrons of health clinics, the anti-abortion movement lustily embraced the fantastical and spectacular elements of Grand Guignol storytelling. And while the Great Anti-Abortion Movement sadly devolved into Splatter Cinema (killing innocent doctors and patients), its generally agreed that it provided some of the most compelling theatre in our country’s history.

Indeed, it set a high bar that’s tough to follow.

But in today’s brave new world, things are more complex. More nuanced. This is a world in which a cluster of four cells and corporations are people with rights. In which the majority is now being oppressed and Marriage is on the brink of extinction! We need a new way to tell these more sophisticated stories.

Enter, Stage Right: New Theatre of the Grotesque (NTG)

NTG is storytelling in which assumedly rational adults are seemingly in charge of their own decisions in a society where purportedly everyone is equal. Except… NOTHING IS AS IT SEEMS! <cue creepy organ music> Bwah-ha-ha!

Grotesque’s latest release is Contraception! Based on an innocuous, unmemorable line items from the critically-acclaimed source material Obamacare: Because if You Haven’t Got Your Health, What the Fuck Else Matters?, it was infused with “found footage” and then – stealing a page right out of movie studio marketing campaigns – re-released as the sweeping historical epic, Freedom of Religion: The Last Gasp!

The new supercharged version of Contraception!, financed by overbearing executive producers like Sheldon Adelson, Foster Friess, and the Koch brothers (all of whom make Michael Eisner look positively hands off) and spectacularly marketed by current presidential hopefuls (talk about free advertising!) has taken the nation by storm.

Everyone’s tuning in to watch to America’s Downton Abbey!

But let us be clear here: There’s a better chance of convincing people that the church sex abuse scandals were just the clergy’s “experimental phase” than there is in persuading most that the contraception kerfuffle is an attack on freedom of religion.

I recall the comment my mother – a devout, lifelong Catholic with 12 years of parochial school – had for my  shock and disbelief upon learning she had not only used contraception but had planned, quite skillfully, the arrival of me and my siblings. She took a long drag on her Kool Ultralight and said, “I’m not a farm animal.  I wasn’t put on this earth simply to breed. If the Pope doesn’t like it, he can kiss my ass.”

I think that pretty much sums up America’s stance on birth control.

What’s perilously missing from the endless coverage of Freedom of Religion: The Last Gasp is that which is behind the trumped up, overblown outrage is the same scurrilous engine driving all social injustice and inequality. No not money, though that helps. When all of the rhetoric is stripped away, when the lemmings have marched off the cliff and the mindless parroters silenced, what’s left? 


Pick your issue – abortion, racism, marriage equality, immigration, genital mutilation (and yes, that includes circumcision!), income inequality, bullying, contraception – it’s an endless list with the single common denominator of fear. Those who had absolute control of ___________ no longer do.

That’s scary stuff.

While everyone loves blaming Hollywood for having worn thin our country’s social fabric, I offer that the real and lasting damage is being done by slap-dash Theatre of the Grotesque productions that exist simply to obfuscate progress of the status quo and simultaneously fan the flames of fear.

The true insidiousness is that these big splashy, and grossly oversimplified events prevent progress towards a realized version of equality for all by stifling national discourse about the tough and meaningful stuff. Eventually, when someone’s heard hate! hate! hate! long enough, they have no other frame of reference. But that’s a whole other discussion.

There does seem to be a bit of hope on the horizon. The bumper sticker politics shat out by Mr. Gingrich back in the mid-90s and then perfected by the Rove Hate Machine in the aughts feels like it’s reaching a tipping point. More and more people are watching this presidential primary campaign slack-jawed and disgusted with the cycle of lies and utter lack of verisimilitude.

Or maybe that’s just me being naïve.

If so, there’s always the next offering from Theatre of the Grotesque to look forward to. I hear its about that invasive ultrasound for women the commonwealth of Virginia just made famous, and that soon women will have to be filmed in case they need to be offered as evidence in court.

Won’t that be awesome?

R.B. Ripley is playwright and screenwriter whose projects have been seen across the U.S. And Europe. His development and production company Liminal Entertainment ( is dedicated to the art of independent storytelling.

To get more of his Hyperbolic Tendencies follow him on Twitter at

featured image credit: SarahSphar