A reader asks that I comment on a recent episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm during which one of the characters urinates on a painting of Christ. . .
I worked in an adolescent psychiatric hospital for about four years. As the unit team leader, I dealt with emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually abused teens who acted out in violent ways to get adult attention. The unit staff always responded to these outbursts by pointing out the difference between positive and negative attention. Seeking after positive attention was praised as progress in treatment. Seeking after negative attention was treated with clinical coolness and swift negative consequences.
Peeing on a painting of Christ on TV is a cry for attention. "Look at me! Look at how avante garde I am!"
When I read about this urination incident, my first thought was: "Someone needs a time out." Now, I think this incident doesn't deserve any sort of attention at all. Why? First, it was designed to provoke exactly the kind of response it's getting--outrage and calls for condemnation. Lots of attention that does nothing but boost the show's media profile. Second, it's a cowardly act. The show's writers would never have a character urinate on a copy of the Koran. Since Christians don't declare fatwas, we're a safe and easy target. Third, what harm was done? Jesus suffered much worse in real life. As Christians, we are certainly offended, but Christ promised us a tough road if we chose to follow him. Fourth, within a few days the show's producers will apologize and come out looking like heroes who have decided to 'fess up and acknowledge the sputtering indignation of thin-skinned Christians.
They win on every front. Points to them from their equally adolescent fans for bravery in taking on a controversial issue. Points to them for being mature enough to admit a mistake and apologize.
The best response to adolescent attention-seeking behavior like this is to glance at it, sigh a little, shake your head, and keep on doing what you're doing. Anything more than that reinforces the behavior as an effective means of tweaking the safely tweaked.