Do we really know what killed Taboo?

Photo Credit Iwona Erskine-Kellie

By Paul Esau (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: February 22, 2012

Every Monday morning when a reporter is assigned a topic at The Cascade’s weekly writers’ meeting (8:30 in C1429), he or she becomes responsible to produce an intelligent, accurate story by the following Saturday. The distinction here between “topic” and “story” is more than the accumulation of five hundred words on one subject. It implies the creation of an underlying narrative or theme to bind those hundreds of words into a coherent “story.”

Writers are not the only people who are asked to accomplish this transformation on a regular basis. Frankly, anybody who holds an opinion on anything, from walnuts to lingerie football, has taken a topic, analyzed it, and created a narrative to justify that opinion. Generally these narratives are more biased than The Cascade editorial team would accept from its writers, but the underlying action–the creation of “story”– is universal.

Last week, Abbotsford was confronted with the surprise cancellation of the Taboo Naughty But Nice Show, a surprise which demanded an explanation. Some reacted with justifiable frustration (see Joel Smart’s article on pg. 6), while others, such as the outspoken Gerda Peachey, experienced a unforeseen victory. The facts were out, the decision had been made, but most observers weren’t satisfied. They wanted narrative, they wanted story, they wanted to know why the Taboo sex show had spent four years visiting the Abbotsford Tradex only to be cancelled a month before its fifth appearance.

The official stance from Canwest Productions, the company that organizes Taboo, is that the cancellation is the result of the lack of a roaming liquor license, combined with community push-back from ‘fundamentalist’ Christians led by the aforementioned Gerda Peachey. Canwest has not stated which factor was the primary influence in their decision-making, but the narrative which has been created within the larger community is almost unanimous in its blame of Peachey and religious conservatives in general. This “story”, encouraged by actions as simple as the ordering of nouns in The Vancouver Sun headline (“Abbotsford sex show cancelled because of Christian opposition, liquor rules”), is inspiring a general backlash against Peachey, the “Bible Belt,” and conservatives in general.

Yet is the narrative that is being constructed the only interpretation of the facts? Or is it only the most compelling? Obviously it’s more satisfying to choose a scapegoat (in this case Peachey) than blame Canwest itself for demanding a less-restrictive liquor license. By extension it is also more fulfilling to point to a fear-filled, puritanical minority (‘This is Abbotsford’ the phrase goes), and blame the cancellation upon clashing ideological perspectives rather than simple financial motivations. Yet once again, is this the only interpretation of the facts?

The Abbotsford News quotes Peachey’s reaction to the cancellation as follows:

“I got off the phone and I bawled, because it was so unexpected. I expected this to be a long, dreary and really, quite frankly, lonely road because I didn’t see any support coming from the Christians at all.”

The Abbotsford Times, when Peachey was asked about her conservative “following,” quoted her as saying “The only one following me is my cat Jennifer.”

Both Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman and fellow 2011 mayoral candidate Meghann Coughlan have also expressed some reservations about championing Peachey the “victor” in the sex show cancellation, hinting that Canwest’s recognition of “Christian outrage” may have been simply politically expedient. Coughlan asserts in an article that the petition circulating in protest of the show was, first of all, not initiated by Peachey, and, secondly, asking for a measly 200 signatures. While Peachey herself has been extremely vocal in her criticism of the Taboo sex show, she simply lacks the community support and/or political influence Canwest is attributing to her.

It is easy to create heroes and villains out of these situations, especially when the potential conflict fits so well with our prior grievances. It is harder to recognize the “story” being presented, and harder still to admit that maybe the conclusion we would love to reach is not the one which is ultimately accurate.

Gerda Peachey and her ring of “fundamentalists” did not get Taboo cancelled. Perhaps she was a minor consideration, perhaps she was simply a way to “spin” responsibility for cancellation away from Canwest itself, but I deeply doubt she had any real influence over the decision. Thus the question of next year’s show rests not on open battle between ideological camps, but instead in the question of how profitable Canwest will consider the event to be. Money, generally, is a more potent consideration than fringe religious groups, no matter how much we love to disdain them.

  • James Inglis

    Paul, I think your “hero” and “villain” statement is so true. Blame is so often the focus of the news. I agree the issue here is simply about profit. As you point out the Taboo show had been held in Abbotsford for four years. The “fundamentalist” opposition to the show mentioned by Canwest wasn’t greater this year than in the previous four. I wonder if this wasn’t more of a shot across the bow to the Abbotsford City council to show what can happen if they choose not to relax their position on liquor licenses as it is the council that ultimately had the ability to permit the walk around license Canwest wants. Kudos to you for your well reasoned opinion.

  • Lane Anderson

    I have my doubts that Peachey had any influence on this decision, as you mentioned. But the issue, combined with the Lingerie Football League, has brought forward a heated debate amongst Abbotsfordians in the local news.

    Both sides have been given a voice: those that think these are obscene events that are bad for the “character” of Abbotsford, and those that are opposed to one group’s values being imposed on the whole population. What I want to add to this debate is my dismay for this division being represented as one of religious folks vs non-religious folks. I don’t believe this is true. This is a division of traditional and conservative folks vs contemporary and progressive folks. While there is likely some correlation between the religious and the conservative, I think it’s a stretch to call them synonymous.

    Regardless of where the values are rooted (in tradition or religion) I can’t believe there are still people who think their values need to be everyone’s values. I am not defending the cultural contribution of the Lingerie Football League; I think it is trash and I will exercise my right not to attend. But I can respect that there are some (men and women) who find entertainment value in it, and I’m not going to tell them they’re wrong.

  • MoZambeek

    The whole premise that an event can be cancelled due to a vocal minority is a complete travesty. Gerda Peachey and her ilk are about a century or so too late in their attempt to stem the tide against sexuality being a normal, healthy part of life. I mean seriously…if Gerda doesn’t like it then she has the choice not to participate.
    For the rest of modern civilization, we have choices.
    We choose the types of products we purchase, the services we use and which providers of those products and services we want. Should we not like that store or provider, we choose another. The mechanic who services and repairs my car may not be the one Gerda chooses, however…you won’t find me imposing my choice on her or her Bible thumping compatriots.
    By the same line of thinking, Gerda and her friends have to shake their heads if they believe the Taboo show is going to degenerate the population of Abbotsford.
    I haven’t been to the show but I imagine there are plenty of people who want to pay to see it. I’ve never been to an Abbotsford Heat game but I’m not going to try to shut their games down.
    If the issue was about the Taboo sex show happening where it was available to minors, most people would have an issue with that. It’s not. As adults we have the freedom of choice to make many of our own decisions.
    Gerda makes the choice not to go to the Taboo sex show and that’s fine. The Taboo show is a legal business venture and Gerda Peachey and her 18th century mindset need to back off.

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