"Baywatch" babe Pamela Anderson's turn as the Virgin Mary, which was expected to shock an audience of Canadian viewers during a recent Christmas special, ended up being fairly mundane, even according to the Canadian Catholics who were concerned about sacrilege.
"While the juvenile publicity surrounding the castings was a problem, the show at the end of the day was not particularly funny and not particularly offensive," Joanne McGarry, executive director of the Catholic Civil Rights League in Canada, told The Huffington Post. "There was one tired skit about the virgin birth, and the rest of it was nothing."
Anderson was cast last month in "A Russell Peters Christmas" for CTV and The Comedy Network in Canada. Before the broadcast, she joked to Fox News that she had been typecast -- likely a play on her notorious sex tape with her ex-husband, rocker Tommy Lee. On Dec. 1, more than 2 million people tuned in to see her portray the Virgin Mary.
But the choice of Anderson proved to be mostly a publicity stunt. As the Virgin Mary, she was perfectly buttoned up, shocking viewers more with her mere presence than any busty antics they were perhaps expecting.
Leading up to the televised event, many American Catholics reached out to the U.S.-based Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights to express their concern over Anderson's casting. Jeff Field, director of communications for the Catholic League, said that because it was a Canadian show, he directed the concerned to McGarry.
"If it were to be shown in the U.S., that would have been a different story," Field added.
McGarry noted that the community of Catholics she represents had braced themselves for the worst, and many were surprised that the show wasn't as raunchy as it could have been.
"Typically, Catholics expect this sort of thing. We know there is a double standard in the media. Regulatory bodies never uphold complaints about anti-Catholic content, and that is the lay of the land," McGarry said. "If they tried this kind of lampooning of Muslims, there would be an outcry. The publicity surrounding Pamela Anderson's depiction was a deliberate effort to provoke publicity, but the skit itself had very little to it."
Field said that the outcry likely stemmed from the fact that the Virgin Mary, who Catholics believe is the mother of Jesus Christ, is not lampooned in pop culture as often as Christ himself.
"All Christians believe in Jesus, and the Virgin Mother is more of a Catholic belief. That may be why Jesus is far more referenced in pop culture than the blessed mother," Field said.
Lilit Marcus, who blogs about the intersection of religion and pop culture at Faith Goes Pop, also conceded that Anderson's depiction of the Virgin Mary really wasn't as exciting or scandalous as expected.
"All I can think is that those pictures of her in the video show her wearing more clothes than I have ever seen her wear. Ever," Marcus said.
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