Life Imitating Satire in West Texas

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The Associated Press filed a dispatch yesterday from the West Texas town of Big Spring, where a man named Barry McBee has stoked the ire of his neighbors and the community by erecting a statue of Michelangelo’s “David” in his front yard.

That was apparently bad enough. But then he adorned the statue with a Santa hat and all hell broke loose.

The AP reports:

Barry McBee says he was aiming to make people chuckle by adding a Santa hat and white beard to the 5-foot-tall replica of the Renaissance statue with six-pack abs — an image at odds with usual depictions of a fat, jolly St. Nick.Then, parents started calling Big Spring city officials saying their children were asking why Santa was naked.”I just like to shock people to make them laugh, kind of break the monotony around here,” said McBee, who has all kinds of animal yard ornaments in his garage. “I just bring them out occasionally.”Last week, code enforcement officials received an informal complaint and an officer went to photograph where McBee had placed the statue, which is normally in the back yard.The sculpture on the corner lot along a main road into McBee’s subdivision did not violate any town ordinances, and the copy of one of the world’s most well-known statues did not involve any obscenity issues, said Linda Sjogren, city attorney in Big Spring, about 290 miles west of Dallas.But Sjogren, concerned that complaints would continue, decided to consult with others on a possible remedy. She posted a query on the Texas Municipal League’s secure Web site, which someone with access to then reposted on Facebook.Sjogren left McBee a voice mail last week, requesting that he put more clothes on David.McBee relented after his friends teased him as well, putting a pair of black and white faux-velvet shorts, with a Christmas bow, on the statue.

I love this story. For one, it carries the wonderfully haiku-like headline, “Naked ‘David’ statue in Texas depicted as Santa.”

Two, it contains a reference to “faux-velvet shorts.”

But, most of all, this story caught my eye because it’s nearly identical to the plot of a Simpsons episode.

Back in 1990, during the Simpsons second season, a David statue shows up at the Springfield art museum, where it’s soon denounced as obscenity by the town’s Morality Squad.

Marge Simpson

In the episode, Marge Simpson organizes a protest of the Itchy & Scratchy cartoon after Baby Maggie — mimicking what she saw on the cartoon — wallops Homer with a mallet.

But Marge’s stunt backfires — in a nice bit of satire — when the protesters also picket the David statue, which Marge considers high art.

(Here’s a full summary of the episode from the Simpsons Wiki site.)

In the end, the David statue remained on display — in both Springfield and Big Spring.

Except in West Texas, the statue is now partly draped in faux velvet.

Dave Mann is a former editor of the Observer.

Published at 12:00 am CST
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