115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Signifying the Childish Adult of Horus Gilgamesh’s Awkward Moments of the Children’s Bible

Jon Omuro, University of Oregon

This presentation is fixated on Horus Gilgamesh’s Awkward Moments of the Children’s Bible, Vol. 1 (2013), an adult picture book that parodies the Bible by illustrating biblical scriptures with child unfriendly images of gore, sex, and God’s sexy ass. Using semiotic, religious, and queer theory, I read this text as not only a satirical one, but one that is life affirming to “childish adults”—those individuals who don’t quite fit into the heteropatriachichal standards normalized by religious right ideologies.

Proposal: 

            Horus Gilgamesh’s Awkward Moments of the Children’s Bible, vol. 1 (2013) is an adult picture book—a parodic text that borrows structural conventions from traditional children’s picture books but also contains very “child unfriendly” content. This particular text parodies children’s bibles by illustrating various bible verses with said “child unfriendly” images, including those of wanton gore, brutal misogyny, and God’s sexy ass. Awkward Moments is thus clearly a subversive text: it perverts conventional notions of appropriate children’s literature and bibles to create an uproarious, chaotic text that is—well, just plain fun to read. But it is also, as I argue, a satirical text. By illustrating long-revered biblical scriptures with alternative interpretations, the text directly corrupts the moral tenets of the U.S. Christian religious right, such as straightness, the unquestionability of scripture, and the love of life. Consequently, Awkward Moments acknowledges and subverts normative expectations of Christian children’s bibles, which are to educate and guide children towards the moral righteousness of religious right ideologies. The book thus affirms the pleasure, laughter, and very being of “childish adults”—those matured individuals who don’t quite fit into the adult world and laugh unflinchingly when the standards of adulthood, especially those grounded in heteropatriarchy, are mocked in “childish” ways.

            In this paper, the childish adult becomes the central figure around which I theorize Awkward Moments as a queer text that is life-affirming to individuals who lie outside the heteropatriarchical standards of normative religious right ideologies. By considering the works of structural linguists and religion scholars such as Ferdinand de Saussure and Jacques Berlinerblau, I propose that the text uses combined signs composed of scriptural text and sacrilegious image to offer alternative interpretations away from traditional readings of the Bible. These alternative readings, which evoke hilarious, pleasurable, and awkward affects, are not produced by reading text nor image alone but their combinations. I turn then to queer theory, namely the works of Lee Edelman and Jack Halberstam, to close read these combined signs alongside queer notions of the child. By queerly disrupting traditional readings of the Bible and audaciously imitating a children’s bible, Awkward Moments undermines the image of the heteronormative U.S. Child that is revered by the religious right. In doing so, the text offers the childish adult—and perhaps other minority individuals, such as the adultish child—new ways of being beyond the heteropatriachical expectations of oppressive ideologies. Instead of viewing Moses only as the faithful savior of the Jews, can we not also giggle at the thought of him voyeuristically gazing at God’s sexy ass? Instead of resignedly accepting that the story of Lot in Sodom implicates all homosexuality as immoral, can we not also gape awkwardly at the idea that he frivolously offered his denim-skirted dancing daughters, along with a flashing pinball machine, to the would-be rapists? These imaginative questions evidence the intervention that Awkward Moments makes: it questions those religious tenets, interpretations, and morals that have—for many of us childish adults—seemed for so long unshakable, and lets us stand unashamedly and in giggling fits, confident that our immaturity, our pleasure in the parodic, and our temptations to fuck shit up are at the core of our beings as fantastically queer individuals.