'The Life of Brian', Monty Python's classic cinematic mocking of Christianity, was so scandalous for its blasphemy when it was released back in 1979 that it was actually banned by some British movie theaters, while others gave it the scarlet letter of an X rating.
An X certificate in those days was the movie rating equivalent of being stoned to death for saying, "Jehovah!"
As a sign of how dramatically the culture has shifted in the past 40 years, the British Board of Film Classification now rates 'The Life of Brian' a very warm and fuzzy 12A - suitable for viewers 12 and up.
The film isn't considered dangerous for its blasphemy anymore, because Christianity doesn't much matter anymore... and I say that as a practising Catholic.
Christianity, with its endemic corruption, devout fanatics, and exuberant magical thinking has been usurped in our culture by a newly ascendant religious force even more severe in nature. That force is wokeness, which is accompanied by its own inquisition and enforcement wing - cancel culture.
If you doubt that wokeness is the new dominant cultural religion, consider this: in most places in the US, you aren't allowed to go to church because of coronavirus, but are wholly encouraged to attend Black Lives Matter protests, which apparently confer some mystical power of immunity upon attendees.
Meet the new religion... same as the old religion.
Monty Python were such a brilliant comedic force, they not only obliterated the old religion in 'The Life of Brian', but ridiculed the new one too, 40 years before it rose to power.
There's a scene in the film - which would never get made in today's stultifying politically correct environment - that deals with transgenderism.
Set in the Colosseum of Jerusalem, the scene shows the People's Front of Judea (not to be confused with the Judean People's Front) - comprising Stan (Eric Idle), Reg (John Cleese), Francis (Michael Palin) and Judith (Sue Jones-Davies) - meeting to discuss their goals.
When Stan keeps interjecting feminine pronouns into the discussion about the movement's proposed aims, he's asked by Francis why he's "always on about women."
Stan: "I want to be one ... I want to be a woman. From now on, I want you all to call me Loretta ... It's my right as a man."
Judith: "Why would you want to be Loretta, Stan?
Stan: "I want to have babies ... It's every man's right to have babies if he wants them."
Reg: "But you can't have babies!"
Stan: "Don't you oppress me!"
Reg: "I'm not oppressing you, Stan - you haven't got a womb! Where's the fetus gonna gestate? You gonna keep it in a box?"
After some hemming and hawing, Francis chimes in with a solution.
Francis (to Stan): "We shall fight our oppressors for your right to have babies, brother - sister, sorry."
Reg: "What's the point of fighting for his right to have babies when he can't have babies?"
Francis: "It's symbolic of our struggle against oppression!"
Reg: "It's symbolic of his struggle against reality."
It is impossible to imagine any comedy of today having the testicular fortitude to do a scene as brutally honest and savagely insightful as that.
"Symbolic struggle against reality" is the perfect definition of wokeness, and this is why we need a new Monty Python-esque group to make a film eviscerating wokeness as exquisitely and relentlessly as the 'The Life of Brian' did Christianity... maybe calling it 'The Life of Karen'.
Wokeness, with its incessant self-righteousness, aggressive illogic, absurd preferred pronouns and ridiculously insufferable PC jargon, is a gloriously target-rich comedy environment.
Sadly, there's no Monty Python equivalent in our times comically capable of dismantling the new Church of Wokeness. The most prominent sketch comedy show today is 'Saturday Night Live', and it's shamelessly politically correct.
In stark contrast to the ballsy comedy bravado displayed by Monty Python four decades ago, watching its woke-approved humor is like getting a scolding from a Methodist temperance movement 100 years ago.
'Saturday Night Live' is so blunted by wokeness that, in 2019, it actually fired comedian Shane Gillis before he ever appeared on the show because he offended the Cancel Culture Centurions and Tiny Torquemadas of Twitter... the horror!
Besides suffocating the comedy of today, the woke are actively scouring TV and film history searching for retroactive blasphemers to silence.
'The Office', 'Community', '30 Rock', 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia', 'Scrubs', and 'Fawlty Towers', among others, have all had episodes scrubbed from streaming services for their past politically incorrect sins.
Let us pray to our Lord and Savior Brian and his Sacred Shoe and Holy Gourd that Monty Python's glorious canon is not next on the cancel culture crucifixion list.
By today's woke standards, they'd certainly deserve it for their insightful dismantling of transgenderism, their mockery of speech impediments in the form of 'pwonouncements' by Pilate and his 'fwiend' Biggus Dickus, and for the crime of having men play female roles!
"On the bright side"...if Monty Python do get crucified, at least they'll go out singing!
The bottom line is this: wokeness must be stopped, and I believe the best way to stop it is to mock it. Sadly, though, the Church of Wokeness is winning the culture war because, unlike Monty Python 40 years ago, today's comedy hasn't found the courage to tell the unvarnished, hysterical truth. And we are all worse off because of it.
Michael McCaffrey is a writer and cultural critic who lives in Los Angeles. His work can be read at RT, Counterpunch and at his website mpmacting.com/blog. He is also the host of the popular cinema podcast Looking California and Feeling Minnesota. Follow him on Twitter @MPMActingCo