When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.” And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.”
She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.”
Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” (Mark 6:21-25)
It’s got to be the worst family story ever. Herodias marries one uncle (still legal at that time), divorces him and marries his brother, yet another uncle, then uses her daughter as the distracting ploy to arrange the execution of the prophet who speaks out about her immoral life.
That daughter, who we know from Josephus’ history as Salome, doesn’t even get her own name in the gospels. In art and in literature she becomes a seductress, even a necrophiliac.
I’ll tell you the truth, I didn’t even know there was a Dirty Dancing 2 until I heard a hilarious segment on “This American Life” about career breaks that aren’t what they seem to be in which “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” host Peter Sagal confessed that a screenplay of his became Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.
I watched a clip on YouTube last night, the pretty daughter standing up to her father and mother, the latter an ice queen played by the positively gorgeous Sela Ward. “Just because you gave up your passion doesn’t mean I have to give up mine!!” The daughter gets a sharp slap in the face from her mother.
This is not what I want from a mother-daughter relationship, though it has some relationship to what I experienced on the daughter end. Be what I want you to be, says the mother, in an effort to control the daughter. In Salome’s case that meant making a spectacle of herself. In my case it meant the opposite.
I don’t have to preach this text, and I’m glad not to in some ways, but I do wonder for those who are, where is the Good News? And yet if we skip over these stories, do we lose the truth that human beings have been just as inclined to live out soap opera plots for all of time? I sometimes hear Christians of a certain ilk blame the times in which we live for the troubles of the world, but we’ve always been this way, some of us at least and all of us to some extent.
I’m not sure that’s cheering. I’d like to see more progress. I’d like to see young women less likely to be objectified, but instead our freedom allows more ways for it to happen.
Mostly I can’t imagine the kind of young woman who would follow her mother’s order so blindly, except to think that she had no construct for justice in her life, that she simply saw life as a game of winners and losers and had figured out how to be on the winning side.