On Glocalisation: feat. the Lolcat Bible and Indonesian Playboy
In previous installments of ‘Leopard Print in the Ivory Tower,’ Annika Blau introduced us to the seminal French academics Pierre Bordieu and Jean Baudrillard. This week we’re going to meet Roland Robertson, because this column is basically “an Undergraduate Arts Degree on steroids” (her words). Robertson coined the term “glocalisation”, a theory Annika uses to unpack one of the craziest things to come out of the internet: the LOLCat Bible Project.
The LOLCat Bible Project is a collaborative online effort to translate the Bible into the language and imagery of the LOLCat memes. (If you’ve somehow failed to come across LOLCats in the last ten years of the internet, they’re images of cute cats with funny text denoting what said cat is supposedly thinking. Because they’re cats, this mental narrative is written with poor spelling and grammar. No, I don’t know why. Yes, it is a double-standard that those who think a cat with perfect grammar is improbable don’t think it’s weird to have a talking cat in the first place.)
Anyway, the LOLCat Bible Project is hilarious, and its users have now translated almost all of the Bible. If you want to help, the remaining sections can be found here. God is Ceiling Cat, Satan is Basement Cat and Jesus is, appropriately, Happy Cat.
So what does the LOLCat Bible have to do with academia? Well. In the late 1997, Roland Robertson coined the term “glocalisation” for a theory that was first discussed in the late 80s by Japanese businessmen in the Harvard Business Review. Glocalisation refers to how transnational businesses and services must adapt their product to local cultures to be successful. For instance, McDonalds tailors its menu to fit different countries, with its Korean stores offering Korean-style burgers like the “Kimchi” and “Bulgogi” burgers. One of my favourite examples of glocalisation is the short-lived Playboy Indonesia, where the magazine had to feature this cover to appease angry Muslim groups:
Pretty much all economists and globalization theorists agree that global businesses will only succeed if they take local cultural traditions into account. There’s no one-size-fits-all.
The LOLCat Bible is a perfect example of altering a global product (The Bible) to suit a niche audience (the digital native generation). I know the Church didn’t start it, but if they had, that would’ve been a smart business move. As a crowd sourcing project it would have cost Pope Francis exactly zero dollars, unlike the millions he’s about to spend on World Youth Day 2013, which sets out to achieve the same end of appealing to young people. It’d be the smartest move since the Pope got Twitter. It’s times like these I really wish the Vatican would just take me on as their branding consultant.
The Lolcat Bible isn’t the only brilliant example of religious glocalisation through bible translation. Here’s the low-down on my other favourites.
The Cotton-Patch Bible: The Cotton-Patch Bible follows in the rich tradition of America’s inability to understand that the mid-west is not the centre of the universe. A farmer-cum-preacher named Clarence Jordan felt ripped off that all the action in the Bible took place way off in Palestine, when it coulda happened in Alabama. So, he rewrote the action into the cotton fields of the Southern United States. And before you tell me that not all Americans think America is the centre of the universe, please note that the FORMER U.S PRESIDENT Jimmy Carter (a Democrat, FYI) wrote the foreword. If that doesn’t lift it to the level of national narrative I don’t know what could. If you really want, you can buy it here.
The Ebonics Bible: Some genius translated Genesis 1 into Ebonics. (If you aint up on dem linguistics, Ebonics is the dialect of African-Americans). It starts with “In da beginnin’ Big Daddy created da heaven an’ da earth” and progresses in much the same fashion. An accompaniment to this can be found on the Landover Baptist Church site, which is a satire of radical, racist, American Christian Fundamentalism. Here, fictional pastors respond to a call by another fictional pastor to translate the Bible into Ebonics “so the coloureds can read their bible”. While the posts aim to satirise the white supremacist ethos of some Christian fundamentalists, they incidentally provide some pretty damn good ebonics translations. Take John 3:16:
Yo, so check it. Y’all heard about G-diddy? Yea, so, he be all “Son, I give you my only Boo. So you BEST buh-LEE e’rry mothagrabbin’ ward that he be spittin’, ya gnaw wha’ I’m saying’? Y’all do that solid fo’ me, and you ain’t gotsta worry ‘bout being’ capped nah mo. Y’alls eternal, dig?
Pidgin Bible: Much like the Ebonics bible, but Pidgin-language. There are several pidgin versions of the bible (such as the West African and Cameroon) but the Hawaii Pidgin is the most extensive. It begins with the book of Da Start, progresses to the story of “Moses in Outa Egypt,” before ending in the dramatic, climatic book of Jesus Show. The Apostles introduce themselves along these lines:
Dis letta from me, Paul. I one worka fo Jesus Christ, da Spesho Guy God Wen Send. God wen tell me fo come be his guy, cuz he like send me all ova da place fo talk fo him.
The Brick Testament: an illustrated version of the Bible using Lego dioramas.
The Stinque Zombie Bible: Pretty self-explanatory. Like “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” except the Bible. Golden Rule: squeeze zombies into each and every scene.
So there we have it folks: Glocalisation. Put that one in your arts undergrad vocabulary and hold tight ‘til next week.
While the Catholic Church has been slower to adapt to the times, Evangelical Anglican branches have kept up and seen enormous popularity among younger generations as a result. Pentecostal Churches like Hillsong are the most notable examples, with their incorporation of live music, comedy and more progressive principles. It would seem that the business practice of glocalisation is as visible in the Church as in McDonalds and Playboy.
Annika Blau is a freelance writer from Sydney with a lot of opinions. Her writing explores what pop culture tells us about ourselves, and pairs the teachings of academia with those of the supermarket aisle. She wants to know why we don’t examine Kanye West with the same academic rigour as The Cantebury Tales, and finds Lady Gaga as revealing as the census. More of her writing can be found at firstname.lastname@example.org.