By Silas Polkinghorne
Arlene Stevens is a grad student in Religious Studies and Anthropology.
Photo by Silas Polkinghorne
There’s more to Trailer Park Boys than debauchery, crime and cursing, says a U of S graduate student in Religious Studies and Anthropology.
Look a little deeper at the Canadian-made mockumentary television series and you’ll find more positive themes. According to Arlene Stevens, you’ll also find representations of the holy trinity in the three Boys – Julian, Ricky, and Bubbles.
“You can see God the father, the son, and the holy spirit, and this idea of the suffering servant,” Stevens explained in a recent interview. “When you first look at it, you’re kind of taken back with the way everything is portrayed. There’s always strippers and drug use and alcoholism. The idea is you have to look past that, and there is really something wholesome underneath all of that.”
Stevens, who is writing her thesis on apparitions of the Virgin Mary in aboriginal culture, spent several years living in trailer parks herself, in Lloydminster and various other locations in Alberta and B.C. as her father worked in construction and on the rigs. “It really makes me mad when somebody says, ‘You’re so lucky to get out of that lifestyle.’ Well, some of the smartest people I know were from that lifestyle.”
She admits she was offended when she first watched a few minutes of Trailer Park Boys, but her opinion changed after receiving the first couple of seasons on DVD as a joke gift from her brother.
“I had to watch it twice, and then it just kind of clued in, after the second or third episode, that they weren’t making fun of it.” Stevens thought the show was funny, but she also felt it had accurately captured the importance of family and community in trailer park life.
Stevens wrote her ideas in a paper entitled The Gospel According to Ricky: Biblical Values in The Trailer Park Boys and submitted it to the Journal of Religion and Pop Culture. Although she was unable to attend, she was invited to present her findings at a meeting of the Canadian Society for the Study of Religion, and she discussed her research as a guest lecturer at the U of S last fall.
As Stevens sees them, the marijuana-smoking and troublemaking Ricky is Jesus in the holy trinity, the suffering servant as described in the book of Isaiah who is marginalized by society but refuses to lose faith.
“His community keeps him on the outskirts even though he tries really, really hard to help those in the community who are less fortunate … even though he is less fortunate.”
Julian, left, Bubbles, centre, and Ricky are the Trailer Park Boys.
Julian, the trio’s leader who is always seen with a glass of rum and coke, represents God the father, she says. Julian is removed from all situations, and like God in the Old Testament, he is self-centred and cares mainly for his immediate family.
And Bubbles, the character with the hoarse voice and coke-bottle glasses, represents the holy spirit.
“The holy spirit is a redeemer. He redeems everybody. People go to him for advice. Bubbles is non-corruptible, endlessly devoted to the other Boys, and a happy-shiny cloud of love,” Stevens adds.
The holy trinity connections are likely accidental, but Stevens notes that Robb Wells, who plays Ricky, comes from a Lutheran upbringing, and Jean-Paul Tremblay (Julian) is reported to be a devout Catholic. The actors are also the show’s writers.
“There are no original ideas,” said Stevens. “We pick up things that we learn in our childhood, or stories that we were told, and revamp them, and re-imagine them, and add a little bit more fun to them. That’s what I think has happened here.”