Baker Academic

Friday, December 19, 2014

Stephen Colbert and Elijah Typology

I watched the last episode of the Colbert Report last night. The schtick, it seems, is over. We will continue to see Colbert and his amazing talent on late night, but the persona that satirized American exceptionalism and egotism is no more.

Because I've seen nobody else mention it, I thought I would point out the clear use of Elijah typology in the episode. Colbert, instead of killing his persona, cheats death in the last of a reoccurring bit that features "Grimmy", that hooded, chess-playing Grim Reaper. This sets the stage for Colbert to emerge as an immortal. Rather than saying goodbye, Colbert and a about 100 celebrity guests sing "We'll Meet Again." Colbert hints at a return some day, joking that J.J. Abrams will reboot the Report in the future. He then, as a type of Elijah, is swept away heavenward in a chariot. This chariot (as we would expect) is driven by the patron saints of materialism (Santa) and the Republican party (Lincoln).

So to cap his persona's massive American ego, Colbert depicts himself as a divine figure. I imagine that most folks will miss the typology because the "chariot" is literally Santa's sleigh. But anyone familiar with the legends surrounding Elijah will see that (1) cheating death, (2) ascending to heaven in a sleigh, and (3) promising to return are suggestive of this typology. One might press further and suggest that Colbert models the same Elijah typology we see of Jesus in the New Testament. In any case, Colbert signs off "from eternity" as he skims along the top of the clouds.

I especially enjoyed the twist of including Canadian personality Alex Trebek in the sleigh. I won't ruin the final lesson learned by Colbert for those who haven't yet watched the episode. I will say, however, that Trebek's crucial message deconstructs Colbert's mythological ego with sublime irony.


1 comment: