Losers, Food, and Sex: Clerical Masculinity in the BBC Sitcom Rev.

Main Article Content

Alexander Darius Ornella


Clerical masculinities, much like their lay/secular counterparts, often appear unchanging because they are the products of naturalization processes. Clerical masculinities, however, are far from being stable but the live and breathe the dynamics of both their socio-religious context and their secular ‘others’. The BBC sitcom Rev. (2010-2011) is a refreshing take on the everyday life and problems of a vicar in the Church of England trying to avoid stereotypes that often come with clerical roles. Besides its entertainment factor, the sitcom is a valuable site to study the negotiation practices of clerical masculinity in the context of the Church of England. Rev. is not the first and only TV show featuring clerics, but its approach of exploring and inquiring points out that masculinities are never just beneficiaries or performers of power but also subject to power and socio-religious momentums. Uncovering religious negotiation processes of masculinities, Rev. can give an institution that is involved in the ‘production’ of religion a more human face. This paper focuses on the "loser" aspects of the series' male characters, in particular Rev. Adam Smallbone to show that the male characters struggle with fitting in to predefined notions of being a man but at the end of the show learn to appreciate and celebrate their own masculinities.

Article Details

How to Cite
ORNELLA, Alexander Darius. Losers, Food, and Sex: Clerical Masculinity in the BBC Sitcom Rev.. Journal for Religion, Film and Media (JRFM), [S.l.], v. 2, n. 2, may 2017. ISSN 2414-0201. Available at: <http://jrfm.eu/index.php/ojs_jrfm/article/view/58>. Date accessed: 17 aug. 2017.
religion, masculinity, Church of England, homosexuality, gender
Articles - Open Section


Alphen, Ernst van, 2005, Art in Mind. How Contemporary Images Shape Thought, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Arnold, Ben, 2011, The Reality of Rev – Vicars’ Views on the BBC2 Comedy, The Guardian, 15 December 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/tvandradioblog/2011/dec/15/the-reality-of-rev [accessed 15 June 2013].

Bailey, Lisa Kaaren, 2007, “These Are Not Men”. Sex and Drink in the Sermons of Caesarius of Arles, Journal of Early Christian Studies 15, 1, 23–43.

BBC, 2012, Rev to Return to BBC2 for Series 3 but Not Until 2014, BBC Online, 1 August 2012. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-19079794 [accessed 13 June 2013].

Benshoff, Harry M/Griffin, Sean, 2004, America on Film. Representing Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality at the Movies. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Big Talk Productions, 2013, Rev. – It’s Hell Being a Vicar. http://www.the-rev.co.uk/ ]accessed 20 September 2013].

Butt, Riazat, 2010, Rev “rather good” Says Archbishop of Canterbury, The Guardian, 1 August 2010. http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/2010/aug/01/senior-church-figures-rev-bbc (accessed 15 June 2013].

Byars, Jackie., 1991, All That Hollywood Allows. Re-reading Gender in 1950s Melodrama, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Catholics Called to Witness, 2013. http://www.cc2w.org/ [accessed 6 September 2013].

Chan, Mary M., 2008, Mr. Collins on Screen: Jane Austen’s Legacy of the Ridiculous, Persuasions On-Linie 29, 1. http://www.jasna.org/persuasions/on-line/vol29no1/chan.html [accessed 14 June 2013].

Church of England, 2013a, Facts & Stats. http://www.churchofengland.org/about-us/facts-stats.aspx [accessed 21 September 2013].

Church of England, 2013b, Full Time Stipendiary Diocesan Clergy 2010. http://www.churchofengland.org/media/1370707/2010fulltimestipendiarydiocesanclergy.pdf [accessed 18 September 2013].

Church of England, 2013c, Structure. http://www.churchofengland.org/about-us/structure.aspx [accessed 18 September 2013].

Church of England, 2013d, Summary Diocesan Licensed Ministers 2010. http://www.churchofengland.org/media/1370694/2010DiocesanLicensedMinisters.pdf [accessed 18 September 2013].

Church of England, 2013e, The Women Bishops Debate. http://www.churchofengland.org/our-views/women-bishops/the-women-bishops-debate.aspx [accessed 19 June 2013].

Clark, Elizabeth A., 2001, Women, Gender, and the Study of Christian History, Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture 70, 03, 395–426.

Clark, Elizabeth A., 1990, Patrons, Not Priests:
Gender and Power in Late Ancient Christianity, Gender & History 2, 3, 253–273.

Clucas, Rob/Sharpe, Keith, Women Bishops: Equality, Rights and Disarray, Ecclesiastical Law Journal 15, 02, 158–174.

Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, 1999, The Priest and the Third Millennium: Teacher of the Word, Minister of the Sacraments and Leader of the Community, 19 March 1999. http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cclergy/documents/rc_con_cclergy_doc_19031999_pretres_en.html [accessed 13 June 2013].

Connell, Raewyn, 2005, Masculinities, 2 ed. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Connell, Robert W./Messerschmidt, James W., Hegemonic Masculinity. Rethinking the Concept, Gender & Society 19, 6, 829–859.

Creative Lab, 2012a, Test of Fire: Election 2012 (Official HD Version - Catholic), Catholics Called to Witness, 10 March 2012. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9vQt6IXXaM [accessed 20 May 2016].

Creative Lab, 2012b, Test of Fire: Election 2012 (Official HD Version - Evangelica, Protestant). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GnYf1t5ZTCM [accessed 20 May 2016].
Creative Lab Film Studios, 2013. http://www.creative-lab.com/ [accessed 6 September 2013].

Ellis, John, 1999, Television As Working-Through, in: Gripsrud, Jostein (ed.), Television and Common Knowledge, London: Routledge, 55–70.

Finch, Janet, 1980, Devising Conventional Performances: The Case of Clergymen's Wives, The Sociological Review 28, 4, 851–870.

Fiske, John, 1987, Television Culture: Popular Pleasures and Politics. London: Routledge.
Fraser, Giles, 2010, Dearly Beloved: Get on Your Knees and Avoid the Fees, The Telegraph, 27 June 27, 2010. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/7856311/Dearly-beloved-Get-on-your-knees-and-avoid-the-fees.html [accessed 15 June 2013].

Fulton, Rachel, 2006, “Taste and See That the Lord Is Sweet” (Ps. 33:9). The Flavor of God in the Monastic West., The Journal of Religion 86, 2, 169–204.

Hall, Stuart, 1999, Encoding, Decoding, in: During, Simon (ed.), The Cultural Studies Reader, 2 ed., London: Routledge, 507–517.

Hanke, Robert, 1998, The ‘Mock-Macho’ Situation Comedy. Hegemonic Masculinity and Its Reiteration, Western Journal of Communication 62, 1, 74–93.

Hartley, John, 2009, TV Stories: From Representation to Productivity, in: Hartley, John/McWilliam, Kelly, Story Circle. Digital Storytelling Around the World, Chichester: Blackwell, 16–36.

Hartley, John, 1999, Uses of Television. London: Routledge.

Hatfield, Elizabeth Fish, 2010, “What It Means to Be a Man”. Examining Hegemonic Masculinity in Two and a Half Men, Communication, Culture & Critique 3, 4, 526–548.

Hattenstone, Simon, 2011, Tom Hollander: Confessions of a Lazy Actor, The Guardian, 4 November 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/2011/nov/04/tom-hollander-rev-actor [accessed 15 June 2013].

Heeney, Brian, 1982, The Beginnings of Church Feminism: Women and the Councils of the Church of England 1897–1919, The Journal of Ecclesiastical History 33, 01, 89–109.

Heneghan, Tom, 2013, Church of England Unveils Plan for Women Bishops in 2015, Reuters, 24 May 2013. http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/05/24/uk-britain-church-bishops-idUKBRE94N0RL20130524 [accessed 19 June 2013].

Hileman, Linda, 2008, The Unique Needs of Protestant Clergy Families: Implications for Marriage and Family Counseling, Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health 10, 2, 119–144.

Hollander, Tom, 2013, Tom Hollander Talks About Rev. - BBC Breakfast, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WB86PqcQFQ [accessed 15 June 2013].

Hunt, Mary E., 2013, Will Francis’ Statements on Women and Gays “Make a Mess” Inside the Church?, Religion Dispatches 29 July 2013, http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/atheologies/7216/will_francis__statements_on_women_and_gays__make_a_mess__inside_the_church/ [accessed 25 August 2013].

Ingraham, Chrys, 1994, The Heterosexual Imaginary: Feminist Sociology and Theories of Gender, Sociological Theory 12, 2, 203–219.

Jefferson, Tony, 2002, Subordinating Hegemonic Masculinity, Theoretical Criminology 6, 1, 63–88.

Lutterbach, Hubertus, 2013, Der Pflichtzölibat. Christentumsgeschichtliche Wurzeln Und Aktuelle Orientierung, in: Ammicht Qinn, Regina (ed.), “Guter Sex”. Moral, Moderne Und Die Katholische Kirche, Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 43–54.

Mellencamp, Patricia, 1992, High Anxiety: Catastrophe, Scandal, Age & Comedy. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Mills, Brett, 2004, Comedy Verite: Contemporary Sitcom Form, Screen 45, 1, 63–78.
Mills, Brett, 2009, The Sitcom, Edinburgh University Press, 2009.

Mittell, Jason, 2001, A Cultural Approach to Television Genre Theory, Cinema Journal 40, 3, 3–24.

Mumm, Susan, 2008, A Peril to the Bench of Bishops’: Sisterhoods and Episcopal Authority in the Church of England, 1845-1908, Journal of Ecclesiastical History 59, 1, 62–78.

Murphy-Geiss, Gail E., 2011, Married to the Minister: The Status of the Clergy Spouse As Part of a Two-Person Single Career., Journal of Family Issues 32, 7, 932–955.

Neal, Derek, 2010, What Can Historians Do with Clerical Masculinity? Lessons From Medieval Europe, in: Thibodeaux, Jennifer D., Negotiating Clerical Identities. Priests, Monks and Masculinity in the Middle Ages, New York: Palgrave, 16–36.

Nixon, David, 2008, “No More Tea, Vicar”. An Exploration of the Discourses Which Inform the Current Debates About Sexualities Within the Church of England, Sexualities 11, 5, 595–620.

Ornella, Alexander D., 2013, Of Watchdogs and Safe Havens. Control Mechanisms And/in Online Sacred Spaces, in: Ahlbäck, Tore/Dahla, Björn, Digital Religion, Åbo: Donner Institute, 150–180.

Ornella, Alexander D., 2014, Opening Up and Closing Down. Bodies – Technologies – Boundaries, in: Ornella, Alexander D./Höpflinger, Anna-Katharina/Knauss, Stefanie (eds.), Commun(icat)ing Bodies. The Body as Medium in Religious Communication Systems, Zurich: TVZ, 2014, 153-186.

Page, Sarah-Jane, 2008, The Construction of Masculinities and Femininities in the Church of England: The Case of the Male Clergy Spouse, Feminist Theology 17, 1, 31–42.

Page, Sarah-Jane, 2011, Negotiating Sacred Roles. A Sociological Exploration of Priests Who Are Mothers, Feminist Review 97, 92–109.

Peberdy, Donna, 2011, Masculinity and Film Performance. Male Angst in Contemporary American Cinema, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Pew Research Center, 2013, In Gay Marriage Debate, Both Supporters and Opponents See Legal Recognition as “Inevitable”, 6 June 2013, http://www.people-press.org/2013/06/06/in-gay-marriage-debate-both-supporters-and-opponents-see-legal-recognition-as-inevitable/ [accessed 25 August 2013].

Reynolds, Kimberley, 2002, Come Lads and Ladettes. Gendering Bodies and Gendering Behaviors, in: Stephens, John (ed.), Ways of Being Male: Representing Masculinity in Children’s Literature and Film, New York: Routledge, 96–115.

Ricoeur, Paul, 1995, Oneself as Another. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Shaw, Jane, 2004, Women, Gender and Ecclesiastical History, The Journal of Ecclesiastical History 55, 1, 102–117.

Stone, Ken, 2005, Practicing Safer Texts: Food, Sex and Bible in Queer Perspective, London: T & T Clark International.

Stringer, Martin, 2000, Of Gin and Lace: Sexuality, Liturgy and Identity Among Anglo-Catholics in the Mid-Twentieth Century, Theology and Sexuality 7, 13, 35–54.

Swenson, Rebecca, 2009, Domestic Divo? Televised Treatments of Masculinity, Femininity and Food, Critical Studies in Media Communication 26, 1, 36–53.

Thibodeaux, Jennifer D., 2010, Introduction. Rethinking the Medieval Clergy and Masculinity, in: Thibodeaux, Jennifer D., Negotiating Clerical Identities. Priests, Monks and Masculinities in the Middle Ages, New York: Palgrave, 1–15.

Vicar’s Wife, The., 2013, About. http://thevicarswife.wordpress.com/about/ [accessed 20 September 2013].

Wiesner-Hanks, Merry E., 2002, Women, Gender, and Church History, Church History 71, 3, 600–620.