Who Can Take a Joke? Life of Brian, Four Lions, and Religious “Humour Scandals”


  • Laura Basu Utrecht University




Satire, Humour scandals, free speech, blasphemy, Islamism, Islamophobia


Why did Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979) unleash a storm of protest and accusations of blasphemy on its release, what Giselinde Kuipers calls a “humour scandal,’’ while Chris Morris’s satire about British Jihadi terrorists, Four Lions (2010), barely raised an eyebrow? A focus on a media representation of Muslims that did not cause an outcry—even though one was eagerly anticipated—and on one of Christianity that did offers a fresh perspective on the ongoing de- bate on blasphemy and free speech, Islamism and islamophobia. This article’s contention is that both films offer similar, liberal humanist messages and an inclusive brand of humour, and that their receptions complicate the idea of Muslim extremists versus the liberal west, show- ing us that such an imaginary is itself a religious one. 

Author Biography

Laura Basu, Utrecht University

Laura Basu is a postdoctoral researcher on the project The Power of Satire: Cultural Boundaries Contested at Utrecht University. Her work focuses on the role of new political satire within liberal democracies. Her previous research was on the power dynamics of cultural memory and its relation to constructions of group identity. She is the author of Ned Kelly as Memory Dispositif: Media, Time, Power, and the Development of Australian Identities, de Gruyter 2012.





How to Cite

Basu, L. (2014). Who Can Take a Joke? Life of Brian, Four Lions, and Religious “Humour Scandals”. Relegere: Studies in Religion and Reception, 4(2), 177–206. https://doi.org/10.11157/rsrr4-2-575