Superstar Michael Jackson holds slumber parties with young boys and can’t figure out why he’s facing jail time. The North American Man Boy Love Association has concluded that Harry Potter is gay. The problem of sexual abuse has become a national media obsession, and for a local photographer who has teemed up with a highly unusual group of musicians, it has become the libretto for a rock opera.
Award-winning photographer Lymari and Boston-based rock band The Peterson Brothers have married artistic genres to expose the deluded reality of sex abuse perpetrators and the damage they inflict on their victims. This surreal yet all-too-real treatment is a ludicrous musical and visual extravaganza called Christmas at the Gropplers, which – according to Peterson Brother’s lead singer Philip “Peterson” (all band members becomes Petersons, just like The Ramones) – is a conceptual rock album/photo essay. It grew out of a song penned by guitarist Scott Peterson called The Ballad of Humphrey Groppler: Groppler owns a convenience store and molests children. He’s caught, convicted, jailed and then released. But, alas, he dies of a heart attack brought on by the world’s largest orgasm during an orgy. Scott and Philip Peterson decided that Humphrey Groppler deserved an entire album, and thus Christmas at the Gropplers was conceived. It takes listeners through Humphrey’s birth to early adulthood, giving audiences a peek at the twisted world of the sexually abusive family.
When Lymari was introduced to the Groppler family project she said, “There’s no way these silly little boys could do justice to this topic.” But the silly boys kept encouraging her to give the Gropplers a chance. When she finally read Humphrey’s sad tale, she decided to hire actors and create a series of accompanying photos.
“It is this really brilliant, yet dark, humor type of thing,” she said. “I brought it to some psychology professors at Harvard, and they were impressed because it talks about the abuse from a psychological standpoint, and it is a very accurate depiction … This treatment is more like Married with Children than the Brady Bunch; it’s more realistic.”
For the show, Lymari’s photos will line the walls of the All Asia Cafe in Central Square, and The Peterson Brothers will perform traditional Christmas carols as well as songs off of their record. Be prepared for a disturbing and offensive exploration and exposé of the ludicrous belief system that allows an adult to justify sexual abuse and the overt and covert damage that passes from generation to generation.
Philip Peterson said, “I expect it [the exhibit] to be shut down after the first day … it’s a ridiculous album and it raises awareness.
When asked why she was motivated to create such a disturbing display, Lymari, said, “I wanted people to think about it. People live here [in the Groppler reality]. What are we going to do about these people? In the Herald last week, somebody wrote in to the paper to say ’round ’em [child molesters] up.’ My question is: ‘And then what?'”
Many an earnest attempt has been made to draw attention to the depth of damage caused by childhood sexual trauma. Christmas at the Gropplers’ marriage between the disturbing and the satirical makes a tender topic ridiculous and unforgettable. It’s an odd way to raise awareness, but sometimes the more offensive the treatment, the more publicity it receives.
“The fact that it portrays what it does is offensive,” Philip Peterson said. “If you aren’t offended, something is wrong with you. I’d be a little afraid if someone came up to me and said, ‘I identify with that record, dude.'”
To preview the album and the photos, go to www.oddfellowsmusic.com and click on the “odd stuff” link. You will be led to the official Gropplers Web site, where you can read the details of Humphrey Gropplers sordid past.