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New at Reason: Cathy Young sees The Passion, and tries to make some sense out of the competing interpretations.

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  1. Bravo!

  2. Nicely written. I’ve seen another point alluded to about the presence of anti-semitic material in the film, and the lack of an antisemitic message perceived by American audiences: Gibson included medieval antisemitic flourishes that only a student of pre-modern Catholic art and doctrine (like Gibson himself) would pick up on. For example, the character of the devil lives and moves among the Jewish populace. This is apparently an old tradition in Christian art, but one that the typical American Christian wouldn’t know anything about.

    If an American director were to produce a movie with a Sambo-like singin’ dancin’ slackin’ black character who bugs out his eyes and leers at virginal white women, but released it in Laos, where people don’t know anything about American racial stereotypes and cinematic traditions, would the director be off the hook? Not in my book.

  3. Well, I think it has become readily apparent that this is not an “accurate” rendering of the events laid out in the “gospels” (I doubt that this would be possible anyway, given the textual disagreements between the various “gospels”).

    joe,

    Its actually an old tradition in Christian literary works as well; you will find it in the work of Chaucer, as well as in the chasons de geste that deal with Jewry.

  4. would the director be off the hook?

    Which hook? The Progressive Finger-Wag hook? A movie is a business in and of itself. It answers to demand first. It is not that business’ responsibility to tip-toe around people’s sensitivities, espcially given how much money controversial movies make. I don’t hear anyone whining about The History Of The World (“The jig is up” “And gone!”). Will we have to abide this same endless whining when someone makes a movie about the Israel-“Palestine” fiasco?

    the character of the devil lives and moves among the Jewish populace

    As opposed to where? Gehenna was an actual place in Judea. If the devil moved among the desert, and the demons among the pigs, why not establish the villain’s presence among those who would later betray him at the end of the movie? Dramatically it makes sense.

  5. Uh, what other kind of crowd would the devil be moving through in (roughly) 30 AD Jerusalem? A Chinese one?

  6. “A movie is a business in and of itself.”

    A movie is also a work of art, in the archaic sense of the product of someone’s labor. The deliberate reflections of antique antisemitic artistic conventions did not write, direct, and produce themselves into the movie. Mel Gibson consciously strove to put them there, knowing what they meant and how they had been used in the past.

    “why not establish the villain’s presence among those who would later betray him at the end of the movie?” Because having the Devil live and move among the Jews, and be like them and of them, is an artistic convention with a specific history and meaning. Again, Mad Mel knew about this history and this meaning, and made sure to put the imagery in the movie anyway.

    Look, if you were the mayor of a city, and you wanted to award a neighborhood group for an anti-litter campaign in a heavily Latino neighborhood, would you stand up on the podium and tell them the neighborhood looked “spic and span?” Mel Gibson did the equivalent of making sure the word “spic” showed up in his movie.

  7. Eric, the devil didn’t have to move through the crowd. He didn’t have to look like one of them. The character and his behavior didn’t have to clearly (so I’m told) indicate that he was with and of the Jews. Or, the Jews, their behavior, and their dialogue could have been written to clearly mark them as being ordinary people, to whom the contemporary viewer would relate. Instead, Gibson made the decision to portray the Jews a certain way, to portray the devil that same way, and to show him in close proximity to them. These were all artistic choices that Gibson decided to include, with full knowledge of their significance and history.

  8. Mel Gibson did the equivalent of making sure the word “spic” showed up in his movie.

    Yes, but Gibson is not a Mayor with a heavily Latino neighborhood. A mayor has a vested interest not to piss off the people he plans to keep as his employer come return on election, but he is neither legally nor morally obliged to avoid the term “spic and span.” Gibson’s view, however wierd, is hardly unique to Gibson. Putting controversial interpretations of history to celluloid is DEFINITELY not unique to Gibson. Why are people rallying around this movie as some kind of prototype? It is not anti-Semitic to note that according to the bible, Caiaphas and his father-in-law convinced the Jews to crucify Jesus, any more than it is anti-Islamic to note that in fact, Islamic leaders currently exhort their followers to blow up Jewish commuters.

  9. Joe,
    I understand what you’re saying. You probably haven’t seen the movie, but the devil is actually invisible to everyone but Jesus and Mary. Since Mary can see the devil, how else should the devil have appeared? Horns and a tail?

    What I don’t accept is the notion that inserting the devil into the passion story is somehow automatically anti-semitic. It’s not.

  10. And Gibson didn’t portray “the Jews” in a certain way. He portrayed SOME Jews in a certain way. He portrayed OTHER Jews (Jesus himself, disciples, Mary M., Mary Jesus’ mother, some religious leaders, and so on) much differently.

  11. He didn’t have to look like one of them.

    He didn’t look like one of them. He’s bald and androgynous, and looks like something out of a ’90s horror movie.

  12. I saw the movie. The movie is set in Jerusalem in 30 AD or so. The villains will, by historical necessity, be a mixture of Jews and Romans. The main question is how much blame to apportion each group and how to portray that blame and whatnot. On the surface, the apportionment of blame doesn’t seem all that uneven. One could say that the Romans deserved more blame than they got, but they hardly got off easy.

    Joe is contending that Gibson has seeded the movie with some references that only people ingrained in particular schools of anti-Semitism would get. If that is true (I don’t know that it is or isn’t) then while most audiences will see this and think it’s (more or less) even-handed in the apportionment of blame, some very specific audiences will see it and catch various references.

    Personally, not being steeped in anti-Semitic lore, I have no clue if Gibson did something equivalent to some movie I saw where all the clocks said 4:20. (Pulp fiction? Can’t recall for sure.) If he did, I would agree that it’s pretty despicable that he would take religious art and sow it with shout-outs to bigots. Sure, it isn’t as bad as going one step further and actively trying to whip up anti-Semitic sentiment in those who didn’t previously have such sentiments, but it’s still pretty bad.

    (Some here will probably say “If you don’t like it you shouldn’t have seen it. Let the market decide.” My response is that part of the market process involves people checking out a product and then passing on their opinions so that others can either heed their opinions or ignore them.)

    Then again, maybe there aren’t any deliberate messages sent to bigots. I honestly don’t know.

    On the surface, the presence of the devil in the angry mob seemed quite appropriate. It comes down to how you view the mob. If you see it as an angry mob that was exploited by organized religion, then the presence of the devil seems quite appropriate, and at most you can only complain “Too bad the devil wasn’t also portrayed influencing the government officials involved in the crucifixion.” On the other hand, if you see it as a mob of Jews and you see the government officials as non-Jews, then it all comes down to race.

    Maybe my perspective (it’s an angry mob that just happens to be Jewish, not a group that is first and foremost Jewish) is skewed, or maybe it’s dead-on.

    The one thing I would say for certain: It wasn’t a very good movie about Jesus. I prefer stories that focus more on Jesus’s life and teachings, and portray his death as the culmination of that, rather than a movie that focuses solely on the blood and guts. And the crow eating the condemned man’s eyes seems out of place after Jesus prayed “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”

    So, thumbs down on the overall theme of the movie, and non-commital shrug on issues of anti-Semitism.

  13. Eric,

    “What I don’t accept is the notion that inserting the devil into the passion story is somehow automatically anti-semitic. It’s not.”

    That wasn’t anyone’s argument; please try again.

  14. thoreau,

    “The villains will, by historical necessity, be a mixture of Jews and Romans.”

    Not really; unless of course you believe that Gibson’s protrayal is accurate (when its not even true to the flawed texts it is supposed to be based on, incredulity should reign supreme).

    I think Young’s analysis makes it fairly clear that Gibson is an anti-semitic bigot at some level; the entire grandiose “liberal Jew” conspiracy he has dreamed up is further proof of this.

  15. Y’know, I’m no theologist, but what difference does it make who killed the J-man, anyway? I mean, wasn’t that part of his point, to become flesh and suffer and die? Would he have founded one the world’s major religions had he not been martyred and died for our sins? Okay, I’m being somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but I’m being somewhat serious, too. Why blame the Romans or the Jews? Okay, you don’t have to exactly thank them, but seems like it was ultimately all part of the plan, and the villains were inevitable and just did what flawed humans were supposed to do, even in lieu of omniscience or predertiminism. I mean really, what’s the big friggin’ deal, anyway?

  16. It is a good movie. It is a REALIZATION. We come to the movie knowing broadly what we are going to see– the criteria are whether our expectations are realised on screen in a way that is absolutely convincing and moving. In just that sense, the movie eminently succeeds.

    Young and joe are typical of liberal culture-critics naively expecting films to bring an explanatory apparatus– “I didn’t like “All Quiet…” what were Paul and the other Germans doing in those trenches in the first place? Same with “Das Boot”– I didn’t feel enough was said about WWII.”

    Look for a “meaning” and I suppose you come up with anti-semitism. Try to MAKE a movie on the topic with a pre-packaged meaning, and you come up with something as artistically horrendous as Scorsese’s “Last Temptation…”

    Eliot said the “meaning” is just something to distract the reader while the poem does its real work. Nothing is quite that simple, but his point has force.

    Jesus and Caiphas, Pilate and Satan are figures we can recognise if we have a mature acquaintance with human life: the Hard Case, the Ideologue, the Temporiser, and the sado-rapist. Even for the medieval audience (who often would have no intercourse with Jews in a life’s time) that would have been largely true.

    The tragedy arises from our ready ability to recognise this, when we encouter it in an effective realisation, as we do here. Specific explantions we bring or take with us…but in the best case, merely discard. You don’t view “All Quiet on the Western Front” to ponder the First World War– you go for the same reason a Greek audience experienced tragedies whose content were quite familiar to them: for the realisation.

    Joe, do yourself a favor and go see it. In a lifetime you may hope to see another movie just as good…you won’t see a better one.

  17. In a lifetime you may hope to see another movie just as good…you won’t see a better one.

    You’re joking, right? I’m a Catholic and I take my faith pretty seriously, but it was a bad movie. Two hours of blood and gore. If I had known two years ago what I know now I would have bought stock in the company that made the artificial blood, because Gibson probably doubled their sales for the year when he made this movie.

  18. Andrew,

    “Young and joe are typical of liberal culture-critics naively expecting films to bring an explanatory apparatus– ‘I didn’t like “All Quiet…’ what were Paul and the other Germans doing in those trenches in the first place? Same with ‘Das Boot’– I didn’t feel enough was said about WWII.”

    Your main criticism is that you don’t like their point of analysis; boo hoo. Quit whining. There is no appropriate point of analysis; get over it.

    “Look for a ‘meaning’ and I suppose you come up with anti-semitism. Try to MAKE a movie on the topic with a pre-packaged meaning, and you come up with something as artistically horrendous as Scorsese’s ‘Last Temptation…'”

    Now that was a great film. And to be blunt, Gibson’s film was also made with a pre-packaged meaning; indeed, it would seem strange for it not be; or are you trying to tell us that the “holy spirit” moved Gibson and he had no input into the film?

    “You don’t view ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ to ponder the First World War…”

    Some people may, and what sort of arrogant prick are you tell people how they “must” view art?

    “…you go for the same reason a Greek audience experienced tragedies whose content were quite familiar to them: for the realisation.”

    Ahh, Aristotle in his “Poetics” does not agree with you at all; I’ll take the word of actual Greek over yours.

    I guess the question also must be proferred – “realisation” of what?

  19. Andrew,

    BTW, it is rather obvious you absolutely ignorant of Greek dramatic works; if you did know something of them, you wouldn’t have made the comment that you made about “realisation.” Indeed, some of the most popular and highly awarded pieces of Greek drama were those that directly commented on larger political, social, etc. events, forces that were outside the main substance of the works themselves. Please see the plays of Aristophenes (women protesting war with Sparta by closing their legs to a degree where the men run about with an engorged penis!), Aeschylus, and Eurpides for example. Your anti-intellectual, art for art’s sake approach is counter to the tradition Greek drama, and would sicken writers and audiences of the time alike.

  20. thoreau,

    According to Andrew you do not have the “proper” attitude; you must be “re-educated.” Off to the camps for you! Follow the part line! 🙂

  21. Cathy first says:
    >a Rorschach test onto which different people project their expectations. Where some will see a message of love and redemption, others will see hate and bigotry.I think it has an anti-Jewish taint

  22. > looking at the brouhaha surrounding the movie, some will see the triumph of courage and faith over the antireligious bias of the cultural elites; others will see a slick and cynical publicity campaign.

  23. >…the public perception that both the film and the filmmaker were under assault …

  24. >a Lutheran friend of mine was particularly put off by the scene in which the crucified thief who mocks Jesus has his eyes plucked out by a raven?which, in her view, completely negates the message of forgiveness.

  25. Jean Bart,
    “I think Young’s analysis makes it fairly clear that Gibson is an anti-semitic bigot at some level; the entire grandiose “liberal Jew” conspiracy he has dreamed up is further proof of this.”

    Here’s an idea. Why don’t you see the movie for yourself and make your own conclusion? Unless you prefer to have others do your thinking for you?

  26. I appreciate Cathy Young’s effort, but I must say that the piece just doesn’t work for me. I get the sense that a lot of the commentators here are opera singers trying to analyze blues riffs, or vice versa. There’s some familiarity with the basic terms and concepts but little real understanding of what is going on.

    Andrew gets the closest to the point when he observes that The Passion exists on its own terms. It doesn’t need to visit the Bethlehem stable, raise Lazarus from the dead, etc. before getting on with the passion story. The audience is for the most part in no need of a set up and isn’t looking for dramatic surprises. The point here is the suffering, the pain, the blood — that’s the cinematic point and the theological point. Moreover, the anti-Semitism nonsense is confusing, to say the least. No rational person leaving the theater would say, “You know, I feel like beating up some Jews.” Obviously, this point doesn’t apply to the irrational, but cultural libertarians used to argue that it’s irresponsible to hold artists responsible for kooks who see perverse inspiration in their work. Now they want to treat movie audiences, large ones in virtually every corner of the country, as idiotic children.

    Gibson’s off-camera views are odd but not anti-Jewish. The so-called “blood libel” line is, if mentioned at all, usually interpreted in evangelical circles as referring to all human beings as bearing a share of the guilt of the crucifixion through their sins. It’s not a marching song for the death camps. This is the obvious message of The Passion and the way devout friends of mine interpreted it — some of whom say viewing the movie was an intensely spiritual experience for them. And, yes, I’m talking about libertarians.

    But, sure, go ahead and ridicule them and the vast majority of American believers some more. Way to promote free minds and free markets.

  27. >a lot of the commentators here are opera singers trying to analyze blues riffs, or vice versa.

  28. I haven’t seen Passion, and my knowledge of the bible isn’t in-depth. However, I do remember the flack Gibson took for Patriot, and its claimed inaccuracy. And I also know a bit about the history Patriot was based upon. While Patriot had its historical failings, the critics were typically farther from the mark than Mel was.

    The worst Gibson movies I can think of were the politically correct Lethal Weapon series.

  29. Silly. Do you realize that you sound like a bunch of Blair Witch Project harpies? Take it over to Ain’t It Cool News so the rest of us can talk about supersize government, k?

  30. KJ-

    I do nuance. I do at least 2 packs a day. Quick, call John Banzhaf and find me somebody to sue! 🙂

    But seriously, comparing alleged anti-British bigotry to anti-Semitism reveals a total lack of perspective. That’s what I was mocking.

  31. Don,

    Hmm, numerous historians of the period (American and British) loathed that film for its innaccuracies, as well as the simple bits of fantasy it laid before the audience. For example, his emancipation of his slaves and the burning of the church. The film was more agitprop than anything.

  32. JB:

    Thanks for, as usual, being your own worst enemy in this kinds of debates. My point is that many critics of The Passion, particularly those who haven’t seen it, are commenting on a movie they think Gibson should have made rather than trying to understand why the movie he did make is evoking such a powerful response from (most) of its audience — and why virtually all viewers (except those who carry an animus or political motivation into the theater with them) are leaving with a profound sense of confusion about all this anti-Semitism rot. For example, Satan does not just appear moving among the Jews in the crowd cheeing on the crucifixation. That is false. And if you are telling the passion story, who are the characters going to be if not Romans (some of whom come off as sadistic, some as lacking courage, and some as praiseworthy) and Jews (ditto, ditto, and ditto)?

    You also suggest that the vast majority of human beings, who are adherents of a religious faith, are being irrational, which I guess places you in that wise, sage 8 percent or whatever who are not. Congratulations. I welcome your elegant solution to all the metaphysical puzzles that humankind has been contemplating, and failing to solve mechanistically, for some thousands of years.

    And you engage in some slippery argumentation, like the idea that Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitism can be inferred from his defense of his kooky dad (yep, trying not to impugn your father in public proves that you must agree with him). Please continue to lecture us on the proper use of rhetoric.

    We are way, way far afield here from free minds and free markets. And many libertarian-leaning folk reading this, most of whom are not atheists, have to wonder why they are wasting their time attempting to converse with clueless, tone-deaf people who peddle the kind of grievance-industry foolishness and anti-religious bigotry usually found on the Left.

  33. A postscript: sorry for the rogue italics. Distracted, I forgot to close them off.

  34. John Hood,

    I think what really pisses you off is that I and others have the actual temerity to present a challlenge to your views. Quit being a sissy.

  35. Hey John, why don’t you pick on someone your own size? I wrote you a response at 10:29, plinking your “It’s ok if Gibson inserted antisemitic material, because most people won’t get it” theory.

    Could you be afraid to go into battle without your “You just hate Christians!” line available?

  36. joe,

    He is not picking on me; and I don’t “hate” Christians (or any other religionist – I treat them all rather equally after all). I am against religion; I oppose it; hatred of a particular religionist (or religionists as whole)is not involved in that scenario. I simply dislike their ideas; and forcefully so.

  37. joe and Thoreau

    I would like to offer another observation that I haven’t quite sorted out myself, but which appears very important.

    I attended the performance I saw in a very large theater so crowded it took me nearly ten minutes to actually find a seat. The audience appeared to be about 50% black, and the response of tha portion of the audience was alternatively demonstrably enthusiastic, and rapt. This actually contributed a lot to my appreciation of the film.

    The film is about the legal lynching of an innocent but provacative figure, by a combination of a set of ethnic oppressors, quisling “leaders” from the community, and an irrational mob– and his subsequent torture, humiliation and execution.
    Somehow it didn’t strike this portion of the audience that about two hours was too much time to dwell on the event. And its impact on his single-parent family, and his circle of powerless common-folk including a reformed prostitute Jesus rescues from another mob.

    The film isn’t an audio-visual aid for Religion classes– I’ll grant you that. But for an adult, the starting point for considering the Sermon on the Mount, or any other ethical and social proposal is the gut awareness that we live on a planet where this sort of thing is fairly commonplace…this ain’t Middle-Earth, or even Narnia.

    A last point: the company of Jesus enjoy an informal and intimate last supper, and Mary prompts the Magdalene (alone together) in a sort of free-form Passover observance (one of the creative moments in the script– to this day, women play no active part in mainstream Judaism)…whereas Caiphas et al represent institutional Religion: for all the hours spent trying to detect an anti-semitism which isn’t there, nobody points up this obvious message.

    Every minute, in every inch of screen, the film is beautifully realised. I must listen to St. Matthews Passion about every few years. The grist for all the “deconstructions” is I assume about the same…the only difference, it’s in German.

  38. Andrew,

    “But for an adult, the starting point for considering the Sermon on the Mount, or any other ethical and social proposal is the gut awareness that we live on a planet where this sort of thing is fairly commonplace…this ain’t Middle-Earth, or even Narnia.”

    And of course we also live on a planet where, of course, you condone and trumpet anti-gay bigotry. Excuse me while I laugh at your phoney attempt to play the moralist.

    “…one of the creative moments in the script– to this day, women play no active part in mainstream Judaism”

    One wonders how you define “mainstream Judaism” – my wife is Jewish and she plays all sorts of very active roles in her synagogue; and furthermore, women, for the most part do not play active roles in Christianity either (Catholic female priests? Baptist female ministers?).

    “…for all the hours spent trying to detect an anti-semitism which isn’t there, nobody points up this obvious message.”

    I think your “realisation” argument just flew out the window; now it is about external factors, etc. Next time, try consistency.

  39. I’m not saying there is no redeeming value in the film, Andrew. As I wrote earlier, Catholics who go into it with an understanding of modern Church doctrine can have an experience that has nothing to do with antisemitism.

    But the presence of these very real goods does not negate the presence of the very real evil of Gibson’s deliberate inclusion of images of Jewish deicide. For me, a drop of urine would spoil the greatest G&T ever made.

  40. Well joe

    REDEEMING is the point…isn’t it?

    Do you have a problem with rewarding a creative artist doing a good thing, because of other things you assume to be true about him? Would it bother you to release a convicted murderer from the state pen if he rescued some hostages during a prison riot?

    American literary culture contains some easily identified anti-semites– Eliot, Pound and cummings immediately come to mind…toss in Hemingway, for good measure. But artists are supposed to be rewarded for creating good art.

    A “culture war” is not like embargoing Nazi Germany cicra 1943. I routinely recite poetry by communists– Vallejo and Neruda, Breton and Eluard.

  41. Andrew,

    “Do you have a problem with rewarding a creative artist doing a good thing, because of other things you assume to be true about him?”

    Well, first the artist has to do a “good thing.” We are still awaiting this from Gibson.

  42. I thought the “Peanut Vendor” character in the crucifixion scene was great comic relief.

  43. “Do you have a problem with rewarding a creative artist doing a good thing, because of other things you assume to be true about him?”

    I don’t believe trying to reanimate dying bigotries is a good thing. If this movie turns out to have artistic value, I’d watch it with the same eye I watch “Battleship Potemkin” or “Triumph of the Will” or “Birth of a Nation.”

  44. The discussions go on and on, and I admit they’re rather fun.

    Not having seen the movie, I won’t try to judge whether there’s some subliminal anti-Semitic message in it. But so far, the pro-movie comments haven’t convinced me there’s anything worth seeing in it, and the comments about how much blood, eye-eating, and the like is in it have me convinced that it’s an overly violent movie which I wouldn’t enjoy.

    Christianity has often been obsessed with death, and a movie which is a two-hour account of an execution in literal gory detail certainly sounds obsessed with death to me.

  45. Joe:

    I didn’t answer your point earlier because I didn’t understand it. I freely admit that. You seem to agree with me that the “blood libel” phrase is simply not understood by believers today, Catholic and evangelical and no doubt many others, as a slur on Jews. The idea is that the blood of Jesus stains humankind as a whole.

    But then you go on to denigrate Gibson for attempting to pin the blame on the Jews. Why? The film does not do that. And Gibson unwillingness to denigrate his father in the press (note to JB: research the Book of Exodus for a clue) does not constitute anything like evidence of such an intention.

    More generally, JB, best of wishes but you continue to illustrate my point about the apparent inability of some to appreciate the deeply felt convictions and artistic responses of others. And, no, I am entirely undisturbed by the prospect of dealing with differences of opinion. That’s would I do for a living. I would be willing to discuss these issues further with you if you had even the remotest idea of what you were talking about. See the film and then email me; I’d be happy to engage in an informed debate on this film and its cinematic and theological aspects.

  46. Eric,

    My comments did not really refer to the movie per se; indeed, they referred at least partly to Gibson’s actions (the “conspiracy” comment for example).

    John Hood,

    “There’s some familiarity with the basic terms and concepts but little real understanding of what is going on.”

    And you, oh wise sage, will tell us what is going on?

    “Andrew gets the closest to the point when he observes that The Passion exists on its own terms.”

    For some perhaps; not for others.

    “It doesn’t need to visit the Bethlehem stable, raise Lazarus from the dead, etc. before getting on with the passion story.”

    Unless someone wants it to.

    “The audience is for the most part in no need of a set up and isn’t looking for dramatic surprises.”

    One wonders why then there is so much extra-biblical stuff in the film; and who are you to say what a particular audience member needs?

    “Moreover, the anti-Semitism nonsense is confusing, to say the least. No rational person leaving the theater would say, ‘You know, I feel like beating up some Jews.'”

    Whoever said religious belief was “rational?” 🙂

    “Now they want to treat movie audiences, large ones in virtually every corner of the country, as idiotic children.”

    Can you name a few?

    “Gibson’s off-camera views are odd but not anti-Jewish.”

    I would say that his statement about his father is anti-Jewish by implication; he defended a bigot, and that bigotry therefore rubs off on him to a degree.

    “It’s not a marching song for the death camps.”

    Actually it was; Hitler used it as a means to justify persecution of Jews; indeed, Hitler was found of passion plays as a means to educate people (especially children) on the evils of Jewry.

    “But, sure, go ahead and ridicule them and the vast majority of American believers some more. Way to promote free minds and free markets.”

    Pulling punches against a majority is the last thing I am likely to do.

  47. rst: “It is not anti-Semitic to note that according to the bible, Caiaphas and his father-in-law convinced the Jews to crucify Jesus,” No, it is not. However, the manner in which this is done most certainly can be antisemitic. And in fact has been done, in certain specific ways, for centuries. To hear that the techniques for doing so are resurrected in this film is unsettling.

    Eric, “What I don’t accept is the notion that inserting the devil into the passion story is somehow automatically anti-semitic. It’s not.” Correct, it is not. However, the manner in which he is inserted can be antisemitic. Why is Satan manifested as part of the Jewish social urban milieu, and not as a force of nature, a wild man in the desert (ok, I know the answer to that one), or some other character? This is especially important in light of the theological and artistic history that Gibson knows so well.

    Jean Bart, Andrew is no more “whining” than anyone else here. Though TOTALLY FUCKING WRONG, his expression of his opinion is perfectly valid.

    John Hood, “The so-called “blood libel” line is, if mentioned at all, usually interpreted in evangelical circles as referring to all human beings as bearing a share of the guilt of the crucifixion through their sins.” I don’t know from evangelicals, but Catholics have been taught for two generations that the Jews in the passion story should be read as stand ins for all of humanity, and for the believers themselves. In the Good Friday mass, the congregation reads the lines spoken by the Jewish mob, to make this very point. This was a change in doctrine and ritual implemented by Vatican 2…which Gibson very loudly denounces. I can’t read his obsession with putting the blame back on the Jews as anything but antisemitism, and a big Fuck You to Rome.

    As for seeing the film, I’m torn. I’ve been told by good Catholics (who don’t spend as much time inside their heads as we do) that it was very moving. I’m also curious about such a socially significant event. And I want to make up my mind for myself.

    On the other hand, I don’t want to give any money to that prick, or help him get more press for his crusade to make pre-modern bigotries socially acceptable again.

  48. “Jean Bart, Andrew is no more ‘whining’ than anyone else here. Though TOTALLY FUCKING WRONG, his expression of his opinion is perfectly valid.”

    Of course it is valid; but it is still whining. 🙂

  49. John Hood,

    “More generally, JB, best of wishes but you continue to illustrate my point about the apparent inability of some to appreciate the deeply felt convictions and artistic responses of others.”

    Oh I appreciate them (as in understand them); I simply don’t give a fuck about them. I am sure that most communists have deeply felt convictions; to wit I would say, so what?

    “And, no, I am entirely undisturbed by the prospect of dealing with differences of opinion.”

    Sure you are disturbed.

    “That’s would I do for a living. I would be willing to discuss these issues further with you if you had even the remotest idea of what you were talking about. See the film and then email me; I’d be happy to engage in an informed debate on this film and its cinematic and theological aspects.”

    I can make my decision about the film without seeing it; just as I make decisions about other films without seeing them. Its trash; anti-semitic; and based on a flawed reading of a flawed historical record from the evidence I have garnered about it. What else do you expect from a irrational thug like Mel Gibson?

  50. John Hood,

    Honoring one’s father does not include lying; which is the best case scenario for Gibson here. If that is the case, then Gibson is apparently a moral coward; hmm, moral coward or anti-semite.

  51. An arch-Catholic snuff film, is what it is.

  52. As a side note, it’s quite interesting to see that Mel Gibson got little or no flack at all when he was just a nice pommy-bashing Anglophobe, demonizing only Brits in his films ‘Gallipoli’, ‘Braveheart’, and ‘Patriot’.

    Looks like anti-british bigotry isn’t a big deal whereas even hints or mere allegations of anti-semitism bring about a lot of opprobrium.

  53. Wow, Jean Bart calling someone else an “arrogant prick”. Pot, kettle, black…

  54. “Looks like anti-british bigotry isn’t a big deal whereas even hints or mere allegations of anti-semitism bring about a lot of opprobrium.”

    And to think that some people accuse libertarians of being “ahistorical!”

  55. Oh, yes, as an Anglo-American I feel so persecuted by “Braveheart” and “The Patriot.” Why, I had to go into therapy after seeing those movies.

    Even worse, I’m also part Irish and part German. Since both the Irish and the Germans have fought against England, I’m a self-hating Anglo-American.

    Oh, the cross I bear. Those Jews should stop whining, because REAL suffering is being an Anglo-American in a country that teaches every single school kid “Your ancestral people were oppressive, so we had to kill them 200 years ago.”

    disclaimer: The above was sarcasm directed at the person who got bent out of shape over alleged anti-British bigotry in Gibson’s movies.

  56. I dunno, that -eau looks pretty French to me.

  57. thoreau,

    you don’t do nuance, do you?

  58. Geotech,

    I’m not arrogant; I’m simply correct. Envy that all you want. 🙂

  59. John Hood,

    No, I am not a bigot; I anti-religious; as much as I am anti-communist (they are both equally foul – religion and communism). I suppose this in your mind makes me a bigot against the religious and communists; fine, I’ll accept that with honor.

    garym,

    “But making public pronouncements on a movie without seeing it is stepping into dangerous ground.”

    I don’t think so; its no more dangerous than making a private decision about this anti-semitic screed, or its anti-semitic author.

    rst,

    “Moreover it shows a general ignorance towards the entirely subjective nature of any movie critique, from ‘trash’ to ‘anti-Semitic.'”

    How so? Because I am unwilling put a jaundiced, pro-Christian positive spin on an anti-semitic snuff film?

    “Why sh/would we care about tip-toeing around Jewish sensitivities?”

    You don’t have to care; and I certainly haven’t demanded that you care (which makes me wonder why you are making this comment to begin with). I weigh forth with my positions; they do not come with some caveat that I demand you care about them.

    “Take it or leave it. Or rent it.”

    Now what you are doing is exactly what you intimated that I was doing; telling me how to care about something.

    A bigot is one who is excessively tied to their ideology; wedded to it; and excessively negative towards those in opposition to it.

  60. joe

    I have always been struck by how the list of art-works that might cause any sensible person moral uneasiness is an exceedingly short one

    …it wouldn’t be a whole lot longer than the one you supply– and Birth of a Nation is perhaps the only tough case, inasmuch as it is both a worthy and important film, and a vicious slanted account of an historical interlude still relevant.

    Potemkin does not bother me for its content– I don’t really have a problem with the 1905 Revolution (Ivan the Terrible might be a tougher case).

    Triumph of the Will is impressive really only in its opening montage, and thereafter quickly becomes tedious and even silly (the Fuerer Over Germany, the Labor Front saluting with raised shovels, Hitler giving a rambling and unmistakably dissumulating speech on the recent “blood purge”).

    All of which maybe off-point: on any reasonable construction, Gibson’s film isn’t anti-semitic…unless you can find anti-semitism in a cup of coffee.

    For sure, the episode which occured in history, in the Gospels, and in Gibson’s film, will not be filed under “Great Jewish Achievements in History: Trial and Execution of Jesus of Nazareth.”

    That is not because anyone seriously doubts that Caiphas and the Sanhedrin played the part described in the Gospels, but because no sane person identifies any contemporary Jews with those actions…and neither does Gibson, expressly or by any detectable implication.

    Joe, what is your problem with Gibson, anyway? Is it because he is a highly visible and unrepentantly Montanist Catholic, openly disrespectful of the current, and universally beloved, Half-A-Loaf Pope? Is THAT the reason he can’t possibly have made an important movie on the subject he cares the most about?

  61. A bigot is one who is excessively tied to their ideology; wedded to it; and excessively negative towards those in opposition to it.

    Right. We agree on that.

  62. JB:

    I got it, already. You’re a bigot, and proudly so. No need to be repetitive.

  63. Jean Bart,
    Certainly you can make a decision about a movie without seeing it. You have to; there are far more movies out there than it’s worth spending time on, so you have to decide in advance which ones to see. As I’ve previously mentioned, I’ve decided not to see POTC, based on the available evidence.

    But making public pronouncements on a movie without seeing it is stepping into dangerous ground. If the movie were really blatant, perhaps having Jesus say “All Jews are evil,” then one could judge it on the basis of nothing more than a trustworthy source for the quote. But making a public evaluation of the movie as “trash” and “anti-semitic” on the basis of other people’s reports shows too much willingness to depend on those reports.

  64. Moreover it shows a general ignorance towards the entirely subjective nature of any movie critique, from “trash” to “anti-Semitic”. Anything that is offensive to Jews is, apparently, “anti-Semitic.” Most of us don’t really care how offensive the notions of federalism, atheism, drug use, or nudity are to our righty and lefty countrymen. Why sh/would we care about tip-toeing around Jewish sensitivities? It’s not like Gibson showed up at a synagogue with an E-Z Bake oven. He made a movie. Take it or leave it. Or rent it.

    makes it fairly clear that Gibson is an anti-semitic bigot at some level

    Do you people know the definition of the word bigot? Pause and look it up. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  65. “I can make my decision about the film without seeing it”

    I assume this means the decision not to see it.

  66. EMAIL: nospam@nospampreteen-sex.info
    IP: 203.162.3.147
    URL: http://preteen-sex.info
    DATE: 05/20/2004 12:48:36
    The words of truth are always paradoxical.

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