Saturday, November 13, 2004

The Gay Bashin' of the Christ

So I finally watched "The Passion of the Christ" last night. I know, I know...what's a devout Christian like myself waiting 7 months for? Well...a variety of things put me off. One, it seemed like everyone was seeing it, and as I already explained with Da Vinci Code I am automatically turned off by anything wildly popular. (To my own detriment, sometimes...I really enjoyed DVC.)

Plus, there was so much pre-release press that I felt like I'd already seen the movie just having read so much about it. And finally, having read all of that and hearing about Gibson's adherence to pre-Vatican II Catholicism and his alleged anti-Semitic upbringing, I just didn't feel like throwing $10.25 (welcome to movie theaters in Manhattan) at a millionaire who was promoting a view of Christ I wasn't sure I was going to share.

My first reaction is: what a waste of talent. The film was beautiful. Gibson has an eye for filling the screen with phenomenal, perfectly balanced and intriguing images. The art direction was superb. It was lovely to look at, and, I thought, very well cast. I was particularly impressed with Maia Morgenstern as Mary.

But I missed Jesus. I suppose if Gibson's intent was really to make a film about the crucifixion, and specifically that, I can't fault him for failing to give more time to the lessons Jesus taught. It would be like complaining that it's a fine wheelbarrow, but it doesn't play CDs -- you can't criticize something for failing to do what it wasn't designed to do.

Having said that, the character of Jesus in this movie is completely overwhelmed by the sadistic violence. I don't doubt that His final hours were every bit as miserable as the film depicts, if perhaps not even moreso. I can't help thinking, though, that the Gospels themselves don't spend a lot of time, proportionately speaking, about Christ's suffering and death. Gibson seems to want to win us over by inciting our outrage that such cruelties could be done to an innocent man.

But Christ was not just innocent. He was virtuous beyond reproach, kind, generous, a healer, and a pacifist. If you took all the segments of this film that showed Christ being any of these things and spliced them all together, they would occupy less time than the flogging scene. The thought that occurs to you over and over during this movie is, "How could they do this to someone?" I don't believe that He came to us to inspire outrage and indignance. He came to offer hope and comfort...and this was one of the most uncomfortable movies I have ever watched. While Gibson gives you Christ's Greatest Hits from the Gospels in one-verse-at-a-time flashbacks, showing a slightly bored-looking Jim Caviezel saying something compassionate for 5 seconds, he spends great stretches of the film glorying in creative camera angles capturing blood flying in every direction. For every peaceful thing He says in the film, He receives about ten lashes.

I did not really see this an anti-Semitic film; I mean, that's just the way the story goes, I'm sorry. For it to really be racist, I think there would have to be a more obvious playing-up of unpleasant stereotypes. However, I did find it distinctly homophobic.

The bloodlust and sadistic camaraderie of the Roman guards had a definite leather-clad S&M feel to it, and Gibson calls our attention to the same-sex debauchery early on when one guard grabs another by the head and moves as if to kiss him...they don't actually lock lips, but the one does wag his tongue lasciviously at the other.

King Herod's court looked like a retirement home for transvestites. Um, is this the same Herod who, according to the Bible, promised his stepdaughter anything in his power up to one half his kingdom if she would just dance naked for him? Sigh. You know how gay men love naked dancing girls. These guys weren't just gay, they were complete poofs, with obvious-looking wigs and fake beards and make-up.

The coup-de-grace, of course, was the effeminate Satan. Please. It was a bold stroke to cast a woman as the that has fascinating possibilities, and I think is a very valid choice, actually. Effeminate, though, is not to say "feminine." There's a difference. This Satan was distinctly androgynous; I wonder how many viewers thought the actor was actually a man? We certainly tend to think of the Devil as a masculine entity, if his representations in art are any indication. Yes, this was no female Lucifer, but rather a pale-faced limp-wristed pansy-assed lisping Fagistopheles.

I would hope people would recognize that this is just a movie, just one man's idea about the events of the final hours of Christ's life. They shouldn't take The Gospel according to Mel all that seriously. If they'd really like to understand Christ's passion, there's no substitute for the original source.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are complaining about $10.25!?!

That is the kiddie price in LA. Try $14 to see something at the ArcLight -- the only theater where one is not inundated with ads and umpteen trailers.

Oh, and Andy is a genius.