Comments: The Passion About "The Passion"

Nice job, Ben. To expand on one point, Mary's quoting of the Pesach is hardly some slam at Judaism. It serves two points, as far as I can tell:

1) To drive hom the point that Mary -- the most sympathetic character in the film, save Christ Himself -- is a Jew. In other words, it undercuts the spuriours charges of anti-Semitism.

2) It's making a theological point. Jesus is the lamb of God. It is now His blood that spares us from death. If Passover celebrates the Jews' freedom from Egyptian slavery, the Passion heralds all mankind's freedom from the bondage of sin. Such language and symbolism run throughout the New Testament.

Take care,

Posted by Chris Weinkopf at March 1, 2004 07:31 PM

Just because the line isn't subtitled doesn't mean that it isn't there. Subtitles can easily be altered at a future date, and the movie will certainly be released in other countries with different subtitles. Do you have any reason to know that that the film will not be released in, say, France, with the line translated? How about Malaysia? What about Egypt or Iran?

Mel Gibson's dad is an obsessed Jew-hater. Mel Gibson is equivocal on the subject, as though there were something honorable in not condemning antisemitism if it comes from someone close to you.

Then, as Ms Bernard points out, Mel goes ahead and makes a fictionalised presentation of the Gospels which is more brutal than the original texts; which changes the events depicted in the original texts; changes which are acknowledged to be historically innacurate. And those changes tend to maximise the depiction of Jewish bloodlust and hatred.

It is hardly a defense to the movie that some Jews were depicted sympathetically. Of course they were: the sympathetic Jews were, by and large, Jesus' followers and those who were to become Jesus' followers. It's as if it were inconceivable that someone could be decent and *not* become a Christian. That you're either baying for Jesus' blood, or blessedly immersing in it.

The film is a nasty piece of propoganda using stereotypes originating not in the Gospels, but in the last fifteen centuries of Christian Jew-hatred. How else can we explain the demonic children, and the shots of Satan walking around as if he himself were one of the JEws?

Posted by Joe in Australia at March 7, 2004 03:30 PM


As it happens, the movie will not be released in France because the distributors refuse to carry it. I would also find it rather unlikely that the Governments of Egypt, Malaysia and Iran would allow such a Christian movie to be screened in their majority-Moslem nations. Especially Iran, which is a theocratic state; their power rests on keeping other religions out of sight and out of mind. Ask the Baha'is about that.

So I don't think we shall need to worry about that particular subtitle ending up back in the movie. Furthermore, Mr Gibson's company will control distribution of the film; and given the global media environment, I can't see why they would put the subtitle back in. They would be found out if they did.

That said, Joe, I question whether you really saw this movie with an open mind. Your remark about decency seems to give that away. I am sure you are a decent person, of course; don't get me wrong! But what I took from your comment was that you didn't care for the core ideas of the movie; and are thus attacking it because of that.

The Satan issue you mention falls short because Satan looked like Marilyn Manson; he looked nothing like the other people in the film. As for the demonic children, it seems clear to me that by this time Judas Iscariot had gone mad, like the man who thinke he is a spark plug or a poached egg, and thus suffering delusions.

In short, there were messages in this film, but not where you were looking for them. I don't deny the film is propaganda -- that's kind of the point. But it is not conveying the ideas you took from it.

As for the issue of artistic license, you should know that there HAS to be a bit of that in any telling of the Passion. Sadly, the historians of that era didn't know what we would be looking for today; and as such, they skimped at places where we'd want more elaboration. The stories about that time are also different; any layman who reads the Gospels can see that, to say nothing of other histories. That said, I thought Mr Gibson did a good job of things and largely stayed true as to what happened, given the knowledge we know about the time.

Finally, as to your comment regarding Mr Gibson's father and the father's reported anti-Semitism. It reminded me of a comment John F. Kennedy made when he was told that Martin Luther King Jr.'s father wouldn't vote for Kennedy, because Kennedy was Roman Catholic (King Sr later changed his mind). Kennedy's response was this:

"Well, we all have fathers, don't we?"

In short, I'm not about to condemn Mr Gibson because his father happens to hold some reprehensible views. They're not Mr Gibson's views, they're his father's; and his father is thus the one who ought to be held accountable for them. Furthermore, Mr Gibson has shown through his actions in this life that he certainly does not share his father's views.

To shift blame for the father's error onto the son is unwarranted. Given the point you made above about the subtitles, Joe, you of all people ought to recognize that!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at March 10, 2004 07:04 PM