AN IMAGE OF GOD:
THE BIBLICAL HOLLYWOOD
I had a lot of things on my mind over the weekend. When it is cold outside you don’t get out much, so if I am not in a vegetative state in front of the television screen I am reading about some remarkable things that aren’t necessarily hardcore realism. But when you want to open your mind to new ideas, it doesn’t matter.
Over the past few weeks I have been looking over the works of Erich Von Däniken and contemplating whether or not hardcore realism can be had when discussing ancient civilizations and their supernatural, religious and occult ritualism.
There are always a small group of devout religious groups that are animatedly opposed to cultural anthropologists speculating or taking liberties about how ancient people interpreted their experiences with the supernatural.
However it seems that they are more forgiving when Hollywood decides to spin well known religious stories especially during the holidays. Epic films based on biblical stories are coming and so are various television specials about famous biblical events.
While attending a matinee of ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,’ I watched a preview for a new film called ‘Noah‘, starring Russell Crowe. I was completely floored by the realism that was in the preview. From the 148-foot ark to the arrival of the animals, this motion picture looks like it will be a triumph.
Steven Spielberg is in talks to direct ‘Gods and Kings‘ about Moses, Warner Bros. secured a script about Pontius Pilate and 20th Century Fox is having Ridley Scott reteam with Sigourney Weaver to remake ‘Exodus‘. Meanwhile, Sony is developing ‘The Redemption of Cain‘ as a vehicle for Will Smith and Lionsgate Films will distribute ‘Mary, Mother of Christ‘, promoted as a prequel to the highly-successful ‘Passion of the Christ‘.
Whenever I see this trend I become highly skeptical as to why the films are being made and I also realize that if the film is bad or is biblically inaccurate, woe upon the one who points this out as they always wind up being called antichristian or insensitive to Christian beliefs.
For example in the case of the film ‘The Passion of the Christ,’ those who first viewed the film to gave it an MPAA rating stating that due to its hyper violent nature and bloodletting the film would be given an NC-17 rating. Many people have been outspoken of the fact that the reason the film got an R rating was because of the religious theme of the film, otherwise the majority of the critics feared that it would unleash a rash of torture porn films. It can be argued that films like ‘Saw’ and ‘Hostel’, graphic and bloody films that would normally get NC-17 rating wound up with R ratings and were developed and shown after ‘The Passion of the Christ’ was released.
‘The Passion of the Christ’ was 126 minutes long with at least 100 of those minutes devoted to the graphically violent beating and torture of Jesus. The film was in Aramaic but the message was not lost on viewers. Critics like Roger Ebert stated that it was by far the most brutal and violent movie he had ever seen and even though people were cautioned not to bring children to the movie, the film became a family outing for some even though it was disturbing.
It was also disturbing to have religious leaders say that the movie was an accurate depiction of the crucifixion even though it was not necessarily biblically accurate. The film was only partially inspired by the Gospels and was based on Catholicism’s fourteen Stations of the Cross.
I was one of the unfortunate souls that saw the film, so then I encouraged people to avoid it. I realized that having a negative opinion about an ultra-violent film that is meant to be somehow spiritually uplifting made me a heretic.
I become suspicious about why Hollywood makes biblical epics. I am also dismayed as to how they always alter the real biblical story and how many people take them as gospel when they really shouldn’t.
For example, many people to this day are unaware that most of Cecil B. Demille’s ‘Ten Commandments’ is not at all biblically accurate and yet people will remember passages of biblical stories about Moses that were never placed in the bible.
In the movie ‘The Omen’, little Damien Thorne has won the lottery in the gene pool to be designated the son of Satan. The entire film is an eschatological fiction that is not exactly biblical. There is a moment in the third installment of the series where and older Damien Thorne reads a scripture:
“And it shall come to pass that in the End Days, the Beast shall reign one-hundred score and thirty days and nights, as the faithful shall cry unto the Lord; wherefore art thou in the Day of Evil? And the Lord shall hear their prayers, for out of the Angel Isle he shall bring forth a deliverer. And the holy Lamb of God shall do battle with the Beast and destroy him.”
In the 1976 original Brian De Palma film version of Stephen King’s ‘Carrie‘, there is a scene where the lead character comes home to her religious fanatic mother and explains that she has just had her period. Her mother slaps her to the floor and reads the following passage that appears biblical, but it isn’t:
“And God made eve, from the Rib of Adam And God made Eve from the rib of Adam,
And Eve was weak and loosed the raven upon the world,
And the raven was called sin, And the first sin was intercourse.
And Eve was weak, And the Lord visited Eve with the curse,
And the curse was the curse of blood.”
In the recent 2013 remake of ‘Carrie‘, the scripture is addressed as not even being in the bible. In the remake, the mother reads the scripture and then slaps Carrie around as before, but then Carrie – played by Cloe Moretz – says: “Mama that’s not even in the Bible, it doesn’t say that anywhere.” The teenage girl realizes that her mother takes liberties with the Bible and that she is not a true Christian.
It was reported that the reason this phony scripture was highlighted in the remake was to distance the fanatical Christian mother played by Julianne Moore from real Christians. It was the idea that the mother in ‘Carrie’ was not a true Christian, but one that invented her own hateful form of Christianity that included corporal punishment and violent behavior.
The thing that is most interesting about these films is that while they are religious horror films, many of them have never seen any boycotts or derision by fanatical fundamentalist groups. No one at Focus On The Family is demanding that these films be crossed off the list as anti-religious or religiously inaccurate films.
The most notorious time to see Hollywood spin the Bible is during all of the so-called Christmas specials.
One of the biggest myths that have been supported by Hollywood and just about everyone else is the story of the three kings or wise men. There is no biblical verse or scripture that states that the wise men were at the manger the night of Jesus’ birth.
While traditional movies and nativity scenes always show three wise men or kings visiting the infant Jesus on the night of his birth, Mathew’s Biblical account does not number the unnamed “wise men”, only naming the three gifts presented as gold, frankincense and myrrh. Also it is written that these wise men arrived when Jesus was older, quite possibly even a toddler. In Mathew, Jesus is “described not as a baby, but a child and residing in a house, not a stable, with only “his mother” present.”
We also view the Nativity in most Christmas or biblical movies as it is happening and not what allegedly happened before Mary gave birth to the Christ child. On one hand we hear that Mary was ”great with child” meaning that she was due to give birth and yet had to flee from Nazareth to Bethlehem. That is a 94 mile journey by donkey. So it would have taken a long amount of time to get there and frankly it would have been hard for a mother ready to give birth to make such a long journey. However, we are fed a bit of mythology every year about Christ’s birth and we continue to spread it. I am sure that people think that the spin on Christmas is as literal as biblical script.
The truth is, it really isn’t and while we put our little barns or stables near the gingerbread houses on the fireplace mantle we pay no mind to the fact that stables, at least the one that Jesus was born in was quite literally a cave.
The Quran states that Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem, as does the Bible. It has often been argued that Jesus was either born in a “guest quarters” outside the inn or a cave.
Both the Quran and the Bible say that he was born in quarters outside an inn. The Hand of God website notes, “The Gospel of Luke account states that Mary gave birth to Jesus and laid him in a manger “because there was no place for them in the inn,” but does not say exactly where Jesus was born.”
In the 2nd century, the Catholic Saint Justin the Martyr stated that Jesus had been born in a cave outside the town. In ‘Mary and Mariology‘ it says, “The Church of the Nativity inside the town, built by St. Helena, contains the cave-manger site traditionally venerated as the birthplace of Jesus.”
Some people feel guilty about spreading myths about Santa Claus, but every year we spread myths about Jesus’ birth.
But, as the UK Daily Mail reports, the flood of Christmas specials, biblical movies and TV shows shows no sign of receding:
“After the unexpected success of History Channel’s miniseries ‘The Bible’ earlier this year, the network has a new show in the works about Jesus’ so-called ‘lost years.’
Deadline.com exclusively reported Tuesday that the project is being produced by Eli Roth and Eric Newman, veterans of the horror genre, with Scott Kosar as the writer.
History Channel’s ‘The Lost Years’ will shed light on Jesus of Nazareth’s life between the ages of 13 and 30 – a period of time the New Testament largely does not cover.
In the gospels, Jesus reappears on the scene as a grown man nearly 17 years after his pilgrimage to Jerusalem with his parents.
He is then baptized in the River Jordan by John the Baptist and goes on to gather a group of disciples who follow him to Jerusalem, where his ministry presumably ends in crucifixion and subsequent resurrection.
The cable network’s new series is based on an original idea by Kosar, whose credits include The Machinist with Christian Bale and the 2010 horror flick The Crazies.
Newman is best known for his work on the 2006 Children of Men, Dawn of the Dead and the 2011 remake of John Carpenter’s horror classic The Thing.
Roth also comes from a horror background, producing Hostel in 2005 and its sequel, Hostel: Part II, among other films. Roth and Newman also jointly produced The Last Exorcism franchise.
According to Deadline.com, the trio’s new project following Jesus as a young man will explore the controversial idea that the Son of God may have started his ministry as an exorcist, ridding people’s bodies of demons.
While the gospels extensively talk about Jesus’ ability to heal the sick and even reanimate the dead, there is no concrete historical or theological evidence to suggest that Christ ever performed exorcism rituals.
It is unclear at this time how long the series will be, or when it will premiere.”
Needless to say, there has been a bit of controversy over known horror directors speculating on the whereabouts of Jesus in the epoch the Bible doesn’t cover. It has also been reported that the show may even be a bit like Jesus meets the ‘Walking Dead’ since ‘Jesus: The Lost Years’ will be a scary and gory account of those undocumented years.
Eli Roth has been called the “torture porn king” because of the films ‘Hostel’ and ‘Hostel II’ and so many Christians may see this as sacrilege. His mock film trailer – featured in the movie “Grindhouse” and called “Thanksgiving” – not only showed gratuitous and uncomfortable slasher sequences but also a man having sex with a turkey. Roth says that ‘Thanksgiving’ will be made as a full-length film.
Before the boycotts and protests begin, it must be said that Mel Gibson’s ‘Passion of the Christ’ – with all the praise about its authenticity, regardless of the traumatic torture and gore scenes – actually starred actors and actresses mostly known for their careers in the horror and porn genre.
Monica Bellucci, who played Mary Magdalene in ‘The Passion’ and also appeared in the Matrix films as the sexy Persephone, has been in movies that could be considered hardcore. As IMDB says, “She made a nude calendar for the Italian magazine Max in 1998 and another one for the Italian magazine GQ in 2000.”
Her most controversial move was appearing in the hardcore film “Irreversible“, where her character is graphically and violently raped for ten minutes. The scenes were so graphic that when it was shown at the Cannes Film Festival hundreds of people walked out and some claimed to need medical attention.
Rosalinda Celentano, the woman who played Satan in the film, also starred in the movie ‘Diary of a Male Porn Star.’
Claudia Gerini, the woman who played Pilate’s wife in ‘The Passion’, can be put in a Google search and her name pops up on porn sites dealing in fetish, sodomy and transsexual sex.
Maia Morgenstern, the woman who played Jesus’ mother in the film, has played in vampire films. Ironically, in the movie Morgenstern actually walks up to the cross and drinks the blood coming from the feet of Christ. Monica Bellucci also appeared in ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ and several other actors in ‘The Passion’ have appeared in vampire films.
It also needs to be said that while the religious community was unwittingly praising the film as accurate, critics had panned it and many of them speaking of Christians warned that this would eventually spawn a new genre of horror film featuring religious characters that are sacred to the general Christian public. Some even said that when the crown of thorns was placed on Jesus it made him look more like “Pinhead” from the horror film “Hellraiser” than the son of god.
It’s also worth noting that the new ‘Noah‘ film, which isn’t due in theaters until March 2014, is already coming under fire. BBC is reporting that, “Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky is at loggerheads with Paramount over the final cut of his biblical epic Noah. The film, which is reported to have surpassed its $125m (£78m) budget, has received negative reactions following test screenings across the US. According to the Hollywood Reporter, screenings have taken place in New York, Arizona and Orange County to allow for religious diversity. Christian and Jewish audience reactions were said to have been “worrisome”.”
We need to understand that just because we are exposed to Hollywood’s version of the Bible and we are treated to their take on Easter, Passover and Christmas – we can become mislead and spiritually bruised or even maimed by the twisting of history and the bending of biblical meanings that are presented.
We need to ask ourselves if these films present spiritualism or sadism. Do they malign certain religious groups and are they made in the spirit of promoting biblical accounts and if they are purely fictitious accounts of biblical characters should it be clearly stated in a disclaimer?
An even bigger question is whether or not the United States is far more enamored with pop theology than real theology and this is why we will be seeing more of the “biblical epic” in movie theaters and on cable.
I am sure that it is possibly a worn-out notion to analyze any and all implication of the trend, but religion and popular culture have never been good for true religion. However, it is great for business partners to generate money in a world focused on the apocalypse.