Tom Hanks is evil, the Mona Lisa is a slut and the Renaissance was a bad idea.
These outré ideas seem close to reality when one hears of the assault on a film based on a fictional book by people who probably couldn’t tell the difference between a Da Vinci and a Raphael. The striving of fans of one superstition to stifle the telling of another tale reminds one that the dark ages were only a few centuries ago, and we didn’t get a DNA transplant that would change our innate fear of knowledge, sheepie mindset, and taste in literature.
The Indian government seems to be taking the lead in the latest bastion of the culture wars by pausing the screening of the new film based on Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. One recalls the blather around the Satanic Verses, which commenced with a few hecklers in India and led to the banning of the book, and thence the fatwa. The Indian government shows it has not changed since then, and Indian society demonstrates its ability to stifle free thought.
Taking a cautious approach, the government has decided not to give clearance to the screening of the controversial film, the Da Vinci Code, till the Information and Broadcasting Ministry and Catholic Church are satisfied the film will not hurt the sensitivity of Christians in the country.
Information and Broadcasting Minister P R Dasmunsi told reporters here on Tuesday that he along with members of the Catholic Church, and officials of the I&B ministry and Censor Board would view the movie in camera and only then a decision would be taken about its screening.
The gnostic roots and validation of the legend of a strong relationship between Jesus and Mary, or perhaps one should say Sophia, from sources as diverse as the Gospel of Philip, the early Christian ‘cult of the Great Mother’, the Gospel of Mary Magdala, and the proto-Gnostic Gospel of John might be ignored by the censors, and the mainstreaming of esoterica be void of comic irony, but the power of the idea is proven once again by the desire of people to stifle knowledge of it. Another layer of comic irony is derived from the dualistic transcendent ‘oriental wave’ nature of the Gnostic sources and the general acceptance of sexual and marital aspects of religion in countries like India, which feel behooved to protest against these dangers to a composite faith. To add philosophical fuel to the fire, the gnostic union is not on the physical level, bringing forth knowledge (gnosis) in the soul and transforming the knower himself/herself by making him/her a partaker in the divine essence, which partaking was more than simply assimilating the knower to the divine essence.
“There is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1: 9b) These words are proven time and again. We might think this the year of ‘censorship’, with art, cartoons, films, and books all coming under fire, but it’s happened a thousand times before.
The destruction of the library of Alexandria was done perhaps to stifle the words and ideas in it. This might have led to the secreting away of the Nag Hammadi scrolls and their later discovery, preserved through the centuries, the Inquisition and the manifold bloodbaths in the name of one ideology or superstition or another. The know-it-alls at the forefront of this latest offensive might think their version of history/mythology deserves to be protected, and their sentiments safeguarded, yet they neglect the lack of independent contemporaneous sources for the tales told in the Gospels, and the protection afforded the synoptic Gospels, even in the face of competing versions.
The furore has spread the world over. South Korea failed to ban the film, while the Thailand Christian Council is being more selective, wanting to excise the last 10 minutes of the film. A ‘health warning’ has been demanded in the UK, while evangelicals forswear their Protestant roots to ally with the Mother Church in the United States. The more clever censors are resorting to snobbery and elitism about the book’s quality, as if their literary diet were pure Joyce, Nabokov, and Ishiguro. The albinos have protested the 68th consecutive portrayal of an albino as a villain since 1960. Muslim clerics in Mumbai are gung-ho about the ban, and some bloke called Joseph Diaz has asked for his 15 minutes.
The Indian government’s action might delay the film’s release by a day or two, and pretty much guarantee an uptick in torrent and zero-day site hits as the film hits the Internet, as it doubtless will. It may even show up sooner, given the inauguration of the Cannes Film Festival with the Da Vinci Code. Publicity never hurt the box-office, so the producers can’t wait to feel the passion.
The strange thing about censorship, which Savaronola could have told you if you’d asked him, is that it does not work. It only takes one copy, one listener, one speaker, and one book to spread the word, or the code.Powered by Sidelines