Spirited discusssion of Mel Gibson‘s new movie, The Passion of the Christ, is increasing in the blogosphere. The loudest and most uncompromising voices tend to be those of those on the Right, who, while not necessarily members of the reactionary arm of Catholicism, are sympathetic to its embrace of “traditional values.” Another type of defender hails from the ‘it is just a movie’ school of thought. The following are typical are of the comments I’ve read by them.
In any case, while I understand people being a little concerned about Catholic attitudes when it comes to Jews, I think you should have a little, er, faith. No one’s walking out of this movie a Jew-hater who wasn’t already a Jew-hater walking in. I wouldn’t worry unduly, then, about anger and revenge: At the very least, it’s hard for me to imagine sitting through two hours of seeing a guy flayed alive and nailed to a piece of wood, and then coming out of theater like, “You know what I could really go for right now? More violence.”
Dear “ALL” I have yet to see this film, but I have read masses upon masses of reviews, insults, praise about it, and one thing has come to mind. You cannot blame a film for enciting jew hating maniacs, you either are one or you are not. I find it a total insult to any human being on this planet to suggest a film can be responsible for hatred of the jews or any other belief system. I myself will go to see the film on it’s release in Britain and no matter what I may think of it I WILL NOT come away with the feeling that somehow the jewish people are responsible for jesus death, this is probably because I have my own beliefs in spiritual matters and no one will change that, as I am sure most people on this planet who has any sanity will not be turned into pyschopathic religious haters. So my message being, all you subjective bigots out there “GET A LIFE ITS ONLY A FILM”, if we all had this reaction to the horrors that actually do go on in this world we could eradicate it over night.
I do not expect anti-Jewish riots in Pasadena and Des Moines as a result of The Passion, but I think the film could be harmful. The reason is: Art can reflect and exacerbate preexisting social problems in a society.
Before scoffing at the idea, I recommend considering two films that reflected and exacerbated bigotry toward African-Americans, Birth of a Nation and Gone With the Wind. Obviously, neither movie, nor the books they were based on, can be held responsible for the our nation’s 400-year-old romance with racism. But, what they did was support the notion that slavery, segregation and dehumanization of human beings in general is a romance, not an evil. Along with other cultural encouragement, they gave both the developing bigot and the confirmed bigot confirmation of his beliefs. I believe a movie that revives the myth of the Jews being solely, or mainly, responsible for the death of Christ could have the same impact.
For me, the genesis of The Passion of the Christ in adherents to the reactionary wing of Catholicism makes the intent behind the movie dubious. The Catholic Traditionalist Movement and Opus Dei both wish to return us to a time when issues of social justice were ignored and a rigid adherence to authoritarian doctrine was demanded. The movement also wishes to grow. The easiest way to do that is to attract like-minded persons from Protestant denominations to Catholicism. Since the reactionaries believe the Reformation should never have occurred, there is additional grounds for seeking out ‘lost’ Catholics. The Passion could easily become a method of recruitment for CTM and OD, as well as a way to reassure anti-Semites they have been right all along.