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Re: [XTalk] Flashbacks - Jesus and Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ

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  • Zeba Crook
    Loren, I had the same response, and so side with Bob on this one Loren. If the movie was only released for Church related purposes, fairly assuming an
    Message 1 of 151 , Oct 5, 2004
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      Loren,

      I had the same response, and so side with Bob on this one Loren. If the
      movie was only released for Church related purposes, fairly assuming an
      audience fully conversant with Christianity, the flashbacks would be
      distracting at worst, and unnecessary at best. That is, the audience
      would already know (ostensibly at least) the reason for the death and
      the effects of it. But the movie was released not as religious art but
      Hollywood blockbuster, therefore its handlers believed that it could
      stand alone as a movie. The claim was made by pious viewers and
      commentators that there was something here for everyone (from the sounds
      of it, is that what Mark Goodacre says in his essay?). But I disagree:
      if one did not go into the movie already packing a full understanding
      (let alone acceptance) of the Christian story, one would come away from
      the movie thinking Jesus was killed for no good reason (like for being
      nice to puppy dogs). And here is where I think Crossan has a fair (if
      unfortunately overstated) point: because the flashbacks do not
      adequately explain/justify the actions of the Jewish High Priests, their
      actions appear evil in the extreme. A viewer might fairly conclude that
      "Anyone who would reject Jesus [the one depicted in the movie] must be a
      cruel animal," and that's where the anti-Semitism enters the picture.
      Unless you have some historical knowledge, which by far most viewers
      simply do not, one would not already know the culturally justifiable
      reasons for the actions of the High Priests, and the flashbacks do not
      provide that information sufficiently.

      Cheers,

      Zeb

      Bob Webb wrote:

      >Rikk,
      >
      >Obviously there is tremendous diversity in the "average viewer", not only in
      >North America, but across the world. What I'm suggesting is that, amongst
      >all that diversity, a majority of these "average viewers" are probably not
      >really biblically literate. Many may know something about Jesus and the
      >Bible, and they've heard stories, but I don't consider that to be biblically
      >literate.
      >
      >Certainly the flashbacks are most interesting. I found writing that chapter
      >a fascinating exercise (I had to go back and see the movie again, taking 12
      >pages of notes to do it). The do relieve tension at times and they do
      >present an larger picture of Jesus. But what I concluded was that the
      >flashbacks were insufficient to provide an explanation for the "now" of the
      >film--Jesus' violent end.
      >
      >Bob Webb.
      >
      >
      >
      >>I wonder if not explaining everything was actually a clever
      >>move < I am impressed that you even attempted to profile the
      >>average viewer, and for a universal audience, you're clearly
      >>a better man than I am Gunga Din :). From the anecdotal
      >>evidence I heard, those "odd" moments occasioned interesting
      >>conversations.
      >>
      >>Rikk
      >>PS I've not seen the book, having been away most of the
      >>summer, but glad to hear that you got it out.
      >>
      >>On 5/10/04 5:05 AM, "Bob Webb" <webb.bob@...> wrote:
      >>
      >>
      >>
      >>>Loren,
      >>>
      >>>Thanks for a most interesting and helpful review. One of
      >>>
      >>>
      >>the points we
      >>
      >>
      >>>made in the Introduction is that we invited a broad spectrum of
      >>>scholars partly in order to show the spectrum of response to the
      >>>issues in the film. So I certainly don't agree with
      >>>
      >>>
      >>everything that is
      >>
      >>
      >>>said within the book... The various authors disagree among
      >>>
      >>>
      >>themselves.
      >>
      >>
      >>>But let me respond to one comment you made about one of the
      >>>
      >>>
      >>chapters I
      >>
      >>
      >>>wrote:
      >>>
      >>>
      >>>
      >>>>Webb thinks the flashbacks are key to comprehending
      >>>>Gibson's vision: "without them the film would be a
      >>>>pointless gore-fest". I disagree. The flashbacks are
      >>>>
      >>>>
      >>unnecessary and
      >>
      >>
      >>>>distractive given the film's focus. And Jesus' passion isn't
      >>>>pointless; the context is supplied by familiarity with the gospel
      >>>>stories. I agree, however, with Webb's conclusion that
      >>>>
      >>>>
      >>Gibson's use
      >>
      >>
      >>>>of the flashbacks is "problematic and inadequate", not
      >>>>
      >>>>
      >>only because
      >>
      >>
      >>>>they insufficiently communicate the significance of Jesus, but
      >>>>because the viewer's own image of Jesus can provide all the
      >>>>framework one needs. Gibson's snapshots are too brief and
      >>>>superficial. In any case, Webb's individual commentaries on
      >>>>the flashbacks are helpful.
      >>>>
      >>>>
      >>>Where I think we differ is the assumption we bring to the question,
      >>>"who is a viewer?" You state, "And Jesus' passion isn't
      >>>
      >>>
      >>pointless; the
      >>
      >>
      >>>context is supplied by familiarity with the gospel
      >>>
      >>>
      >>stories." I would
      >>
      >>
      >>>suggest that a vast majority of viewers are not familiar with the
      >>>Gospel stories at all. Many viewers may have some vague
      >>>
      >>>
      >>sense of the
      >>
      >>
      >>>"story," from what they've heard in sermons and the like, but they
      >>>have never really read the diverse and individual Gospel
      >>>
      >>>
      >>stories. Even
      >>
      >>
      >>>fewer would have actually studied them. And then as the
      >>>
      >>>
      >>film is shown
      >>
      >>
      >>>around the world, in diverse religio-cultural contexts, the
      >>>familiarity would be even less, if virtually non-existent.
      >>>
      >>>We wrote the book with the "average viewer" in mind, and so
      >>>
      >>>
      >>we did not
      >>
      >>
      >>>assume a lot of biblical knowledge (e.g., I removed every
      >>>
      >>>
      >>reference to
      >>
      >>
      >>>"synoptic" Gospels; and I included a basic glossary of biblical and
      >>>religious terms).
      >>>
      >>>So it with this perspective in mind that I examined the
      >>>
      >>>
      >>flashbacks. I
      >>
      >>
      >>>do think they were used try and provide a context and
      >>>
      >>>
      >>explanation for
      >>
      >>
      >>>what was the violence. But they provided no context for the fierce
      >>>negative reaction to Jesus. But as I examined the
      >>>
      >>>
      >>flashbacks, I came
      >>
      >>
      >>>to the conclusion that for the "average viewer" they were both
      >>>problematic and inadequate. One does not understand unless
      >>>
      >>>
      >>one reads
      >>
      >>
      >>>into the film a lot of one's own pre-understanding. For
      >>>
      >>>
      >>example, if a
      >>
      >>
      >>>viewer's pre-understanding is biased towards an anti-Semitic
      >>>perspective (and it certainly still exists around the world
      >>>
      >>>
      >>today) and
      >>
      >>
      >>>only has a very limited knowledge of the Gospels, how would
      >>>
      >>>
      >>they view
      >>
      >>
      >>>the film and its violent reaction to Jesus?
      >>>
      >>>I would agree with you, however, that for the viewer who was
      >>>knowledgeable about the contents of the Gospels, the
      >>>
      >>>
      >>flashbacks would
      >>
      >>
      >>>be distracting and unnecessary. I guess I'm just more pessimistic
      >>>about the "average Joe viewer."
      >>>
      >>>Anyway, Loren, thanks for reading the book and being engaged by it!
      >>>
      >>>
      >>>Bob Webb.
      >>>
      >>>
      >>>
      >>>
      >>>
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      --

      Zeba A. Crook

      Assistant Professor, Classics and Religion

      Carleton University

      2a54 Paterson Hall

      1125 Colonel By Drive

      Ottawa, Ontario

      K1S 5B6

      http://www.carleton.ca/~zcrook/ <http://www.carleton.ca/%7Ezcrook/>







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    • Rikk Watts
      Already on it Tks Bob.
      Message 151 of 151 , Oct 8, 2004
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        Already on it

        Tks Bob.


        On 8/10/04 5:30 AM, "Bob Webb" <webb.bob@...> wrote:

        >
        > Mark and Rikk,
        >
        > You should probably do it soon. Volume 1 had alrady gone out of print, but I
        > convinced Continuum to re-print it so that libraries would be able to
        > purchase the complete run of the journal. I think they may not have
        > reprinted enough.
        >
        > Bob Webb.
        >
        >
        >
        >>> our library doesn't yet take JSHJ (sorry, Bob! I'm
        >>> making moves to rectify this).
        >> Me too! Just this very day in fact...
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
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        >
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        >
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