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

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  • Rikk Watts
    Zeb, Not to make a big issue of it, but I m not sure it s quite accurate to say it was released as a blockbuster ‹ my recollection was that no one wanted
    Message 1 of 151 , Oct 5, 2004
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      Zeb,

      Not to make a big issue of it, but I'm not sure it's quite accurate to say
      it was released as a "blockbuster" ‹ my recollection was that no one wanted
      to touch it initially, and the pundits were all claiming G would lose his
      shirt. It would have been in that setting that script-writing, shooting and
      most of the serious editing was done. But, I think in support of your point,
      when Crossan criticized the lack of explanation with (approx) "imagine if
      one were a Martian and saw this film ... etc." G. replied, "Sure, if you
      were a Martian" which seems to imply that he thought most of his intended
      audience would understand what was going on ‹ even if it was an off-the-cuff
      one-liner. My guess (!), however, would be that G was as surprised as anyone
      at Hollywood with the success of the film (I must confess to some
      anticipation to see how the Oscars handle this one...) and that the actual
      audience was a long way from the intended one. Does anyone have some hard
      data?
      One final point, again anecdotal evidence, but for what it's worth I've met
      a couple of Hindus and Sikhs who saw the film and they didn't get the
      impression that Jesus was killed for nothing. Mostly it was the old story of
      the corruption of power vs. a good man. But as I say, it's anecdotal and I
      guess until someone actually does a survey our opinions are just that... so
      I'd best leave it there I suppose.

      all the best,
      Rikk

      PS I don't mean to raise a hoary old issue, but being away this summer I
      might have missed some things: as a purely historical question, does anyone
      have any knowledge of a Jewish tradition, from before the modern period,
      that explicitly denies any/some/all involvement/responsibility in Jesus'
      death?

      On 5/10/04 6:55 AM, "Zeba Crook" <zcrook@...> wrote:

      >
      > 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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    • 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...
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > The XTalk Home Page is http://ntgateway.com/xtalk/
        >
        > To subscribe to Xtalk, send an e-mail to: crosstalk2-subscribe@yahoogroups.com
        >
        > To unsubscribe, send an e-mail to: crosstalk2-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
        >
        > List managers may be contacted directly at: crosstalk2-owners@yahoogroups.com
        >
        >
        > Yahoo! Groups Links
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
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