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the passion of the press
christ give it a rest
by greg cunningham

Mel Gibson’s penance for Lethal Weapon II through IV arrived in theatres Ash Wednesday, giving Catholics across the globe an excuse to skip church this year and head to the multplex instead for the epic movie The Passion of the Christ, a story from a book of collected short stories popular among hotel chains. But viewer beware. This isn’t your parent’s Jesus. Passion is a graphically violent movie which will upset many viewers not unlike the nausea many felt after viewing Saving Private Ryan or the last two Star Wars movies.

Like most Hollywood book-to-movie projects Mel had to leave out many details from the New Testament, and instead gives us a quick day-in-the-life-of-Jesus. Think Collin Farrell in Phonebooth or Kiefer Sutherland in 24. Otherwise this movie is total Mel Gibson: it has the savagery of Bravehart, the sadness of Man Without a Face, the glory of The Patriot, and the deeper understanding we all felt after What Women Really Want. The movie is marred, however, by a cliched Hollywood ending in which Jesus rises again, setting us up for numerous inevitable sequels if the movie is a hit.

The Pope attended a private screening of the movie at The Vatican, choosing the early matinee to avoid the crowd and save three bucks. His Holiness gave the movie his blessing despite the subtitles which The Pope said ‘made the story hard to follow’.

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Tribune gave Passion an enthusiastic thumbs-up but then got winded and had to sit down. President George W. Bush told reporters that he loved Passion and strongly recommended people go see it. At the time, however, the reporters, were asking Bush about his absence during National Guard duty, which Bush replied, “Yup. I really loved that movie”.

Many Jewish groups protested the movie’s release, most notably the ones who run Hollywood and regretfully passed on the movie when Mel first pitched it. A representative from The Anti Defamation League accused Passion of being Anti-Semitic. When asked by a reporter to give a specific example of anti Semitism in the movie the representative replied ‘Jew hater!” Bowing to pressure from Jewish groups Mel eliminated a controversial line from the movie where the Jewish crowd cries out ‘the blood of Christ is on our hands’ but Mel staunchly refused to remove the joke about the two Jews and the ATM machine.

Several African American groups protested the movie’s portrayal of Jesus as white skinned rather than dark skinned. Even Mel Gibson’s former acting partner and friend, Danny Glover, lambasted Mel for not using him in the movie, not so much because Danny believed Jesus was black, but because Danny really needed the work.

Mel sat down with Diane Sawyer in an exclusive television interview to answer the many pressing questions about Passion such as, ‘was it really necessary to put ‘the’ twice in the title?’ The hour long interview revealed to the world for the first time the real Mel Gibson,down to his true, unadulterated, core and love sick women across the globe collectively realized that Mel is actually kinda creepy.

Hoping to bank on a profitable trend, Hollywood announced plans to release more religious films representing other faiths including ‘Buddha’s Big Fat Eating Disorder’ and ‘Your arms are too few to box with Genesha’.


Mom was a militant feminist so radical she refused to serve chick peas. Dad was a lazy Mathematician best known for discovering 'rounding off'. Brother was tough as nails, working part time as a speed bump. Me, I'm a r-n-r purist,& consider anything recorded AFTER Pete Best left the band as 'not really the Beatles'. 38, single, 6' 6"' 240 white male

more about greg cunningham


tracey kelley
3.4.04 @ 11:14a

He Lives!

I meant you, not, well, you know.

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Tribune gave Passion an enthusiastic thumbs-up but then got winded and had to sit down.


We were having an active board discussion about this movie, so I'll just transfer some of it here. There have been many columnists who have recently said, "No one gets upset when there is a Buddist or Islamic movie - why is this one causing so much controversy?"

Well? Why?

mike julianelle
3.4.04 @ 12:56p

I think that's obvious. This is America. We don't care about anyone but ourselves, and we have a lot of Catholics. Jesus is a national icon, most people here don't know and don't care about Buddha or Allah or Mohammed.

dan gonzalez
3.4.04 @ 1:20p

There was controversy about The Last Tempation of Christ as well. Because it was not based on canonized scripture, most mainstream Christians did not welcome it. That it could have been a good movie despite conflicts with their beliefs did not seem relevant.

I haven't seen Mel's movie, but I suspect that even if it was a good film, it would get panned by people who's beliefs conflict with his telling of the story.

So I don't think it deals so much with American ego-mania. The Satanic Verses were hugely controversial overseas by people who don't care about Christianity.

I think it's just that people can't be objective about anything they have a deep-seeded, dogmatic belief in.

mike julianelle
3.4.04 @ 1:25p

As I said on the boards, Temptation was based on a novel that emphasized Jesus' human struggle with being the Son of God. Most of the controversy arose over a fantasy sequence at the end wherein, after being tempted by the Devil, Jesus imagines living a human life, complete with wife and kids, before rebuffing the Devil and accepting his fate on the cross. Gibson's attempt to legitimaize his movie, by saying his direction was assisted by The Holy Ghost, and pretending that it's some authoritative representation of the Bible, is total bullshite.

sarah ficke
3.4.04 @ 1:54p

There have been many columnists who have recently said, "No one gets upset when there is a Buddist or Islamic movie - why is this one causing so much controversy?"

When was the last time a movie came out about Mohammed receiving the Koran from Allah? I think if a movie was made that had the same basic thrust as Rushdie's Satanic Verses then there would be controversy, even in America, but that movie hasn't been made.

tracey kelley
3.4.04 @ 6:11p

M* and I were talking about this over lunch. He's of the opinion that the controversy is part of a liberal agenda, denouncing Christianity because it's the "majority" religion.

mike julianelle
3.4.04 @ 6:13p

The controversy isn't about denouncing Christianity at all. It's about a Christian denouncing Jews and about a wacko entertaining his penchant for sadism.

robert melos
3.4.04 @ 10:19p

When was the last time a movie came out about Mohammed receiving the Koran from Allah? A long time ago there was Mohammed: Messenger of God. I think around the late 70s.

Actually it too was considered controversial at the time. Honestly, I can't think of one religious film that was not considered controversial upon its release.

As a non-Christian, I have very little interest in the film. I know many people who've seen it, and who tell me how wonderful it is, how spiritually uplifted they felt. I've also had a very deeply religious friend of mine tell me she preferred The Devine Secrets Of The Ya Ya Sisterhood to The Passion Of The Christ.

tracey kelley
3.5.04 @ 10:30a

There's a movie airing on TV Monday night called "Judas", written and directed by the guy who did "OZ" for HBO. An article circulating about states that while The Passion has received all this enormous press, "Judas" is pretty much unknown.

mike julianelle
3.5.04 @ 11:32a

Well, considering the guy who wrote it wrote "OZ", I bet we're gonna get to know Judas uncomfortably well...

tracey kelley
3.5.04 @ 4:05p

Yeah, but, see, it's produced by a Christian film company.

rachel levine
3.7.04 @ 10:51a

I think this article nails it. The typically overly- enthusiastic, overly-dramatic, and under-balanced press-view (as opposed to world-view) bothers me most about The Passion. I can't remember the last time I saw the news airing a shot of of someone who just walked out of a Dianetics/Scientology building stating, "That session in there changed my life! I now really understand what its all about." Yet, it happens.
What bothers me second most are the large numbers of people who criticize this film who haven't seen it. I wish I could say more about it, but I haven't seen it and feel unqualified to comment.

mike julianelle
3.7.04 @ 1:13p

Rachel. I have seen the film, and I do criticize it. Mightily. Check out:


(added a space before the word "passion.html" so as not to screw up the formatting)


rachel levine
3.7.04 @ 7:08p

Read your review. I am sure my opinions would be fairly similar, but again, I have no plans to see the film and can offer no comment.
It took me many years to reach this decision, but I now deliberately avoid violent films. I do so even if I am missing out on something artistically great or culturally significant (I may yet break this rule as I often break my own rules). To quote a friend of mine who holds the same view as me, "You are what you eat."

rachel levine
3.7.04 @ 7:09p

Mike's review is in a magazine called the raw story. Coincidentally, as some of you might know, in my past life I had a column called Do they eat it raw? ... Is that a twilight zone episode or what?!


mike julianelle
3.7.04 @ 8:13p

I'm scared already.

As for your boycott of all violent films, I don't share the same view. I love violent movies, whether they be pure entertainment (True Romance, every single QT movie) or are an attempt at symoblism or edification (Fight Club, Saving Private Ryan). I understand objections to gratuity, but I am a staunch member of the "it's not fiction's fault" platoon. Sometimes art is violent, sometimes entertainment is violent, and sometimes, and I realize my stance on the Passion may sound disingenuous in light of all this, sometimes there is a line that can be drawn.

My problem with The Passion is that the extreme and graphic nature of the violence is presented a)as some kind of historical fact and b)with a self-righteous sense of authority. And, in my mind, it strips the violence inherent in Christ's sacrifice of anything except its physical and visceral impact.

mike julianelle
3.7.04 @ 8:13p



mike julianelle
3.7.04 @ 8:13p



dan gonzalez
3.7.04 @ 11:35p

Mike, just read your post on the boards on Temptation. Gotcha. I forgot it was a novel, I thought it was adapted from the Gnostic Gospels themselves.

I agree with the 'not fiction's fault' angle. And I think a piece of art is sullied if the artists' naked intentions reach through and bludgeon you.


lisa r
4.1.04 @ 7:37p

I haven't seen the movie yet, and wasn't going to, until the discussion (see my gallery post from today) I had with a very good friend of mine who saw it. To his credit, he didn't come back from the movie saying "I was wrong, I am going to beg you to see it", he stuck to his pre-movie stance and said it had to be my decision.

However, I will, at some point, see this film. First of all because it made a tremendous impact on him, and I owe it to him to be able to discuss his feelings about it on equal footing. But secondly, I just got through re-reading all 4 Gospel accounts of the Crucifixion, and everything I keep hearing the movie's opponents say is anti-Semitic is actually true.

Pontius Pilate DIDN'T want to crucify Jesus, it wasn't his idea....it was the high priests and scribes, and from the way my Oxford English Bible reads, it was out of plain old spite. They demanded that Pilate kill Christ. Which means the movie's not anti-Semitic, it's Biblically accurate. Now, if it had all been Pilate's or Herod's idea, and the movie blamed the priests, that would be different.

Personally, I don't care that the priests and scribes were Jewish...spiteful, narrow-minded old men with over-inflated egos come in all religions. I'm not about to hold Christ's Crucifixion against the entire Jewish nation. I think I'm smart enough to know the guilty parties aren't representative of an entire religious community.

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