Gibson’s movie

by Micah on August 2, 2003

There’s been a lot of “talk”: lately about Mel Gibson’s movie about the death of Jesus. The “New York Times”: reports that Gibson has shown “The Passion” to:

bq. friendly audiences, but has refused to show it to his critics, including members of Jewish groups and biblical scholars. In Washington, it was shown to the Web gossip Matt Drudge, the columnists Cal Thomas and Peggy Noonan and the staffs of the Senate Republican Conference and the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and others. In Colorado Springs, the capital of evangelical America, the film drew raves. A convention of the Legionaries of Christ, a conservative Roman Catholic order of priests, saw a preview, as did Rush Limbaugh.

Why is it that no Jews seem to have seen this movie? (Do correct me here if I’m wrong.) Gibson’s people won’t show it to the “Anti-Defamation League”: The Times quotes the marketing director for the film as saying: “There is no way on God’s green earth . . . that any of those people will be invited to a screening. They have shown themselves to be dishonorable.” So the obvious question is: why doesn’t Gibson show the movie to some “honorable” Jews? Seems like he’s shown it to just about eveyone else.

bq. Update: I’m corrected already. “Matt Drudge”: is Jewish, and he liked the film. Somehow, that doesn’t allay my concerns.



Norbizness 08.02.03 at 5:34 pm

You’re forgetting about representatives from our country’s large Aramaic-speaking population. Incidentally, has Peggy Noonan written a column about it yet? Please God, tell me she has… I need a fix from “Magical Dolphin Girl” very very badly.


back40 08.02.03 at 5:42 pm

Does Horowitz count?


Thomas 08.02.03 at 5:54 pm

According to one published source, Michael Medved, an Orthodox Jew, has seen the film.

See > (” So far, the only Jew to be granted a viewing was Michael Medved”)

Somehow I don’t think anything will allay your concerns.


thomas 08.02.03 at 5:55 pm


Dick Durata 08.02.03 at 6:03 pm

To get everyone, everywhere frothing at the mouth, they should show ‘The Passion’ back to back with ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’.


Krupnick 08.02.03 at 6:54 pm

Micah, you seem to imply in your post that in this qoute, “There is no way on God’s green earth . . . that any of those people will be invited to a screening. They have shown themselves to be dishonorable,” “those people” is being used to refer to the ADL. I am not entirely certain (since my dad has just carried our copy of the Times off to the airport), but I thought that “those people” was being used to refer to the group of catholic biblical scholars who allegedly stole a copy of the script (hence their dishonorablity) and then went on to criticize it for a lack of fidelity to reality (or to what the Bible says is reality). These scholars want to see a screening of the movie since they only saw the script (and because Gibson and Co. have been saying that there have been changes, from script to screen, that the scholars haven’t seen.) But Gibson won’t let them, probably because he fears more criticism.

These scholars, however, tell quite a different story (they didn’t steal a copy of the script. It was given to them by Gibson’s production company for review.) Their version of events is layed out in some detail in a TNR from a couple of weeks ago. I believe it is in the one with Howard Dean on the cover. I tend to believe their version.


Jimmy Doyle 08.02.03 at 6:54 pm

Anyone who’s interested in the controversy over Gibson’s movie should read Paula Fredriksen’s dynamite article in the New Republic. Fredriksen was part of a group of concerned Jewish and Catholic biblical scholars (she teaches at Boston College, I think) who examined a draft of the script. TNR requires a subscription but the whole article was reproduced on a blog somewhere; I forget where, unfortunately. (Tacitus linked to it but I can’t find the post in his archives, dammit.) I must admit to an instinctive roll of the eyes when I first heard that some people were saying that the movie was antisemitic, but Fredriksen’s account makes it clear that there are very serious problems with the movie, and that most of its claims to scriptural ‘accuracy’ are bogus.


Jimmy Doyle 08.02.03 at 7:08 pm

Incidentally, doesn’t Tacitus deserve a namecheck on your blogroll? I know he’s conservative, and you guys aren’t, but anyone who despises Anne Coulter and Little Green Footballs as much as he does can’t be all bad. And you link to Reynolds, FCS!


Elina 08.02.03 at 7:11 pm

Who cares if it’s accurate. No-one who isn’t christian is going to find it accurate anyway, which is perhaps why it hasn’t been shown to many Jews.

It seems somewhat spurious to whine on about how the film misrepresents some aspect of a story, when we have to ignore the bits with miracles and the rising of the dead of the son of God.

I’m sure if the Jews made a film about the great pretender Jesus Christ, that they might not be granting previews to too many Christians.


Krupnick 08.02.03 at 7:42 pm

“Who cares if it’s accurate.”

Well, it’s purported to be non-fiction. They could have made a fictional movie instead and then of course no one would care if it was accurate. Ineed, it doesn’t even make sense to cry inaccuracy over a fictional story (of course, there are always other things to complain about.) But, since the movie is supposed to be a true account of the death of Jesus it makes sense to demand that it is actually true, since otherwise the makers of the movie would be seriously misleading people (which is exactly what the movie’s detractors fear the movie is doing.)


Timothy Burke 08.02.03 at 7:51 pm

On one hand. There is certainly reason to suspect that Gibson has drawn on questionable scriptural sources that may have a specifically anti-Semitic bias, based on what I’ve read about this controversy. Plus Gibson has a track record of sticking unnecessary and anachronistic stereotypes into his work–vz. the absurdly over the top queeny-faggotry of the villainous prince in “Braveheart”.

On the other hand. I can’t help but feel that this film gets a certain level of aggressive scrutiny from cultural critics who would otherwise go into paroxyms of delight about a nine-hour film that tries to present a narrative accessible to viewers on a primal emotional level even when they can’t understand any of the dialogue. If Gibson was Matthew Barney and the film was the Cremaster Cycle–or more pungently, if he was Claude Lanzmann making “Shoah”–you can’t help but feel that some of the people who are gunning for him would be rooting for him instead.


Walt Pohl 08.02.03 at 9:27 pm

Timothy: didn’t the critics all hate Cremaster? I only ever saw negative comments about it in print.


Laura 08.02.03 at 10:29 pm

I don’t think that calling it fiction would make much of a difference as far as most of the critics are concerned. I’ve spent more time recently reading about the controversy over “The Last Temptation of Christ” than I ever wanted to, and none of the million ministers circulating petitions against it were going “oh, well, it’s fiction, so really it’s no big thing if Our Lord is shown getting it on with Mary Magdalene.”

One of the crucial points made in the Times article, as far as I can see, is that many of the people upset about this movie are Catholics, and that Mel Gibson is part of a sect “considered beyond the pale even by conservative [Catholics].” That, combined with his self-evidently massive ego, looks like trouble to me. And the argument advanced by someone involved with the film that the things the Romans are shown doing to Christ are so disgusting and brutal that by the end you’ve totally forgotten about what the Jews did does not make the strongest case that the film is not anti-semitic. Or that anyone but a sadist could enjoy it.


Reg 08.02.03 at 10:55 pm

How would anybody go about making a purely historical account of Jesus anyway. Scholars disagree about everything concerning Jesus. No matter what is made, some group will be upset.
The anti-semitism charge seems ridiculous. So long as the movie doesn’t stray from the biblical story how can that be anti-semitic? Unless one thinks the biblical accounts are anti-semitic, which is what seems to be the case.


David Sucher 08.03.03 at 12:09 am

“So long as the movie doesn’t stray from the biblical story how can that be anti-semitic?

the TNR article by Fredericksen is apropos to your comment.


Timothy Burke 08.03.03 at 1:18 am

Well, I dunno what Rex Reed or Gene Shalit might have said about Cremaster but the middlebrow elite and the art house critics pretty well (legitimately) cream themselves over it. As you think they might about a 9-hour movie in Aramaic and Latin with no subtitles (uh, Mel baby, the Romans ought to be speaking Greek or maybe vulgar Latin, which probably doesn’t sound much like book Latin).


pathos 08.03.03 at 1:18 am

The movie, apparently, is based not only on the gospels, but on the visions of some 17th century nuns which put the local Jews in a bad light. In a text with contradictions, there are logical interpretations that play up the “Jews wanted Jesus dead” angle and interpretations that play up the “Rome was in charge, and the Jews were an easy place to place the blame” angle.

If there are multiple acceptable interpretations, chosing the one that puts the Jews in the worst possible light may reasonably be interpreted as anti-Semitic.


Walter 08.03.03 at 2:49 am

But if it’s ‘acceptable’ in the first place, I don’t think it’s a reasonable interpretation to say the decision was made anti-Semitically. I think you need more information than the mere fact that it’s the one that “puts the Jews in the worst [but apparently acceptable] possible light.”


pathos 08.03.03 at 3:51 am

I disagree Walter. Choices have to be made and choosing the ignore the risks of anti-Semitism is itself a choice. Meanwhile, from the TNR article:

“Finally, details of the film as reviewed by the insider-fan on June 26 conform exactly, alas, to what we had seen in the script. Satan inciting the executioners at their task; “a vicious riot of frenzied hatred between Romans and Jews with the Savior [en route to Golgotha] on the ground in the middle of it getting it from both sides”; the post-crucifixion Mary-and-Jesus pietà–no such scenes exist in the Gospels. But they are all in the screenplay that we saw.”

Frenzied hatred of Jesus by Jews in a scene not in the Gospels is evidence enough for me.


Invisible Adjunct 08.03.03 at 4:19 am

Nine hours long and with no subtitles? Sounds like the Tridentine mass that they celebrate in Gibson’s private chapel.


Oggie Ben Doggie 08.03.03 at 4:53 am

Dialogue in Latin, Greek, and Aramaic.
No subtitles. Long. The only people who will
watch this movie will each have enough sense
not to see it as a pretext for starting a
kike-bashing riot. This Jew isn’t worried and
doesn’t think the ADL should worry either.


back40 08.03.03 at 5:02 am

Actually, those who have seen the movie rather than just an early version of the script say it does have subtitles.


Walt Pohl 08.03.03 at 9:07 am

Timothy: I know that art house audiences like Cremaster, but do art house critics? Here in Seattle, even the local weeklies (who are so very, very artsy) panned it.

Back40: The movie has subtitles? He’s sold out!


nick 08.03.03 at 9:44 am

Matt Drudge is Jewish? Who’d have thunk it. Well, we know for certain that he’s not gay, oh no. That’s because he slaps writs down on anyone who even suggests such a thing, especially David Brock, who was in a position to know.


Walter 08.03.03 at 9:48 am

pathos, unless I’m mistaken, merely “choosing to ignore the risks of anti-Semitism” is frankly not anti-Semitic. You seem to be discounting out of hand the possibility that someone could have non-anti-Semitic reasons for choosing the acceptable interpretation that just so happens to put the Jews in the worst possible light. Without more information, the belief that the choice was made anti-Semitically is simply arbitrary.


Nabakov 08.03.03 at 12:54 pm

Well gee – a hooha about people having differing views about how to judge someone else’s intepretation of other people’s coverage of some bronze age desert bloke enmeshed in local politics, and who was said to be fathered by some sky god jointly claimed as their own by three seperate and distinct geo-political, cultural and racial groups.

You’ll be discovering steam next. Me, I’m putting my money into a biopic of Loki, avatar of a true belief system for our times.


Guessedworker 08.03.03 at 4:00 pm

Fist, I do not believe that those interested enough in the crucifixion to sit through this film will see it as a direct rendition from history. That would, after all, be extremely stupid, wouldn’t it, and not something that we would expect of ourselves. It seems very arrogant to impute such studpidity upon others.

Second and with that in mind, what would be so unacceptable and wrong about Gibson’s film if it did criticise the jews? I’m British and there’s a long history of film critical of my kinsmen’s role in various historical events. I don’t expect them to be immune from criticism.


Nick Blesch 08.03.03 at 7:20 pm

Guesse: The difference comes when you start criticizing religious views instead of political views. For a number of reasons, it is perfectly fine to criticize someone’s political views, such as this hypothetical argument:

Person 1: Abortion is bad because it harms society through the destruction of personal responsibility.
Person 2: Hmmm, I see where you’re coming from, but I would think abortion would be okay because the possible benefits to society – such as fewer people who don’t want children having – would outweigh the downfalls.

This is a perfectly acceptable discussion to have. Persons 1 and 2 may disagree vehemently with one another, but without religion involved, civil discussion is possible. Compare that to most abortion discussions or the clashes between gays and the “God hates fags” crowd… See also the constant back and forth between left-wingers (typically) who bash Bush based on his religion and right-wingers (typically) who defend him.

To put it simply: religion is something people can’t be too awfully logical about, because religion by definition requires a bit of a suspension of certain kinds of logic. Faith in something isn’t faith at all if you can logically prove that it is true. (disregarding for the moment that one must have faith in the fact that logic works – but you see my point, I hope) Thus, having any sort of civil discourse on religion is usually out of the question; with respect to religion, all people think their beliefs are the absolute truth (or they wouldn’t believe them), and anything that disagrees with their personal beliefs is obviously an affront to the “Truth.”


Norbizness 08.03.03 at 7:49 pm

I think the original NY Times article on the movie suggested that it should (for accuracy’s sake), look more like “Rashomon”, in that the accounts of Jesus’ last hours vary greatly from Gospel to Gospel.

(, about 2/3rds of the way down)


Walter 08.03.03 at 8:28 pm

nabakov, my point is less about the already semi-ridiculous nature of the debate, than it is about how we could reasonably draw an inference that somebody was being racist. That’s a serious charge to make no matter what the situation, and I’m just here to make sure we’re taking it seriously.


Kevinb Bowman 08.03.03 at 10:45 pm

The reaction to Gibson’s movie is hysterical. What it all boils down to is a back-handed assertion that the Gospel stories are anti-semitic and unhistorical. Fine. Everyone is entitled to his opinion. But the attempt to attempt to paint Gibson’s movie as peculiarly anti-semitic is intellectually dishonest.

The notion that population of Jerusalem turned against Jesus and the religious establishment of the City (i.e. that High Priest et al.) played the forceful role in his crucifiction is a central part of the Western Christian tradition. Why should a modern telling have to revise or soft-peddle that? The story of the man persecuted by the mob is one of the central ideas of western culture and religion. (E.g. watch “Meet John Doe”) It’s unfortunate that these same themes have been exploited by anti-semites. But to demand that they be expurgated from the Christian story is offensive and stupid.

This is all anti-religious bigotry and politically correct censorship masquerading as high-mindedness.

Not having seen the movie, I would still side with Mel Gibson (a fine actor and director who has created real art in the past) against the loathsome Frank Rich (who is an incompetent political commentator now and was little more than a destructive force as a broadway critic in the past).

BTW, what is it about Matt Drudge and David Horowitz amd Micahel Medved that disqualifies them as Jews? Is it because they are conservatives? I say bullshit. Horowitz is extraordinarily sensive to real anti-semitism in its contemporary form. The left, which now seeks to condemn Gibson, was (and is) strangely silent about vile instances of anti-semitism in Europe and in the anti-war movement.


pathos 08.04.03 at 12:30 am

At the risk of invoking the wrath of Wittgenstein and other philosophers, some facts:

Fact 1: Gibson is reported to belong to a sect of Catholicism that rejects Vatican II, which stated, among other things, that the Jews were not collectively responsible for the death of Jesus.

Fact 2: Historically, Passion plays have been the trigger for pogroms against Jews.

Fact 3: Due to the first two Facts, the Catholic Church has provided guidelines on how passion plays should be performed.

Fact 4: Any Catholic who creates a large budget movie about the death of Jesus knows Facts 2 through 3 or is recklessly ignorant of them.

Fact 5: The experts who created the report claimed that Gibson violated some of the guidelines from Fact 3.

Conclusion: Of course, none of us have seen the movie. If, however, the guidelines in Fact 3 are violated, the conclusion must be that the producer is reklessly indifferent to the risk of pogroms, and is therefore anti-Semitic.


Walter 08.04.03 at 12:55 am

Better, and thanks. When you first said “choosing to ignore the risks of anti-Semitism,” I thought you merely meant, “choosing to ignore the risks of being interpreted as anti-Semitic.”

Consider me more informed.


Jane Galt 08.04.03 at 12:25 pm

I’ve actually seen no evidence that Gibson is a schismatic, and from things I seem to recall him saying in interviews (taking mass in various shrines) it seems unlikely. There are a lot of wing-nuts in uncomfortable communion with the church on both left and right; the fact that the church he founded is giving an unapproved version of the latin mass doesn’t mean he’s rejected the authority of Rome, or that Rome has rejected him.

I’d also like to see an end to “proving” the film’s antisemitism by slanderous association. The fact that Vatican II, among other things, reconciled the status of the Jews as God’s chosen, does not mean that everyone wo rejected the Council is an anti-semite. They had a large number of arguments with Vatican II, and the relationship of the Church with judaism was not one of the main issues under consideration, although I understand that it became central for some loudmouths. It’s like claiming that the main argument between the Ultra-Orthodox and the Reform movements is whether or not to wear black suits. Juxtapositioning these two facts is a shoddy way of “proving” something that you can’t prove unless you dredge up some actual anti-semitic statements, which so far no one seems to have been able to do.


pathos 08.04.03 at 2:41 pm

Check out the ADL’s statement on the film.

Of course, all I can provide is innuendo and association because I have not seen the film. All I can do is point to what others are saying. This is from the above link.

“Based upon the scholars’ analysis of the screenplay, ADL has serious concerns regarding the Mr. Gibson’s “The Passion” and asks:

Will the final version of The Passion continue to portray Jews as blood-thirsty, sadistic and money-hungry enemies of Jesus?

Will it correct the unambiguous depiction of Jews as the ones responsible for the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus? Will it show the power of the rule of imperial Rome-including its frequent use of crucifixion-in first-century Palestine?

Will the film reject exploiting New Testament passages selectively to weave a narrative that does injustice to the gospels, that oversimplifies history, and that is hostile to Jews and Judaism?

Will it live up to its promise “to tell the truth?” To do so, the final product must rid itself of fictitious non-scriptural elements (e.g. the high priest’s control of Pontius Pilate, the cross built in the Temple at the direction of Jewish religious officials, excessive violence, Jews physically abusing Jesus before the crucifixion, Jews paying “blood money” for the crucifixion), all of which form an inescapably negative picture of Jewish society and leadership.

Will it portray Jews and the Temple as the locus of evil?”


John 08.04.03 at 8:49 pm

The script has Jews building the cross in the Temple? That sounds pretty unambiguously anti-semitic to me, if true. Adding non-scriptural episodes that show the Jews to be more responsible for Jesus’s death than is shown in the Bible is indefensible.


alistair 08.05.03 at 3:15 am

A lot of the confusion over this film arises from a sort of intellectually lazy conflation of relatively specific and valid criticism of its alleged historicity and adherence to the Gospels, with the far more vague and unsubstantiated allegations of anti-Semitism. There are also a lot of factual claims being thrown around out of context, which can easily mislead people into believing a certain scene is in the film, for instance, when there is no proof of this.

john’s post above is a prime example. Gibson stated in an interview that he was drawing inspiration from the writings of two nuns, one of whom is Sister Anne Catherine Emmerich, “a 19th-century mystic whose visions included extrabiblical details like having the Jewish high priest order that Jesus’ cross be built in the Jewish temple.” (NYT)

Organizations such as as the Anti-Defamation League have seized on this one detail and written about it as if this event occurs in the film itself. However, there is nothing in the record to suggest that this scene actually does appear in the film. It’s not john’s fault that he was confused. It’s the fault of those who are leveling these very serious charges, without a single piece of concrete evidence drawn from the screenplay or the film itself.

Another example is posted by pathos above. He quotes from one account of the film, which describes “a vicious riot of frenzied hatred between Romans and Jews with the Savior [en route to Golgotha] on the ground in the middle of it getting it from both sides.”

He then goes on to misinterpret this scene as “frenzied hatred of Jesus by Jews.” The obvious interpretation is what it actually says: Romans and Jews are fighting EACH OTHER, while Jesus is caught between the two sides. (An interesting metaphor, and hardly an obviously anti-Semitic viewpoint, as pathos would have us believe.)

There are dozens of other egregious examples of leaps of logic and unfair inferences in all the articles and comments written about this film. The campaign against Gibson’s film before it’s even released reminds me of “The Minority Report” — a desperate attempt to head off a potential crime before the poor defendant has a chance to commit it — if indeed he will commit a crime at all.

Poor Gibson has been tried and convicted by the supposedly pro-free-expression media before the public gets a chance to see his movie for themselves. I for one will reserve judgment until my own eyes have seen it.


Robert Schwartz 08.05.03 at 5:47 am

I am with oggie on this one. I am a Jew and I do worry about anti-semitism, but I will not worry about a movie that is going to be watched by very, very few people (long, foreign language films with or without subtitles run only in urban art houses to tiny, tiny audiences — even when they have lots of naked women in them).

There is real anti-semitism abroad, much of it eminating from the poisonous swamps of the Arab world. It has become unfortunatley fashionable for leftists, especially in Europe but also in the United States, to echo or accept this crap. As Kevin Bowman said: “The left, which now seeks to condemn Gibson, was (and is) strangely silent about vile instances of anti-semitism in Europe and in the anti-war movement.”

Unfortunatly, Abe Foxman, the ADL and a lot of other old timers and old organizations in the Jewish Community have yet to focus on the real problems of the 21st century. I suppose that it is much easier to refight the wars of the 19th and early 20th centuries than it is to figure out why the world has changed.

P.S. Jane: Mel Gibson does not seem to be an orthodox Roman Catholic

Tim Burke: I think the New Yorker creamed over the Cremaster thing but I do not have a cite.

“the absurdly over the top queeny-faggotry of the villainous prince in ‘Braveheart’.”

That was Edward II. He was pretty much like that and it led to his downfall. The real anachronism in the movie was Isabella (a/k/a The She-Wolf of France), who was still a child when Wallace died.

P.P.S. Jimmy Doyle — I love Little Green Footballs! Charles Johnson is a ger tzadik.


alistair 08.05.03 at 6:53 am

Exactly. Does any serious person honestly believe that contemporary Christians are just one Passion film away from reviving the Inquisition?

The obvious source of anti-Semitism today is the ongoing Middle East conflict, not millennia-old grudges over who killed Jesus. The most significant threat to Jews everywhere is not a relative handful of idiotic “Christian” skinheads, but the millions who adhere to militant fundamentalist Islamism and preach death to Israel.

There is indeed a disturbing rise in anti-Semitism today, particularly in Europe. But those anti-Semites who aren’t Muslim are fueled not by Christian zeal but rather by anger, justified or not, over Israel’s perceived ill treatment of the Palestinians (as portrayed in the European media).

In fact, I’d venture to guess that most contemporary Europeans, especially among the elites, who engage in anti-Semitic rhetoric and actions are atheists, and couldn’t give a fig about who killed Jesus. The secular far left’s drift into anti-Semitism is a very disturbing development that cries out for greater scrutiny.


dsquared 08.05.03 at 1:45 pm

>>over Israel’s perceived ill treatment of the Palestinians (as portrayed in the European media).

I don’t know what the opposite of a “factive use alert” is, but I’m sounding one right now.


micah 08.05.03 at 2:45 pm

If there’s confusion about the content of this film, I’m willing to put the blame squarely on Gibson’s people. They’ve shown this movie to a lot of influential right-wing talking heads, presumably so that they can talk it up. So you have Matt Drudge telling Pat Buchanon that the movie is a “miracle” that left him in “total tears,” or this “blogger”:, who says she’s seen the movie and thinks that “Every Christian needs to see this film at least once.” If Gibson is showing the movie to his friends (many of them, apparently, on the right) and then letting them loose to tell the world how great it is, then it shouldn’t be any surprise when the critics come calling. If he wanted criticism of the movie to be more accurate, then he should have shown the rough cut of the movie to critics, or perhaps selectively released the final script, or told his “friendly” audiences that the preliminary screening was for their personal benefit and not a marketing stunt.


Timothy Burke 08.05.03 at 6:06 pm

Gibson definitely introduced an element of anachronistically swishy-effeminate gestures into the representation of Edward II in “Braveheart” (not to mention making Wallace contrast as so uber-hetero that he gets to bed Edward’s wife as well as his lost love). But then he also made Wallace out to be a modern nationalist-democrat, so you can’t object just on the basis of anachronism.

On the main subject, I basically agree with those who think that the concerns being expressed over the film are premature and problematic. Why do we get on Bob Dole’s case for representing films that he never saw and then give people a free pass to hammer on Gibson based on sketchy (to say the least) knowledge of what his rather interesting-seeming film project actually is.?


alistair 08.05.03 at 8:46 pm

Good point. When Christians complain about certain movies or art exhibits they haven’t actually seen, they’re routinely mocked.

There’s also a double standard with respect to Christian sensibilities. Irate Christians are told to relax and “get over it” when such films as “The Last Temptation of Christ” come along that they find insulting to their beliefs. The same applies to art exhibits like “Piss Christ.”

I haven’t done a Nexus search, but I would wager a day’s pay that Frank Rich, who denounces Gibson’s film sight unseen, is guilty of all of the above.

As for the negative criticism all being Gibson’s fault, it should be noted that it all started with a leaked early draft of the screenplay to a self-appointed committee of “experts.” And this committee has claimed the script is anti-Semitic without providing a single quote from this screenplay — not one line of dialogue or scene direction — to back their claim.

Committee member Paula Fredriksen in her TNR article makes great hay out of Gibson’s citing of Sister Emmerich as a source of inspiration, but she fails to cite specific instances in the script itself where the anti-Semitic aspects of Emmerich’s writings are represented.

Fredriksen read the script. If Emmerich’s description of the crucifix being constructed in the temple on the orders of the high priest occurs in the script, why not say so?

A close reading of all the articles that have been written about this subject reveals that no specific evidence has ever been presented of the script’s (let alone the film’s) alleged anti-Semitism — only the vaguest sort of innuendo and inference. It’s a shame that the Times has signed on to this specious campaign to destroy a work of art before it can even see the light of day.


Invisible Adjunct 08.05.03 at 9:53 pm

“(not to mention making Wallace contrast as so uber-hetero that he gets to bed Edward’s wife as well as his lost love).”

Am I misremembering (it’s been a while since I saw the movie), or didn’t the film even go so far as to suggest/insinuate that it was actually Wallace who fathered the heir to the English throne (ie, Edward III)?


Walter 08.06.03 at 12:09 am

Re: Braveheart, you’ve gotta remember that Gibson only directed it. Some other dude, last name ‘Wallace’, wrote the screenplay. Gibson could’ve easily changed some things around, but I don’t think that the basic interpretation of Wallace or bedding Edward’s wife was his idea.


Robert Schwartz 08.06.03 at 3:51 am

Tim: “Gibson definitely introduced an element of anachronistically swishy-effeminate gestures into the representation of Edward II in ‘Braveheart'”

Hollywood, baby, you got get the message through to the masses without subtitles. It is a fact that E II was a homosexual and a fact that he was notorious for showering favors on his male lovers. One historian says that at his wedding, the court was scandalized because he prefered the bed of his lover to that of his wife. How do you get that through to a modern audience?

“Am I misremembering (it’s been a while since I saw the movie), or didn’t the film even go so far as to suggest/insinuate that it was actually Wallace who fathered the heir to the English throne (ie, Edward III)?”

IA: I don’t remember either. Whatever, the the real Isabella was about 9 when the real Wallace lost his head. The real Isabella would be a great subject for a movie.

Walter: “Re: Braveheart, you’ve gotta remember that Gibson only directed it. Some other dude, last name ‘Wallace’, wrote the screenplay. Gibson could’ve easily changed some things around, but I don’t think that the basic interpretation of Wallace or bedding Edward’s wife was his idea.”

Yes, he did not write it, but the director is responsible for what goes on the screen. He may not know English History, but he was happy to cash the checks.


Walter 08.06.03 at 9:28 am

Yes, but this is just poetic license. It’s pretty well conceded that Braveheart (or just about any Hollywood adaptation) gets the facts wrong, and on purpose.


alistair 08.06.03 at 9:44 am

Robert Schwartz, didn’t you write that Edward II was openly homosexual according to the historical record?

The only fact in “Braveheart” that you dispute was whether Isabella would have been old enough to mother a child by Wallace. It’s pretty clear from the record that this would have been impossible, and was an instance of “poetic license.”

It was a very tangential aspect of the film, only mentioned in passing. So I think it’s unfair to condemn the entire film — or filmmaker — on this basis alone.

Other historical films done by Hollywood have twisted facts far more egregiously than Braveheart. See most any movie by Oliver Stone.

What Stone does is far more harmful, in my opinion, because he deals with much more recent history, such as JFK’s assassination or Nixon’s presidency. People who were involved with both administrations are still alive today. Nobody now really cares who fathered Edward III in the 14th century. But issues like who killed JFK still have powerful influence today.


Robert Schwartz 08.07.03 at 10:42 pm

Oh Dear! I was defending Gibson from Tim’s criticism of anachronism in his (Gibson’s) treatment of Edward II and now I am hoist by my own petard. What to say?

Every dramatist from Euripidies on, who has used history as his plot source, has been criticized for distorting history. Each of them has defended himself with the shield of poetic license.

It seems to me that poetic license can only get you so far. It is well within the the realm of poetic licence to have an actor, depicting character who was a open homosexual, use some of the cues used by homosexuals in contemporary society to communicate an important trait that brought him into conflict with another primary character. OTOH, puting a historical character in to a plot, that she could not possibly have been part of, is pushing the envelope. And yes the love interest is an important part of the drama.

To say that Stone is a worse offender than Gibson is not a defense of Gibson. IMHO, Stone is much the better auteur. Wall Street is one of the great films of the recent era because Stone’s art in portraying Gordon Gekko far surpases his jejune politics. OTOH, Stone’s politics dragged him under in JFK and Nixon.

Whether Stone’s sin in making those movies was worse than Gibson’s because of the more contemporary subject may depend on your viewpoint. Clearly, you don’t live in Scotland. And does anybody take Stone’s history seriously. I stopped listening to JFK assasination conspiracy theories when I quit smoking:-)


Nabakov 08.08.03 at 10:37 am

Great discussion.

Can I draw people’s attention to George McDonald (“Flashman” and the screenplays for D. Lester’s muskateer films) Frazer’s book, “The Hollywood History of The World” where he provides many exmaples of how, for its many egregious fuckups, Hollywood generally did a much better and more accurate job of historical stories than is now realised.

I use the words'”generally” and “did” with care.


Mark Kim 11.26.03 at 2:32 am

great discussion and all, but the biggest thing is, here is a man willing to step out and do what he believes what is right. Here is a man bold enough to proclaim to the world what he believes in even though society rejects him. Many of you speak of him as a bad person, a criminal. He’s a man just showing his faith. that’s all that it is in the end. my pastor already has seen this film, and he said when it was over, there was silince for a little then prayer and weeping. full grown men bawling and praying and praising. maybe to some people this movie is outcasted shouldnt be allowed, but to others its a sign of new life. This life is shown in the movie because Mel Gibson himself found it. He’s just a man showing his faith. If he was Jewish during the holocost times and spoke out against the Nazis people whould have considered him a hero for professing his faith, but that’s all he is doing right now. professing his faith


Glen Gabel 01.25.04 at 8:21 pm

Some of you guys are complete idiots. First “The Passion” WAS shown to members of the Anti-defamation league, you totally misquoted Gibson and his staff there. Secondly NO, parts of the film were not “based” on some nun’s vision..people try actually reading some of Gibson’s interviews on it – believe the Vatican was very wary of the film before and after seeing they loved it. And finally, I don’t understand why some Jewish special interest groups are up in arms over the film when quite obviously 90% of them haven’t even seen it yet. You’re all going on heresay and rumor…dont be stupid. See the film, give it a chance then make a comment. It isn’t even out yet. Besides how can you say Jews are painted in a “bad” light. Historically who lived in Jerusalem at that time? Caucasians? Africans? NO, Jews. So yes obviously some of the antagonistic people there were jews but guess what? So was Jesus! And almost all his disciples. SO please, please, please people don’t bash an important film like this because of your own petty misgivings, go into it with an open mind.


karen 02.25.04 at 3:24 am

I don’t believe this will just be “a movie that is going to be watched by very, very few people….” This movie will be watched by a LOT of Christians, who (I pray) will remember as I do the words of our God concerning the nation of Israel “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen. 12:3) He is the same God who also told His people (Israel): “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.” Isaiah 49:16

I marvel at a statement I read that the ADL was pressing for a post-script reminder to be added to the film which states “Jesus died for the sins of all men.” I can only reply “Amen!” to the ADL. Now if only the rest would get it. I hope Gibson added it. If not, he should have. Because *that* is what it is all about.


paulpineo 02.25.04 at 9:29 pm

Why are we surprised that non-messianic jews are offended by this movie? First of all they don’t even read the new testament, secondly they don’t believe in the one and only begotten son, so wouldn’t one expect them to be offended?


CAROL 03.01.04 at 4:24 pm

I am a Jew and saw the movie yesterday with a mixed group of gentiles who eagerly awaited my responses. I have yet to sift through what I saw/learned and don’t wish to enter into verbal communications at this time. However, was a scribe at the foot of the cross taking notes? By the time the story was written, it had passed through too many sources to be accurate. Kinda like playing the game of “TELEPHONE.” People have still to realize that PEACE and not WAR was and still is the bottom line.

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