Bad People Making Art About Jesus

I am in transit to my Jersey Shore vacation, but thought I’d leave the world with a provocation at The Awl.

Mel Gibson is a pretty bad guy it seems, but there’s no reason to let his faults ruin everything he did. And so, after many have come out to try and re-anathematize The Passion of the Christ, I try to salvage it. And I discover that Gibson is not the worst Catholic artist to have lived, and not the only one to let his demons into a portrait of Christ’s execution. There is Caravaggio, who put himself in The Taking of Christ. From the piece:

I don’t mean to suggest that Gibson’s artistic talents are equivalent. The Passion of the Christ fails artistically in several respects where The Taking excels. Gibson’s slow motion scenes fail to invoke the iconography they aspire to become, the piercing of Christ’s side looks cartoonish and the whole thing occasionally feels like a revenge film with the ending cut short. Gibson’s peculiar obsessions are evident in The Passion—his fascination with physical brutality and punishment, his stereotyping.

Still, from Gibson’s faults come many of the film’s merits. Its brutal violence provides a corrective to sappy “My Boyfriend, Jesus” Evangelicalism, while its horrifying and lightning-fast transformation of Palm Sunday’s worshipful crowd into a bloodthirsty mob is an indictment of mass enthusiasms and by extension mega-church piety. Its manly Christ and angry deity speak to God’s justice in a world that presumes on cheap mercy. Roger Ebert praised it for doing away with prayer-card sentimentality.

Read the whole thing.

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