Friday, January 17, 2014


Trey Sanchez, writing at Ben Shapiro's Truth Revolt, reveals that America's film critics are maintaining a shocking double standard:
Rotten Tomatoes, the popular movie review website, has unwittingly revealed an evolution amongst film critics over the last ten years when it comes to portraying torture. The brutal violence in the 2004 movie "The Passion of the Christ" is senseless and distracting from the plot, whereas that same violence almost ten years later in "12 Years A Slave," is central to the plot.

This discovery, by Mollie Hemingway at The Federalist, shows the rampant hypocrisy that is alive and well in Hollywood and in the media....

Hemingway points to the two reviews from Rotten Tomatoes for both movies to highlight her claim. "12 Years a Slave" gets a "Certified Fresh" 98 percent rating and its summary states:
It's far from comfortable viewing, but 12 Years a Slave’s unflinchingly brutal look at American slavery is also brilliant -- and quite possibly essential -- cinema.
Contrast that with this review of "The Passion of the Christ." It gets a "splat" at a meager 49 percent.
The graphic details of Jesus' torture make the movie tough to sit through and obscure whatever message it is trying to convey.
Are Hemingway and Sanchez suggesting that this is part of the War on Christianity? Yeah, pretty much. Hemingway:
Did critics evolve or did something else happen? Film critic Victor Morton suggests that "The average bobo critic sees [12 Years A Slave protagonist] Solomon Northup as a more worthwhile and relevant Christ figure than the original."
("Film critic Victor Morton"? That would be the proprietor of the blog Rightwing Film Geek. Twitter tagline: "I was raised on Blackpool postcards and Benny Hill and I turned out a censorious religious nut.")

I've seen both The Passion of the Christ and 12 Years a Slave. 12 Years a Slave is a frequently violent film about the enslavement of a human being. The Passion of the Christ is a unrelentingly violent film about a piece of meat that happens to live and breathe while being brutalized. Mel Gibson's Jesus is not human and not divine, or he may as well not be -- he's just a canvas for violence. In 12 Years a Slave, we see Solomon Northrup and other slaves endeavoring to be human -- thinking, talking, having human reactions to their lives. In The Passion of the Christ, both the humanity and (if you believe in it) divinity of Christ are just bits of backstory. Gibson's Christ barely touches on the message of the Gospels. Sanchez and Hemingway think critics' rejection of Gibson's movie is a rejection of Jesus' message, but Jesus' message is all but absent from The Passion of the Christ.

How much of The Passion of the Christ is devoted to pure violence? Roger Ebert wrote, "The movie is 126 minutes long, and I would guess that at least 100 of those minutes, maybe more, are concerned specifically and graphically with the details of the torture and death of Jesus." A review at the website of the United Methodist Church says the film contains "more than 90 minutes of graphic even sadistic violence." This is far more screen time devoted to violence than in 12 Years a Slave. That's because 12 Years a Slave is a film about slavery, of which violence was a key part; The Passion of the Christ is a film about violence.


Well, Hemingway and Sanchez's line of argument could be worse -- back in October, Investor's Business Daily published an editorial that described the makers of 12 Years a Slave and The Butler as "racial arsonists who leave truth on the cutting room floor." (The Butler, you see, took liberties with its real-life subject's story, while 12 Years a Slave, according to IBD, is supposed to be a true story but was probably all made up: "historians suspect much of the story -- which recounts cringingly graphic tales of skin-stripping floggings and paddle-breaking beatings -- is apocryphal." And who are you gonna believe on that, the unnamed experts IBD cites, or Henry Louis Gates, "the Friend of Barack who cried racism after police detained him at his Cambridge townhome a few years ago"?)

Accompanying the IBD editorial is the cover image of one edition of Twelve Years a Slave. IBD provides this caption:
Are race-horror movies, such as "12 Years a Slave," a brutal depiction of slavery, an effort by Hollywood to advance a political agenda and intentionally inflame racial tensions?
If 12 Years a Slave wins a Best Picture, expect quite a bit more of this.


Victor said...

IMO - there's something else in common, besides the real Jesus being brutalized, and the black guy (Christ?) being beaten.

"Passion..." - which I never saw, because basically it was an extended snuff-film, and I'm not into violence - was Mel Gibson projecting what he, and similarly minded Christian bigots, would like to do to Jews, who, in his mind, and in many people's minds, were responsible for Christ's crucifixion and death.

"12 Years," - which I have also not seen - is not quite the snuff-film that bigots wanted it to be.

I'm sure though, that there were more than a few "stiffies" in the audience, when the black guy was being beaten.

Hey, now I'm like a real Conservative - opining on sh*t I've never seen, and only have 2nd-or-3rd hand "knowledge" of!

aimai said...

Oh what miserable people they are--yes, there can be useful uses for violence in movies and non useful. Yes, any directorial choice can be more or less successful. Its like saying "You loved the scenes of the ocean in Master and Commander but you didn't think they were that great in some other movie." Yes, so?

This is kind of complicated to tease apart because its so nested in their us vs. them reality. They have such a binary notion of the universe that its literally impossible for them to see the two movies as not in competition, somehow. After all one is about "black" people and one is about "white" people and one is liked by pro-AA viewers while the other is not liked by liberals so, the two have to be brought into dialogue somehow.

Of course the way the two movies come into dialogue historically and emotionally and culturally is that Northrup is, in his way, a kind of jesus figure who suffers for his entire people, but whose suffering (being in the real world) can't be annealed by divinity. Of course there have been great movies (though attacked for it) which specifically explored this aspect of Jesus's suffering as an actual human rather than as a divine copy of a human).

A better analogy in every sense would be to remember that the slaves were likened *at the time* to the Jews serving under Pharaoh, and that slaves who escaped were seen as "Moses." So you could bring the two movies into dialogue by talking about different notions of christianity and how in the interim 2000 years the upper class white christian position was that the same crimes of the roman soldiers were virtues when undertaken by the local master.

Someone over at alicublog reminded me of the marvellous term used by Fred Clark: persecuted hegemon. That is a person whose political and social position is unassailable, who yet imagines and experiences themselves as permanently attacked and disabled by enemies. This essay, so whiny and filled with persecution and complaint, is a classic "persecuted hegemon" argument. It looks for a cause of grief and attack where really none exists. It manufactures its own outrage.

But you can see why-because you have to argue that jesus is revictimized by liberal and black theatergoers every time they see a movie about slavery, in order to distract your followers and prevent them from going to see the movie and learning about US history and slavery and its violence. If it weren't this pretext it would be something else.

Glennis said...

Jesus, is it all about scorekeeping for these people?

Victor said...

Thanks for reminding me of that "persecuted hegemon" line.

I can't believe I forgot something that great!

Must be the onset of that Old-timers Disease.

Glennis said...

So two movies, ten years apart, about different stuff but sharing one thing in common - violent whipping scenes. A few reviewers (we don't now if they're the same reviewers or different, or how many of them reviewed both movies) didn't like movie A, others like movie B.

And this is a "discovery [that]....shows the rampant hypocrisy that is alive and well in Hollywood and in the media...."????

Christ, these people.

Jacobus 323 said...

First of all, the story of a mythical Lord and Savior is not capable of equivalence with that of a free man impounded into a life of drudgery and squalor by a white devil overseer. Second, quoting the hyper-conservative "Investors' Business Daily," the Fox News of laissez-faire capitalist publications, for any proposition other than how to make a fast buck and hold onto it in perpetuity is folly. In other words, the url does not parse. If a white man had been enslaved by African-Americans, from I.B.D. you would not hear a peep. You do not put a fox to review the hen house.

Roger said...

Jesus, not even Kathryn Lopez pimps for Mel Gibson anymore.

Daniel P.S said...

What is interesting to note is that the primary thing used by Christians to cause a irreversible guilt in people in order to convert them is to give them graphic descriptions of Jesus' death and pin it on your hands. So in a way Gibson was trying to earn converts but instead was called a sadist by those of intellectual leanings hard hearts and sound minds.

These same people who viewed 12 yrs a slave took home part of a larger lesson that slaves were indeed kidnapped back from Southern men. This makes the south born right-wing individuals shudder in their boots. Because unlike violence that is made up to make you feel guilty of past transgressions in order to convert you. "12 yrs a slave" focuses on real wrongs that some people in our nation were capable of.

People should not and probably do not feel completely guilty. and if those from IBD protested such a film maybe it is because they are guilty in their own personal history. Few in America has ancestry to Romans(and or Jews whoever is getting the finger pointed at them these days) that killed Jesus. But they do to plantation owners, who enslaved and killed African Americans.

I suppose if one is to take into account these things then yes it could be rather inflammatory. Who knows? Maybe there is racial tension being planned. But the mainstream media is not innocent on such matters. Just look at the issues we see today.