• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as current film releases with spiritual significance, and a few bits and pieces on the Bible.

    Wednesday, December 10, 2008

    More Thoughts on Prop 8: The Musical

    I've been thinking a little more about Jack Black's turn as Jesus in Prop 8: The Musical. In particular I was thinking about the similarities between the film and the arguments between Jesus and the Pharisees in the gospels. It's a parallel I'm, a little uncomfortable making. Rightly or wrongly, accusing anyone, particularly relatively devout Christians, of being Pharisees carries with it all kind of negative connotations. Many of these are not really fair, for reasons I won't go into here. So let me make clear that I'm not looking to take sides in the debate, but rather I'm simply trying to analyse the work before me. And in this particular case I do see a number of similarities with those debates. So the conflict takes place between a group of religious officials and the leader of a group seeking to reinterpret the traditional "law". Star power aside, the Christian Pharisees don't have a single leader or sole representative whereas once Jesus appears, he is the only spokesperson for the other side. Secondly, the substance of the argument revolves not around New Testament texts as one might expect, but around one of the Jewish books of the law. Jesus uses scripture to counteract his opponents arguments as he does in Mark 2:23-28, or cites their behaviour in other situations as with the "corban" argument of Mark 7:9-12. Lastly, on Monday I noted how Prop 8 was essentially propaganda which I would define as a work specifically produced to forward a particular cause. But of course, this definition also applies to the gospels (John 20:31). And, whilst I found the portrayal of the Christians in Prop 8 to be unhelpfully hyperbolic and negative it's more than possible that the gospels also portray the Pharisees in an over-the-top fashion.

    Reflecting on this aspect of the film made me think of the 1973 version of Jesus Christ, Superstar which is obviously such a cultural reference point that any subsequent comic Jesus musical is bound to reference it in some way or another. What's particularly interesting in this case is the costuming. As with that film you have a conflict between the "Pharisees" dressed in black uncomfortable looking costumes, and Jesus and his followers who are dressed in bright, light hearted and casual outfits which enable them to dance and move more freely. Of course Jesus Christ, Superstar's camp value has long been remarked upon so perhaps it's not too surprising to find this aspect coming to the fore.

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