Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Mel Gibson has agreed to make last minute changes in his new movie about the death of Christ, including acting in it himself. No longer will anyone be able to accuse the film of blaming the Jews. Gibson has inserted scenes and characters pointing the finger at completely different villains. These are rather a surprise, because none of them are mentioned in the official source. The actor-producer clearly resented being forced to make any changes, and shows that in a very petty way in his revisions.

According to the conservative web site Scrooge Report, the pressure on Gibson came from Presidential politics. George Bush, trailing likely Demagogic Party nominee John Heinz-Kerry, needed a success in foreign policy. He insisted that Israeli Prime Minister Sharon actually dismantle some settlements in occupied territories, to encourage Palestinian terrorists to negotiate. Sharon demanded a price for compliance. To distract extremists in his coalition, he needed to prove that he was defending Jews against attacks abroad. Bush had to agree to force Gibson to delete offensive parts of his new film.

An administration official called the actor from an undisclosed location and made it blunt. Alter the movie or be sent to Guantanamo as a domestic supporter of terrorism, on the grounds that he would be stirring up anger against one of our allies. Gibson fumed that in Hollywood, when a character was murdered, "Somebody had to take the fall for those murders." He turned to the obvious patsy, the Romans. Remnants of the Italian American Anti-Defamation League decided that might stir prejudice against them, but he refused their demand not to blame the Romans. Under the impression that Gibson was Australian, they left the severed head of a kangaroo in his bed. That was convincing enough. He not only made revisions, but added a disclaimer at the end: "No Jews or Sicilians killed, crucified, or injured anyone in the making of this movie."

Gibson has now cast himself as a main character. He plays a sinful imperial (but not native Roman) centurion, whose job is trying to police the desert against anti-Roman Jewish terrorists. (Danny Glover once again plays his partner, here named Mvrtavgh.) Mel is depressed by his wife's death, and in one scene he actually puts his own sword in his mouth and threatens to kill himself. He is stopped by the sudden appearance of a vision.

Standing before him is Anne Catherine Emmerich, a nineteenth century stigmatic German nun and author of The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which is one of the other sources for the supposedly anti-Semitic tone of the original movie. ("Among other things, Emmerich claimed that the cross on which Jesus died was built in the Jewish temple on the orders of the high priest.") In a major rewrite of her views, she tells Mel that he has been selected to play a special role, just because he isn't either Jewish or Roman. He is the one who must finally kill Jesus, by piercing his side with a spear. He expresses serious doubts about doing this, but she insists. When he finally refuses her demand, she douses him with water and then has bolts of lightning hit him again and again until he agrees. Gibson also uses this torture scene to push several points of dogma. She shouts at him "You will stab Him with a spear, won't you?" *Zap* goes a lightning bolt. "And you won't eat meat on Fridays?" *Zap* "And you will only listen to Mass in Latin, right?" *Zap*

Meanwhile the movie shows the ones it really blames for the death of Christ. This is a group of insidious plotters who want to restore the old Roman Republic. These traitors to the Emperor are supported by a group of wealthy merchants, led by Enronus, whose businesses Jesus had harmed by throwing them out of the temple. The leading subversive Republicans are two members of the Frutex family, Iorge and his brother Ieb. To get revenge for the merchants they sycophantically infiltrate the court of the Roman Governor, Pilate. When he asks the mob which prisoner they want to be set free, Jesus or Kenlaius, Iorge calls for a vote, and Ieb offers to count the ballots. Behind closed doors in a judge's chamber he throws out most of those cast for Jesus, and so Kenlaius walks free.

Mel finally does kill Jesus as ordered, but wears a mask so that no one will recognize him. It does him no good. A group of his fellow soldiers who are also Republican conspirators, named after a noted opponent of the Emperor, believe Gibson's spearing of Jesus may cause their future descendants to be blamed for murdering this innocent pacifist. They capture Mel and slowly disembowel him.

These changes to the script assigning guilt to new characters are pure spitefulness. Gibson got his fingers burned by the politically unfortunate timing of his film, so has become infected with the radical liberal idea of "artistic freedom". This piece of anti-Bush propaganda is just his way of opposing reasonable movie censorship for the national good. The whole thing might as well have been made by Michael Moore.

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