Friday, January 11, 2008

'Bella' bellum: What Would Jesus Watch?


Republished with permission from Scott's blog, Cordelia's Shoes:

Dawn Eden praised the movie "Juno" and in passing made a few comparisons to "Bella" mentioning that she had no real interest in seeing it. This sparked some mildly heated exchanges, but thankfully nothing nasty like what happens in exchanges about a certain popular fantasy series whose name I will not utter here. Miss Eden also mentioned that, like me, she has not seen Mel's "The Passion of the Christ," and has no interest (also like me) in seeing that either. She said, "I can pray the Second Sorrowful Mystery without having to have the image of a Hollywood Jesus with his internal organs hanging out indelibly imprinted on my memory." Several posters took her to task for the "internal organs" part, but I think it is important not to skate past the "indelibly imprinted" part. Take Pink Floyd's album The Wall for instance. (Huh? Wha?)

Back in my early teens I was obsessed with The Wall. How obsessed? This was the Age of the Cassette, and I wore out three cassette recordings of this album listening to it. Then I saw the movie and it largely destroyed my interest. See, I had The Wall all worked out in my fevered brain and the movie with the silly Bob Geldof and the laughable pseudo-Nazi imagery turned it all into a joke. It was wonderful in my own imagination and someone else's hack interpretation imprinted itself indelibly on my mind.

I am squirming at this point to explain that I cannot listen to The Wall or most of the music I listened to back then. I wish I could say I was under the heavy influence of drugs but alas, I must confess that I went for this stuff with full command of my faculties which I regard as a pretty sad testament. I think many of us in our youth get hooked on various pop-culture phenomena like anime, fad music, boy-wizards, reality TV, gross-out humor, World of Warcaft, and such. If we are fortunate, we eventually get over it, but we feel like a burnt husk when we do.

As I've mentioned, I'm a-trying (frankly with mixed success so far) to reevaluate what I allow into my mind. My inspiration is an old and charming Medieval history professor who would say quirky things like how the greatest archaeologist of Roman ruins in England was the Luftwaffe. She also said that she spent most of her life acquiring all this furniture and knick-knacks in her house, and now she was spending the rest of her life trying to get rid of it. It's the same with pop culture. Watching the latest belch from pop-smog factory is like putting yet another a piece of cheap furniture in your mind. Unlike real furniture, it is even harder to get rid of under the idea that you can't unwatch it. There is plenty of good things to put in the mind, and I imagine "Bella" is one of them, but there also has to be interest, of which I have none. I'll not even bother with the contention that there is some duty to see it, or a dereliction of duty by not seeing it. "The Passion of the Christ" is similar but also includes the serious fact that it is directly connected to the Gospel narrative.

If I am blessed, I've got 40-50 more years on this earth. That's 40-50 Lenten seasons each with services recounting the crucifixion and who knows how many more times it comes up meditating on the sorrowful mysteries or simply looking at the crucifix. I don't care how good Mel's film is, I simply don't want images of his movie clanking around in my head like an old rickety table at Mass.