I have not seen The Passion of The Christ, and don’t plan to. A friend of mine told me that after a while The Passion just became boring, and I think that is probably how it would be for me. It is not so much that I am opposed to Christianity (although I am), more that I do not like horror movies, although of course part of the reason I am opposed to Christianity is that the crucifixion parts of it are to me a lot like a horror movie already.
But as a movie phenomenon, The Passion is fascinating. Mel Gibson has made a fortune with this movie not because he was trying to make a fortune, but because he was trying not to. He wanted other people to invest in it. But everyone else thought it would be money down the drain, so they refused. So Gibson invested great gobs of his own money, and now he gets this Niagara of profit. From a film about Jesus Christ. The ironies just pile up.
Hollywood also disapproved of the The Passion on ideological grounds, because an accurate presentation of the Gospels version of the crucifixion sets the Jews up, yet again, as the villains of Western Civilisation. The Gospels, as far as Hollywood is concerned, are anti-Semitic. I agree with Hollywood about this. This is yet another reason why I am not a Christian. But none of that stopped Mel Gibson from doing The Passion. The great thing about the free market is that anyone can join in.
Changing the subject only somewhat, I note that James Lileks today ruminates about why there has not been much in the way of movie making about or around the subject of the 9/11 attacks. Basically, he says, the reason is that Hollywood disapproves of what such movies would have to say. Arabs bad. America good. George W. Bush good. Israel not part of the story. And Hollywood does not believe any of that. So, no 9/11.
It would anger people anew, and we’re supposed to be past that. It would remind us what was done to us instead of rubbing out noses in what we do to others – I mean, unless you have a character in the second tower watching the plane approaching and saying “My God, this is payback for supporting Israel!” it’s going to come across as simplistic nonsense that denies the reality in the West Bank, okay? It would have to tread lightly when it came to the President, because even though we all knew that he wet his pants and ran to hide, we’d have to pretend and do scenes in Air Force One where he’s taking charge instead of crying help mommy to Dick Cheney, right? I mean the idiots in flyover people believe that stuff, and you’d have to give it to them or they write letters with envelopes that have these little pre-printed return address stickers with flags up in the corner. Seriously. Little flag stickers. Anyway, we would have to show Arab males as the bad guys, and that’s not worth the grief; you want to answer the phone when CAIR sees the dailies of the guys slitting the stewardess’ throats? And here’s the big one: if we make a patriotic movie during Bush’s term, well, it doesn’t help the cause, you know. People liked Bush after 9/11. Why remind them of that? Plus, you can just kiss off the European markets, period.
I think “the idiots in flyover people” should be something more along the lines of “the idiots in flyover states”. Apart from that, I think this is a definite part of what is going on here.
In the first version of this posting I asked at this point: why can’t some gung-ho pro-war-on-terrorism guys do with 9/11 what Mel Gibson did with the crucifixion? As in: some such people could do with 9/11 what Mel Gibson did with the crucifixion, minus the question mark. Why does “Hollywood” have to agree with this story? Why does “Hollywood” have to make 9/11, any more than “Hollywood” made The Passion? There would, of course, have to be Republicans who know how to make movies, just as Mel Gibson is a Christian who knows how to make movies, and that might be asking a lot. But surely there are some.
But actually I think there is another reason why there is no Hollywood version (or version by anybody else) of 9/11, which is that there already is a fantastically dramatic 9/11 movie, upon which it would be nearly impossible to improve, namely the TV footage that was shot of 9/11 at the time.
Few successful movies have been made about major sporting triumphs, real or imagined. There have been some, but not compared to the number of potential subjects for them, and many of those that have been made have been very bad, mixing movie stars and real sports stars in ways that make you want to cringe.
The obvious contrast here is between sport and crime. Crime is more important than sport. It is, for example, more often a matter of life and death. But there is also the fact that criminals – and the policemen who chase after them – sneak around unfilmed, until Hollywood gets to work. So Hollywood has gone into overdrive about crime, and shows no sign of ever easing up.
Major sporting triumphs, on the other hand, have, by their nature (major equals televised), already been filmed, when they happened. What is there to add?
Sometimes there is a fascinating behind-the-scenes, before-the-race, before-the-fight, after-the-fight, drama, which can make a good movie. But when it comes to big, grand, complicated games like baseball or all the various variants of football, or all the various ways you can race racing cars, what is there to add? Everything of importance has already been shown.
Who needs other stars to rehash the doings of the original stars? Why have some wimp actor redo the life of Jonny Wilkinson during the recent Rugby World Cup, climaxing with Fake Jonny kicking a fake drop goal in the final minutes of fake extra time to clinch the win for England, when there is already perfectly adequate video footage of Real Jonny kicking the real drop goal? You just don’t need it.
And that, it seems to me, is the other problem about 9/11. The already shot, as-it-actually happened TV footage of 9/11 is so dramatic that we scarcely need any more stuff to watch. We have already seen the story that matters. We have all of us seen this movie, when it opened with such stunning impact on September 11th 2001.
To put it another way, if the original crucifixion had itself been televised, would Mel Gibson’s Passion have even been made, let along been made and been a huge commercial hit? I don’t think so.