Warning: the following post is 100% humor-free.
One day, when I was a kid, I was walking in my neighborhood in Northern Virginia, and some kid, who I didn’t even know, turned to me, fixed me with a look of pure hatred and sputtered, “You’re the one who killed Christ.”
My memory is strongest when it comes to place, and the psychic punch of this accusation was so hard that it puts me right back there on Bren Mar Drive, a street where I also feared stray dogs and the taunts of children who made fun of the flesh-colored eye patch I had to wear to correct my lazy eye, which, from a distance, made me look like a Cyclops.
Last night, watching “The Passion of the Christ,” I started getting that creepy feeling again. I shrunk down into my seat at the movie theater, wondering if people behind me could tell, from my body language or some other subtle sign (horns?), that I was a Jew. Partly, I was paranoid because early on in the movie whenever I moved my head to the left or the right to see better, the woman behind me sighed loudly, as if I were repositioning my head merely to inconvenience her. Nothing like having your every movement scrutinized. But the deeper fear, of course, was that this movie audience – if they knew I was Jewish - might tear me from limb to limb. If there’s anything “Passion” communicates – beyond blood – it’s the power of a mob.
I saw it because of the buzz, because I was curious, because I wanted to be able to talk about it from the position of knowledge. I discounted all the accounts that it was gory. I wish I hadn’t.
It is gory. Relentlessly and gratuitously violent. And boring. If you want to see an hour and a half of people flaying a guy in a loincloth, this is your movie. But when I say flaying, I mean flaying. Routine Hollywood violence pales. I said to my husband, driving home, that “Passion” makes the TV show “24” look like “I Love Lucy.”
The anti-Semitism angle? I’ve heard it said several times that Jews and Christians see two different movies when they view “Passion,” but in the movie I saw, there was scene after scene in which an angry mob of Jews demands that the Romans kill Jesus.
But I got even more scared when I started trolling the internet for “Passion” stories after I got home. I started to get nervous when one weblog writer, talking about “Passion,” purposely put typos in the movie title so as not to allow people to find her site with search engines. That was where I learned about the church sign in Denver reading “Jews Killed the Lord Jesus.” Then I went on the yada yada blog, and read the full “Passion” coverage. Most astounding of all was the fact that there’s a new line of jewelry out, with pewter nails (replicas of the kind used to nail Jesus to the cross) tied to a leather strap. It's like that Lenny Bruce routine:if Jesus had been killed now, you’d have kids walking around with electric chairs on their necklaces.
The one moment in which I was able to see “Passion” from a remotely sympathetic point of view, was when – in the theater – I thought, why make a movie about all this hatred and torture, instead of what Jesus was trying to teach? And then I thought of Holocaust movies. There is a need to document things that are awful, to remind the world of the evil it’s capable of. But this would be like a Holocaust movie with no plot, except for the systematic torture of a Jew. No Schindler. No pianist. No kooky Italian clown. In most of the Holocaust pictures I’ve seen, there are some particular shocking moments, which stand out like the sudden shot of a gun. In “Passion,” there’s not one or two shocking moments. It’s non-stop gruesome, like a horror movie.
And I don’t know of any line of jewelry for Jews in which gas chambers are attached to pendants.
My advice. Even if you want to be in the know, don’t see it. You will regret it.
My hope. Word of mouth sinks the movie, and it gets nothing but a "best makeup" nomination for next year's Oscars.