War On Christmas

This weeks’ column:The Nativity Story, in contrast to Quentin Tarantino’s Die Jesus Die.

When “The Passion of the Christ” — Mel Gibson’s blockbuster depiction of the death of Jesus — opened in February 2004, it was more than a movie. It was a Holy Matinee of Obligation.

Gibson’s film generated weeks of debate about its anti-Semitic undertones and the filmmaker’s claims of Biblical fealty despite its apocryphal elements. The director used his considerable star power to push the movie at every opportunity, and a celebrity-obsessed American public lapped it up.

Reporters and television commentators used the film’s drummed-up controversy to spin tales about a renewed sense of spirituality in America, as though giving Gibson $10 was an act of faith.

Religious leaders swallowed Gibson’s savvy marketing pitch whole, elevating the film into a teaching moment and organizing bus tours and study groups around the movie’s showings.

It opened to packed crowds, religio-celebrity praise, and made $83 million in its first weekend.

Not so for “The Nativity Story,” a conventional retelling of Jesus’ birth starring little-known actors as Mary and Joseph. Despite skilled filmmaking and screenwriting, and an advertising campaign that was hardly anemic, the movie opened to a mere $8 million, less than 10 percent of Gibson’s take.

Which proves nothing except that the number of rear ends in theater seats is a deeply unreliable indicator of the level of religious commitment in America, and that those of us who heralded “The Passion” as a religious rather than pop culture phenomenon ought to be a little ashamed of falling for the film’s skillful hype.


7 thoughts on “War On Christmas

  1. I love this story anyway, so I went into it wanting to be blown away, but I really, really was anyway. It was so lovely and warm. I had good-movie giddiness all weekend.
    This time of year I turn into a total sap.

  2. “Pajamas Media has a handy holiday shopping guide for every one in the family” – Michelle Malkin

  3. Yeah, if they just put in a bunch of gratuitous violence it would be more popular.
    I’m thinking Herod and the slaughter of the innocents here.
    Hey, maybe a really exciting car-chase scene, keeping baby Jeebus away from Herod’s “enforcers”! That would be cool.

  4. Yeah, I’m not seeing a lot of opportunity for gratuitous torture scenes that the evangelicals love so much in a movie about the Nativity. I guess that the innkeeper could waterboard Mary for a while.

  5. Thanks for the review. The Lovely Wife wanted to go see it (busy lifestyles permitting), and I had my trepidations, fearing it would be another saccharine treatment of the “Holy Family” (Only Hollywood makes “holy” seem “Completely unhuman”).
    Didn’t see “Passion” because it was described as such a gore-fest. Sadly, I think you’re exactly right: ” will say, however, that it’s sad that those who found “The Passion” moving didn’t turn out for this flick as well. Perhaps American audiences simply like their religious films the way they like every other cinematic effort: full of bloody shock value and box-office stars.” We are too much like Rome in that way: we prefer our bloody spectacles and are easily distracted with panem et circenses.

  6. no S&M.
    or latent homo shit with the apostles.
    gotta go with what the talibornagina likes. nubile mary? nah…

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