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ISSUE 117 VOL 15 PUBLISHED 4/9/2004

'The Passion' of satire in movies, TV

By Derek Zobel
Contributing Writer

Friday, April 9, 2004

The power of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" is immense. It creates an emotional atmosphere among both Christians and non-Christians about the events surrounding the crucifixion. It has also sparked something else: spoofs. Of these satirical works, two of the most prominent are the re-release of Monty Python's "The Life of Brian" and a recent South Park episode.

The 25th anniversary of "The Life of Brian," originally released in 1979, comes at a time in which both the media and the general populace are swept up in Gibson's controversial film. The story is that of Brian, a boy born in a stable next to Jesus, who is passed up by the Three Magi once they see the star moving a little further. Some 30 years later, he joins a Jewish group that opposes the Romans and is mistakenly seen as a Messiah.

In an recent article in the BBC, the distributor of "Brian," Rainbow, hopes the film will "serve as an antidote to all the hysteria about Mel's movie." Henry Jaglom, Rainbow president, said, "We decided this is an important time to re-release this film, to provide some counter-programming to 'The Passion.'" "Brian" prompted plenty of controversy in the 1970s, and is doing so again 25 years later. Conservative religious forces, as always, have the belief that they can dictate the rest of the world because they are right. Before the film's release in 1979, the film was condemned as blasphemous, which caused the original financer, EMI Films, to withdraw from the project. The film was only completed and released because former Beatle George Harrison stepped in and funded the rest of the film. Were it not for him, perhaps we wouldn't be seeing religion satirzed twenty-five years later, on television.

Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the co-creators of South Park, took a different stab at Gibson's film. The fourth episode of South Park's eighth season is entitled The Passion of the Jew. Two of the main characters, Kyle and Cartman, have a dispute over the relevance of Gibson's film.

However, unlike "Brian," South Park goes where other movies and TV shows fear to tread. Cartman sees "The Passion" 34 times and begins the Mel Gibson fan club, uniting all of the "Passion" viewers together. He dresses as Hitler, leads an anti-Jew chant in German (mistaken by the townspeople for Aramaic, which is spoken in "The Passion," and marches the people to the town's synagogue

Meanwhile, Kyle, who is Jewish, goes to his synagogue after seeing "The Passion" and attempts to convince the Jewish community to apologize for the murder of Christ.

The moral of the episode is that "The Passion" is nothing more than a movie. Critics of the religious satires involved in South Park and "The Life of Brian" need to understand that these stories are merely meant for entertainment. South Park does not wish to condemn Christianity, nor does "The Life of Brian" want to lessen the image of Christ. "The Passion" has evoked a range of responses. It seems that no one can get enough of anti-Semitism allegations or Gibson's choice to brutally portray the last twelve hours of Christ's life.

"The Passion" is worth seeing because of the emotional response it evokes, but by no means should one take the film as the actual events of Christ's death; it is simply Gibson's interpretation of the event as described in the Bible. Likewise, "The Life of Brian" and "The Passion of the Jew" aren't supposed to be seen as attacks on Christianity, but meant to entertain and, most importantly, make us laugh.

Staff Writer Derek Zobel is a sophomore from Bloomington, Minn. He majors in art history and English.

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