Thursday, March 07, 2013

A Modest (Movie) Proposal

Seems I'm the only person not watching The History Channel's series The Bible. I have a string of reasons for not watching, not the least of which is my life-long aversion to the Bible-comes-to-the-movies movies. I've always found them cheesy. What I see on the screen doesn't get to the essence of the biblical narrative to me.

The thing that puts me off most about any attempt to bring Jesus to the silver screen is the actors cast in the role. Yes, Jeffrey Hunter was absolutely yummy in King of Kings, but yummy isn't what I'm looking for in either the historical or spiritual Jesus. Max von Sydow in The Greatest Story Ever Told? Yeah, I just bet that Jesus looked like a big ol' Swedish guy. And somehow I don't buy James Caviezel as a Semitic savior. When I saw yet another hunk cast as Jesus in the new movie iteration of The Bible, well, no. Not interested.

Of course, no one knows what Jesus really looked like, but I'm guessing that if he had been a tall blond blue-eyed hunk, it might have been remarked upon in the Bible. "Ye, verily, Jesus looked like no other man in all of Galilee, with hair the color of straw and eyes the color of a pale summer sky" and so forth, doesn't pop up anywhere. So why all the adorable Nordic/All-American/European movie Jesuses?

Within the past couple of decades, forensic anthropologists have shed some light on the subject by recreating what an adult man who lived in the same place and at the same time as Jesus looked like. It's all very scientific, and you can read about it here. Seems very few Max von Sydow-types were hanging out in that neck of the woods back in the day.

So here's my modest movie proposal: take another stab at it, Hollywood. Cast a 5"1' swarthy Middle Easterner with short, dark curly hair as Jesus. Get a little closer to what he might have been, physically. Don't make it a comedy or tongue-in-cheek thing. I know it's too much to ask to avoid the cheese-factor of a biblical film, but a more Semitic Jesus might cut through all the feta just a tad.

I do wonder, however, what the reaction would be to a more realistic version. Oh, sure, folks say Jesus' appearance doesn't matter now, but if an unhunkable savior showed up as the protagonist, I suspect there would be a certain level of outrage. It might shake sensibilities. Or, maybe not. But let's give it a try. If film-makers are really interested in bringing the Bible to life, then get a little closer to the anthropological and cultural truth of the place and time. Nudge.

Still. That Jeffrey Hunter was adorable.

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