Mel Gibson’s Bloody Fetish

I can’t tell you yet what I think about the film– I haven’t seen it. But I can tell you something about what I think about the controversy so far.

First of all, the thing that is most curious about it all to me is that the film is extremely gory. Everybody who has seen it has commented on that: lots of blood and lots of sound effects of blood and flesh being ripped and thunked and beaten. This is part of Hollywood’s tradition of using ridiculously unrealistic sounds to add intensity to scenes in films that are otherwise “realistic” (like “Panic Room”). I’ll be listening and asking myself why Gibson would film the story in Aramaic and Latin with sub-titles– to preserve realism– and then use extremely fake sound effects.

I don’t mind if the purpose of the gore is to make the film realistic. Amen to that, brother– let’s have a realistic execution. But I thought about the fact that thousands and tens of thousands of people were executed by crucifixion by the Romans, including, of course, the legendary Spartacus. So if Gibson’s point is that Christ died a horrible, mind-numbingly painful death, well, so did many others. What’s so remarkable about this story?

Well, what’s so remarkable is that Christ suffered for all of humanity’s sins. That means his suffering was greater than that of the others who were crucified. But you can’t really show that, can you, by showing the crucifixion in excruciating detail. You can only show that with some kind of creative genius, with some kind of image or event that suggests to the viewer a suffering beyond all imaginable suffering. Gibson, apparently, shows us all the suffering that you can create with special effects. It’s like Cecil B. DeMille’s “10 Commandments”. The crossing of the Red Sea is visually spectacular but the film itself is pointless and trivial.

Maybe that artistic moment is there, in the film. I’ll look for it when I go to see it later this week.

The other thing I noticed is that many churches are promoting this film. In fact, a lot of Christian web sites are promoting it too, along with posters and “ecards” and nail necklaces and other stuff. You would almost think that Gibson is using the church to make a profit on this film. Maybe it’s true. Maybe it’s not true. But when you observe the way this film is being …. well, marketed… it is clearly at least enmeshed with the idea of making money.

Now I don’t mind if Gibson makes enough money from paying customers to cover his expenses for the film. But when free tickets are given to church leaders and promotional materials are distributed at the Sunday service, it strikes me as a little unseemly. What’s going on here? Gibson’s film production company is not a charity. The money that it collects from paid attendance goes to pay Gibson’s expenses, and then to provide a profit for the film’s investors– Mel Gibson. It is not a charity, but people are being asked to promote the film as if it was a kingdom cause.

That’s a U.S. thing, of course. You see it all the time: web sites on Christianity with links all over the place to books and tapes that you can buy. That’s not religion: that’s commerce.

Why are you going to see the film? Because it’s a worthy work of art that deserves your attention? Or because it helps promote the gospel? If it’s because it helps promote the gospel, what gospel exactly is it promoting?

Not the one I know of.

And the fact that he only previewed it for conservative Christian audiences, is an item of concern. I like free and open debate.

Finally, of course, the big issue. Is the film anti-Semitic? Some Jewish critics have objected to the inclusion of the line “his blood be upon us and our children” delivered by the Jewish high priest. But that line is in the bible.

You can argue that even though that line is there, it might have been incumbent upon Gibson to leave it out, out of sensitivity to Jewish people who have, after all, suffered somewhat at the hands of devout Christians who took that line a little too literally. Here we can’t help but aware of the fact that Mel Gibson’s father denies that the Holocaust even happened, and Gibson himself refuses to distance himself from those views.

It’s like the word “nigger” in Huckleberry Finn. But I object to the Disney version of Mark Twain’s classic that removed the word. It was an anti-historical gesture. And so I would object if Gibson left it out for the same reason.

After seeing the film, there is not much I would change here. The controversy is rather beside the point: the film really isn’t all that good. It’s fine at times, and generally well-acted, but the obsessive constant gratuitous display of blood-letting becomes tiresome and dramatically pointless.

The Incomprehensible Scabrous Viciousness of Ann Coulter

Ann Coulter, bless her little heart, doesn’t want you to buy into a false patriotism.

You might be confused, you see. You might look at two men who are now fixed beside each other in the public mind– the two likely candidates for President of the United States– and you might sort of realize that one of them has actually served in war, and the other sends other young men to do the fighting, while giving the richest citizens of the United States of America a big fat pass on paying the costs of this war.

Well, look at him. Bush has the face of a pretty little frat boy who might have pulled a few strings to make sure he didn’t get sent into any danger over there in Viet Nam. John Kerry looks like Herman Munster. But he also looks like someone who has paid some dues.

It’s not a political thing. John McCain has obviously paid some dues. Clinton didn’t look like he paid any dues (but he was a pretty effective president). Bush Sr. paid dues. Reagan didn’t. Check out the chicken-hawks.

But Ann Coulter is concerned lest you actually think that a man who served in the air National Guard and probably had daddy pull strings to get him there so he never had to face enemy fire is somehow less courageous and heroic than someone who actually went to war for his country. This is the remarkable topsy-turvy world of Republican blonde bimbo columnists: Of course he is less courageous and heroic. Even a rational Republican should be able to admit that a man who actually served in war time has made a slightly greater sacrifice than someone who joined the weekend frolics of the Texas Air National Guard?

You might not like Kerry’s politics, but don’t be silly about the military record.

The only thing that is baffling to me is why the Republicans are missing a rather wonderful opportunity to show that they can occasionally rise above petty, vindictive, party politics and do something with class. Why not acknowledge Kerry’s honorable service? Why not praise him?

Instead, we have Ann Coulter actually trying to make it sound like George Bush wanted to serve in Viet Nam, but the war, unfortunately, ended before he could finish his National Guard duties. Ann– duh!– he was in the National Guard precisely so he could avoid Viet Nam. Hello!

And then, from the scurrilous, to the despicable:

Ann Coulter says, of Max Cleland:

Indeed, if Cleland had dropped a grenade on himself at Fort Dix rather than in Vietnam, he would never have been a U.S. senator in the first place.

That’s pretty shameless. Max Cleland, unlike George Bush, went to Viet Nam to serve his country honorably. One day he picked up a grenade that he saw lying in the ground below a helicopter from which he had just disembarked. He thought it was his, and had fallen from his belt, and was therefore safe. It turned out to have belonged to someone else, and it was alive, and it blew up in his hands. He lost both arms and a leg.

Wow! Talk about hardball. All you can do is look at Ms. Coulter with astonishment, and wonder if the Democrats have the testicles to go up against people with such piercing, stiletto wits. Imagine that– attacking the war record of a paraplegic!

Will any patriotic Republicans have the character, courage, or integrity to stand up to Ann Coulter and put her in her place? (Ha ha.) She is attacking a war hero! She is dishonoring a veteran! Not bloody likely, of course, since most Republican leaders never served in any wars, and therefore don’t feel any real sense of obligation to those who did.

They are famously known as “chicken-hawks”.

Those who did– like John McCain and Chuck Hagel– have, in fact, made known their distaste for those who attack the patriotism of war veterans who happen to be political opponents.

And shouldn’t Ms. Coulter leave it to a few veterans to take up the issue of Max Cleland’s fitness for office, seeing as, obviously– I mean, as obvious as anything has ever been obvious– Ann Coulter never served and never will serve in any kind of military?

But then, Ann Coulter is a puff of air anyway, a blonde bimbo recruited by Republican fund-raisers to counter-act the image of the party as an old white boy’s club. See? It’s hip to be vindictive and scabrous.

I doubt we’ll soon see a Tom Delay talking action figure in a mini-skirt.

Order the Ann Coulter action figure doll! Now! Or else!

Well, hey, I thought it was a joke. There, at the bottom of her column, on, is the ad for the Ann Coulter “Talking Action Figure”. You know it’s going to talk, of course.. What else does it do? Does it wear a uniform as Ann Coulter, obviously, never has and never will? Does it go out and visit people and interview them and research important issues? What? And confuse the issues?

This is classic. Ann Coulter, in a mini-skirt, attacking those racist liberals

Pepsi Poseurs

You can’t get much phonier than this.

Pepsi collects about 15 teenagers who were targeted for lawsuits by the vicious RIAA, for downloading copyrighted music from the Internet. Pepsi put them into an ad with a few labels– “incriminated”, “busted”– over– get this– Green Day’s swipe of the Clash’s cover of “I Fought the Law”. Then one of the girls says that she is still downloading…. at iTunes! She didn’t say “but now I pay for it”. She says “legally”.

Did Green Day think most people have never heard of the Clash? Sounds like they copped the basic arrangement from them.

I Fought the Law? The gist of Pepsi’s smarmy little ad is that you should give your money to Apple and buy Pepsi and listen to your mommy and daddy– except they are probably downloading music too– and respect authority. It’s cool to be a serf.

But even this ad is not as smarmy as the one featuring a kid who is supposed to be a young Jimi Hendrix, trying to choose between a Pepsi and Coke.

I presume that permission was granted by some Twisted Trustees of the Estate of Jimi Hendrix. As I have said before in these pages, it should be illegal for anyone, trustee or not, to be able to sell the image, name, or likeness of someone who is dead. It should be covered by the laws about “rendering an indignity to a dead body”. If someone is long dead, it should be public domain anyway. For someone like Hendrix, it’s too contemptible for words. It is a terrible, terrible dishonor to his memory to suggest that he would sell out like this, that he would so allow his name and image to be tarnished, cheapened, and insulted like this.

This is far, far more disgraceful than anything Janet Jackson did at the Super Bowl. The FCC should look into it. Michael Powell should call his dad and ask him how big of a fine would be enough to compensate the general public for the indecency rendered to the body of Jimi Hendrix.

Next, we go after IBM for what they did to the Little Tramp.

Here’s the biggest irony: the MPAA and Recording Industry always claim that they are protecting their “original” creative works whenever they try to shut down a piracy site. Then they use an absolutely ripped off version of “I Fought the Law” to flog the idea.

Listen to the version by the Clash and then Green Day. Do we need to protect artists who rip off other artists so blatantly? [Added 2012-01-18]

Janet Jackson at the Superbowl

Did you see it? You probably missed it. You were probably in the bathroom.

At the end of Janet Jackson’s rather sorry spectacle of a circus of a fireworks extravaganza of incredibly self-indulgent excessive spatter-fest of over-wrought writhing orgiastic dancers and musicians– her boob popped out. In fact, it appeared as though Justin Timberlake pulled off one of her leatherette little shields and there it was. CBS remarkably cut the camera within a second or two. Maybe there was a slight delay available to them– you know, whatever they call it, when they reserve to themselves a slight cushion of time just in case someone like Janet Jackson, on nationwide tv, does something inappropriate.

So you are mom. You’re watching the half-time show because, Lord knows, you can’t stand to watch football. Your kids are watching too. They are Janet Jackson fans. The dancers wear costumes inspired by S & M fantasies. They gyrate and move in motions meant to suggest intercourse. You smile and continue your knitting. They are singing something about being naked for you or whatever. Doesn’t matter. You nod and shake your head– modern music. Then it happens. You leap up and cover your children’s eyes. If you were fast enough, you may have spared them a life-time of deviance and sexual perversion. They might not have realized that they had seen Janet Jackson’s breast.

The opening act for this bizarre annual ritual– the Superbowl– was Aerosmith. Hoo hah. There are tail-gate parties, which they also have at state prisons on the nights they are going to execute people.

Steve Tyler himself. Most young football fans yearned for his daughter, Liv. Liv, ridiculously, played a psychiatrist in one of Jim Carrey’s most earnest and preposterous movies, “Reign Over Me”.

Then Beyonce sang the national anthem, with all the heartfelt authority and sincerity Hollywood can muster. Then 40 grown men pumped to preposterous proportions by steroids (professional football does not test anybody for anything except marijuana) chase each other over a 100 yard field trying to retrieve an oblong object made of pigskin. This crowd cheers wildly.

There are 100 commercials. They watch the commercials (that’s why they cost an average of $2.5 million– they do watch.) They think, I will be happy if I have some Pepsi. I will download legally. I will have an erection. Most of these people would say they are Christians. In God’s name, I have no clue what they think they are talking about.

There is approximately 10 seconds of action for 20 minutes of commercials, inane chatter, Janet Jackson’s breast, Steve Tyler’s tongue, and American flags.

The audience, apparently, has what they want– the ratings for Superbowl games are great. These people are American voters. Not only are they choosing the type of costume they want Janet Jackson to wear, but they are also choosing the next government of Iraq and the future of the Israel-Palestinian peace plan. Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake apologized about the breast.

Both of their careers, however, have been enhanced. There is no such thing as bad publicity.


I had not, until now, formed a strong opinion on the issue of spanking, though I had decided for myself, for quite some time, that if I had to raise my children over again, I wouldn’t do it.

I did think that parents could make a reasonable case for a legal right to spank their own children. Who is the government to interfere in family life to the extent of telling parents how to discipline? As long as the parents aren’t too rough, and as long as they really do love their children, I figured, why shouldn’t they have the right?

But it has always seemed odd to me that you can’t hit a 250 lb. adult male with any force whatsoever without risking the possibility of being charged with assault, but you can hit an 11-year-old girl, or a four-year-old, or a seven-year-old, with impunity. The courts have spoken. Linebackers need the protection of legislation. Children– well, we better let people hit them occasionally because it might be good for them.

Those children will now never threaten to sick their lawyers on you.

It does seem odd. And never odder than when I gazed upon the photo of Victoria Whaley, standing in front of Canada’s Supreme Court building with her mother and father. Victoria is now 13. She was there with her parents to support the existing legislation, which gives parents and teachers the right to use “reasonable” force when disciplining children. This cute blonde was saying, I want you to have the right to spank me. And Focus on the Family and other “Christian” organizations were there to say the same thing: spanking is good.

spanking_cu.jpg (176691 bytes)

spanking_cu.jpg (176691 bytes)

Now, something is wrong here. Focus on the Family likes to sell themselves– which, in my view, is pretty well what they do–sell– as an organization that promotes wholesome, traditional, family values.

Like spanking.

I have often wanted to ask Focus on the Family some specific questions about spanking. How hard is “reasonable”? Bare bum or no bare bum? Should fathers be allowed to spank girls, and mothers to spank boys? Wouldn’t that lead to temptations? Over knees, or standing, or laying down? Should step-fathers and step-mothers be allowed to spank? How about uncles? Is there a reasonable level of frequency? Once a day? Ten times a day? At which point should parents stop spanking and reach for the Ritalin?

I mean, for heaven’s sake, if you are going to endorse spanking but you want to reduce the risk of child abuse, you will have to be specific for most people and give some directions, including diagrams.

The trouble is, there isn’t a single child-abuser in the world who could be trusted to know what is “reasonable”. But they all know, now, that the government approves of some form of physical punishment of children. The government says you can do to children what you are never, ever permitted to do to an un-consenting adult.

That’s strange. It’s disturbing.

I would bet that many politicians know that there is something wrong with this law but can’t do anything about it because they have to get re-elected.

Copyright © 2004 Bill Van Dyk All rights reserved.

Doesn’t the girl in the picture look a little like Marcia Brady from The Brady Bunch?  Did Robert Reed, Dad Brady on the most traditional TV show of it’s era, spank?

Slate Article on Canadian Spankers

Is Sweden a hotbed of lawlessness?  They must be.  Spanking is illegal in Sweden.  If you believe Focus on the Family and other conservative Christian organizations and churches, the only way to teach children that there are consequences for bad behavior is to beat their little behinds.  Obviously, a country that bans spanking must, therefore, be full of criminals.

Focus on the Family provides a tantalizing “how-to” on spanking.
Added 2006-07   [Awwww.  They took it down.  Why, I wonder.  Why?]

spanking_lrg.jpg (29681 bytes)

I couldn’t find the answer to my question about bare bum or not anywhere on that page. If you have better luck than me, let me know. It is rather striking that the subject is not even addressed, even though, obviously, it is a central issue in terms of technique.

Equally obvious is the fact that it could create some serious problems for Dobson if he thought it was okay to spank bare bums. Why not, then, just say no?

You tell me.