There is nothing unethical about “Noah,” the biblical spectacular that harkens back to the grand old days when Cecil B. DeMille reigned supreme. I haven’t seen the movie, and yet I can say that with absolute certainty. The reason I can say it that there is no way on earth that a movie about Noah and the Ark, in this day and age, could possibly be unethical. Even if the Old Testament were literal fact, which it is not, cannot be and in all likelihood was never intended to be, “Noah” couldn’t possibly be unethical, because it is a movie.
Never mind that of all the Biblical fables, with the possible exception of Adam and Eve, the tale of Noah is perhaps the most obviously impossible. The movie is art—of one kind or another—and does not represent itself as a documentary or make any factual assertions whatsoever. Thus it can be distinguished from a truly unethical film like Oliver Stone’s “JFK,” which intentionally misrepresented recent historical facts to “prove” a theory of the Kennedy assassination that was irresponsible and almost certainly false. Is “Noah” dishonest? It is impossible to be dishonest about a presumptively non-historical event about which there is no direct evidence whatsoever, and when there is no intention to deceive. Is it disrespectful? Art has no duty to be respectful. Is it fair? Fair to who? An artist’s stakeholders are those who appreciate his or her art. Does it do harm, or intend to? No.
Yet the movie has spawned world-wide condemnation. Three Muslim countries have banned the film and a fatwa has been issued because of it. All right, we are used to this nonsense from Muslims by now: some of them threatened murder because of a “South Park” episode. No one in the U.S., especially artists, should pay any heed or make any concessions to the backward and repressive aspects of Islam that are basically attempts at thought control. We should expect more from domestic Christians, however, who have theoretically been paying some attention to the culture, have picked up on the fact that people make movies and have noticed the long and benign tradition of making films about the Bible that bear about as much relationship to the King James version as “Gone With The Wind” is an accurate portrayal of the Old South.
Non-American Christians deserve a little more slack, but not much. A representative of an Australian pentecostal megachurch attended a an early screening of the film, and helpfully alerted The Hollywood Reporter, “If you’re expecting it to be word for word from the Bible, you’re in for a shock.” Allow me to rephrase, slightly: “If you’re expecting it to be word for word from the Bible, you’re a gibbering idiot.” When has any Biblical film intended for a general audience been “word for word from the Bible”? Who would be crazy enough to produce such a thing? Any critic who would utter such a foolish “warning” as that Australian is as likely to express shock that the people on the screen appear so much bigger than normal humans, and wonder why there was music playing in the background.
As for American religious leaders—are they trying to make Christianity look like a cult for fools? Do they want to make sure everyone over the age of 12…10…8…rolls their eyes and swears that they never will be caught dead in a church lest they be subjected to more ridicule than if they carried a “My Little Pony” lunch bag to school? Church leaders and spokespersons have an ethical obligation not to make their faiths look ridiculous, and such conduct as the following breaches it: the National Religious Broadcasters threatened to boycott the film unless Paramount, the film’s distributor and co-financer with New Regency, published a disclaimer that the movie isn’t a literal interpretation of the Genesis story. Naturally the studio, being run by principle-free weasels who would disown their mothers if it meant a bigger box office, capitulated with a dumb statement in its ads that says the movie was only “inspired” by the Bible story. Threatening boycotts if people won’t do unnecessary things, however, is far more unforgivable than cowards validating the threat by doing those unnecessary things. No brain-possessed individual should have to be instructed that any movie isn’t a literal, completely accurate representation of its source material, and, you know, the Bible can be checked, rapidly and easily, by anyone who cares, unlike, say, the Warren Report.
When did Christians lose all sense of proportion (an ethical value), tolerance (another) and common sense? I’m sure someone, somewhere, complained, but there was nothing like this uproar half a century ago when Cecil gave us Charlton Heston as a stud Moses who strangled Vincent Price and watched God carve the Ten Commandments into stone like Nolan Ryan hurling fastballs. I love that film, but even as a child nobody needed to tell me that a movie like that wasn’t a literal interpretation of anything, and had as much in common with “Journey to the Center of the Earth” than it did with religion. Half a century, and with it Bill Cosby (“Noah…”), Mel Brooks, Monty Python, Mel Gibson, Max Von Sydow, and dozens of other Bible stories adapted, dramatized and parodied—and Christian leaders understand less about art, less about movies, less about rational discourse? How is that possible?
Which brings us to the really stupid part: conservatives getting upset at Bill Maher for saying something ignorant that was intended to annoy them. You see, Maher, the HBO pseudo-comic who is essentially the Angry Left’s Rush Limbaugh without being either as smart or fair as Rush, also thinks—or so he says—that Noah is immoral:
“But the thing that’s really disturbing about Noah isn’t the silly, it’s that it’s immoral. It’s about a psychotic mass murderer who gets away with it, and his name is God. What kind of tyrant punishes everyone just to get back at the few he’s mad at?…Hey God, you know you’re kind of a dick when you’re in a movie with Russell Crowe and you’re the one with anger issues. […] Conservatives are always going on about how Americans are losing their values and their morality, well maybe it’s because you worship a guy who drowns babies.”
Yes, yes, that’s really hilarious, Bill–now call all Republicans racists and Sarah Palin “a twat” again, and say good night.
Bill, a hateful atheist who, unlike the intelligent variety (Clarence Darrow, Christopher Hitchens), has no idea what he’s railing against, flags his cluelessness by showing his misunderstanding of the term “immoral.” Since for Christians God makes the rules, he is literally incapable of being immoral; it is a contradiction in terms. If God kills, it is by definition right and good, because God himself defines right and good. Does Bill really not get this? It’s not hard. It’s essentially the way he and his audience regard Barack Obama.
On the other hand, sputtering with rage because Maher called God a “dick” and said he was a murderer is equally silly. If you don’t believe that God “works in mysterious ways” and that everything He does in the Old Testament is justifiable as part of some greater plan, Maher is indisputably right. God is a mass murderer, and He does act like a dick. (You can read what Maher was obviously cribbing from here.) Exhibit A: Job. Exhibit B: Killing innocent Egyptian kids. Exhibit C: Yes, the Flood, especially killing all those innocent animals that God supposedly loved as much as he loves his other creations. To someone like Maher, the conclusion is obvious: anyone other than God who acted like this would be called a murderer (“dick” would be an understatement) by everyone, with there being no controversy at all. So for Maher to say it is nothing new or offensive. All Maher is saying is that he’s an atheist, and we already knew that. And he’s acting like Bill Maher: “fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly,” The Julie Principle. Bill’s gotta act like a dick.
Pointer: Gazette Xtra (Kathleen Parker)
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