I
usually do not pay attention to news about biblical movies. The Bible has been
a subject of film
for well over a century, logging in literally hundreds
of titles. Although filmmakers know there is a wealth of stories to lift from
the Bible, the ones that make it to the big screen are relatively few. The only
difference between them lies in the progress of special effects, winding up
today with computer generated images to create miracles and swell the sizes of
the crowds and to add other technological icing. If you’ve seen one Ten Commandments or Ben Hur or The Robe,
you’ve seen them all.
When
Hollywood runs out of new takes on zombie plagues, alien invasions, capitalist
conspiracies to take over the world, and catastrophic “climate
changes” that dehydrate or drown the globe, there are always Red Seas to
part, waters to walk on, and loaves and fishes to multiply. Jesus himself has
undergone a number of make-overs during the film industry’s century-plus
history, from handsome
hunks
preaching love on the hill to crowds of extras to a rockin’ Super
Star
.”
Anyone
for Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson as Moses?
Or as Mohammad? After all, we have Russell Crowe gallomping around as a pious
but Ark-ready Noah.
A
character in “House of Cards,” Secretary of State Catherine
Durant
, played by Jayne Atkinson, too strongly resembles former Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton. I think that was intentional. Durant is a frumpy and
dumpy white-haired Southern gal, as well, and is Frank Underwood’s policy
poodle, ready to tailor her diplomatic spiel to Underwood’s. Will Hillary’s
publicity agent protest the characterization? Likely not; it’s advisable not to
call attention to the similarities between Hillary and Durant when a real life,
alleged candidate is already having image and truth problems.
But
suppose handsome George Clooney was picked to portray former president Bill
Clinton in some improbable “docudrama”? Would his publicist crank out
a protest? Absolutely not, not even if Bill Clinton as president were depicted
espousing free market principles, siding with the Serbs, nailing bin Laden on
the first try, and keeping his roaming hands off of his interns’ tushes.
But
all it takes is someone’s whisper to get the ball rolling to a politically correctness-governed
scandal, and the media, for lack of anything else to do, will lap it up and
grow it to tabloid headline size.
For
example, I chanced upon this February 17th story by Jeff Sneider
from MSN:
“Son of God” producers
Mark Burnett and Roma Downey have cast Satan out of their upcoming Biblical
epic about Jesus Christ an individual familiar with the 20th Century
Fox project has told The Wrap.   
“Son of God” is a
reshaped version of last year’s hit History Channel miniseries “The
Bible,” which co-starred Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni as Satan. Burnett and
Downey came under fire last year because Ouazanni bears a striking resemblance
to President Barack Obama, though the producers said at the time that the
casting controversy was unintentional and merely coincidental.
The
charge was made last year that the actor too resembled Obama. Tim Molloy of The
Wrap
reported:
“Someone made a comment that
the actor who played the devil vaguely resembled our president, and suddenly
the media went nuts,” Downey said in a statement Monday. “The next
day, when I was sure everyone would only be talking about Jesus, they were
talking about Satan instead. For our movie, ‘Son of God,’ I wanted all of the
focus to be on Jesus. I want his name to be on the lips of everyone who sees
this movie, so we cast Satan out. It gives me great pleasure to tell you that
the devil is on the cutting room floor.”
20th Century Fox will release
“Son of God” on Feb. 28. The 10-hour miniseries has been pared down
to two hours, which meant sacrificing Satan’s scenes to focus on Jesus.
Coincidence
or not, Burnett and Downey caved. They erred on the side of caution – and fear. After all, this is the kind of
meat that race card players like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson dine on. And who
would want to be their main entrée? It
was more than Satan that was left on the cutting room floor. It was the freedom
to express one’s opinion about Barack Obama.
But
the incident points up to another symptom of the semi-totalitarian malaise that
has descended on the country over the last fifteen or so years: a worry that
one might offend some individual or group with how that individual or group is
depicted publically. Islamic touchiness over images of Mohammad is now old hat.
Now it’s political touchiness, sensibility, and easily offended men with
hemophilic souls from virtually every realm.
Fortunately
for modern filmmakers, the dead can’t be bruised and return to lodge a protest.
There have been almost as many movies made about Abraham
Lincoln
as about Christ; nearly all of them feature an actor who resembled
the man. I have never seen an actor who did justice to Washington. In the most
recent TV film, “John
Adams
,” the actor who played the first president looked as though his
face had been injected with Botox. Oft times the look of an historic person is
right, but the characterization is off. Ralph
Bellamy’s
FDR
was simply too saccharine in “Sunrise at Campobello.” Given
FDR’s antisemitism, welfare statism, and fighting WWII on Josef Stalin’s terms,
he ought to have been depicted as
Satan, polio or no polio.
And
are you ready to accept Leonard DiCaprio as the Uber Progressive President Woodrow
Wilson
?
Barack
Obama has been caricatured countless times in political cartoons (and in Halloween
masks
), in the U.S. and around the world. But, for some reason, political
cartoonists have rarely provoked the ire of the White House. And it usually
isn’t the White House that objects, but a politically correct mentality
offended by an uncomplimentary depiction of Obama and who dutifully reports it
to the PC police in the news media. Political caricaturing, because it is such
an individual art, is as sacrosanct as other forms of political speech ought to
be. The overwhelming majority of political cartoons of Obama are demonstrably unflattering.
The
unintentional depiction of Obama as Satan (or of Satan as Obama), or as a
gauche, big-eared goofball in a political cartoon is a freedom of speech issue.
Technically, if we accept as proper a government’s definition of “hate
speech,” virtually every political cartoonist is guilty of committing
“hate speech.” Should they be thrown face-down to the floor,
handcuffed, and led away by federal speech-SWATTERs while men in black tear
apart their studios looking for more incriminating evidence of hate speech?
What
is “hate speech”? The American Bar Association defines it as:
Hate speech is speech that
offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national
origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits.
The
emphasis is on groups, not individuals, but because Barack Obama is
“black,” any derogatory remark about or depiction of him could easily
be construed as “hate speech” directed at blacks. Professor Stephen
Brooks of the University of Windsor, Canada, had this to say about the alleged
ubiquity of hate
speech laws
in the U.S.:
Virtually all state legislatures
have passed hate crime laws of one sort or another, the most common sort being
that which imposes additional punishment for hate-motivated criminal acts.  Under Title 28, Section 994 of the United
States Criminal Code, hate crime is defined as “crime that is motivated by the
actual or perceived race, colour, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender,
disability, or sexual orientation of any person.” In addition, under the Hate
Crimes Statistics Act of 1990, the federal government maintains a database of
crimes that conform to the above definition. 
Neither Congress nor the states have
enacted hate speech/propaganda laws that specifically target speech.  State laws cover actual intimidation,
harassment, assault, and breach of the peace where hatred toward the members of
a group is shown to have been a contributing factor. California’s hate law,
section 422.6 of the state penal code, specifically declares that, “no person
shall be convicted of [a hate crime] based upon speech alone, except upon a
showing that the speech itself threatened violence against a specific person or
group of persons and that the defendant had the apparent ability to carry out
the threat.”  There are obvious echoes of
both the fighting words and imminent danger tests in this provision
of California law.
Could
the depiction of Obama as Satan in the “Son of God” film be described
as “hate speech”? Possibly, if Burnett and Downey “hate”
Obama. But, why would their hatred be punishable? As with political cartoons,
the portrayal of Obama as Satan could not be treated as “slander,”
“libel,” or even a defamation of character. If that is what Burnett
and Downey originally thought of Obama, why should that be of concern to the
government? Why should anyone who is not
Obama take exception to it? What business would it be of anyone’s but Obama’s? Obama
has proven to be not as thin-skinned as many of his admirers and supporters. He’s
taken as many caricatured hits as any other president in the last fifty years.
USA
Today ran a Missouri TV station’s report on the rodeo
clown
who wore an Obama mask and was subsequently banned from all Missouri
rodeo events. The ban was a consequence of “public opinion,” and not decreed
by any “hate speech” law. However, the report also shows the clown in
the mask. Why would the station or any other news media report that showed the
clown in the mask not bring down the
approbation of the public (and the tacit approval of state lawmakers)? After
all, in order to communicate the issue, the object of the approbation had to be
depicted, which meant showing Obama as a hee-haw cowboy. Why wouldn’t a TV
station not be held to the same
measure as the “Son of God” filmmakers, or any other individuals? Why
was that one station so fearless?
Because,
in that one instance, it was Obama who was being mocked, and, in real life, not
in political cartoons, that is verboten.
There is nothing to fear from a
tyrant if one is lavishing praise on him or defending him from real-life detractors.
To the liberal media, lengthy arguments in defense of the First Amendment are
abstract and abstruse and don’t reach the public. Actions taken in expressing
one’s First Amendment rights, however, are perceived as threats and potential
causes of unrest and violence and an invitation to worshippers of Progressivism
to plant their own burning crosses on one’s front lawn.
Further,
the rodeo clown’s mockery of Obama was, by implication, perceived as mockery of
his political agenda and that of the Progressives.
Had
the station attempted to report the incident without showing the reason for the uproar, it could
communicate nothing, not even if it settled for showing the masked clown in a
blur of digital pixels, as many stations did when reporting the Mohammad
cartoon episodes. No one can get upset over the sight of anything reduced to
obliterating fuzziness (except Muslims – and this qualification could be treated as “hate speech,” too).
People would ask: What’s the fuss about?
It
is the fear of reprisals by individuals
and groups that introduces self-censorship into the minds of a nation’s
citizens and prepares them for blatant censorship. And a statist government will
only be too glad to oblige those groups with statutory censorship to preserve
the “public good.” It was fear
that caused newspapers and even book publishers from reprinting the Mohammad
cartoons.
It
will be fear – and not immediately any
government censorship – that will allow individuals and groups to intimidate Americans
into refraining from calling Barack Obama the very real and very visible collectivist
Satan he actually is.
One
thing that will save the country from dictatorship will be for Americans to
exercise their First Amendment right to depict Obama or any other politician as
the devils they are.