7 Excellent But Morally Problematic Movies

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2: The Passion of the Christ

This movie is probably the first one that really made me come to terms with the idea that horribly offensive images and philosophies can still be made into great art. It may not have been clear to me at first—I lived a, shall we say, sheltered adolescence and so I didn’t find anything wrong with Mel Gibson’s Passion when it came out—but since learning that he’s a raging anti-Semite with violent tendencies and revenge fantasies far less cartoonish than you’d get from someone like Tarantino, I’ve concluded that this film is awful.

The hints of portraying Jewish children as demons and absolving Pontius Pilate and having the Jewish leaders declare the blood of the messiah shall forever be on their children somehow seemed innocent until the news of Gibson’s racist tirades came to light, then it was like ok, maybe there’s something to the overwhelming amount of racial issues people have noticed in his movie.

That’s nothing to say of the theology of the movie, which basically says the worse Christian imagines Jesus’ suffering to be, the more meaningful it is. That’s pretty extreme, though more widely held than those outside the community may realize. So that’s problematic too. But I imagine if I agreed with this theology, and found it meaningful, well this is probably as beautiful a depiction of this suffering and the emotion carried by that suffering that perhaps there could ever be.

Gibson’s personally a mess, but his knack for visual storytelling speaks for itself, as it does from the gorgeous opening shots of The Passion of the Christ, right through the tactile realism of the brutal torture scenes, all the way to the ending (spoiler: resurrection!). Seriously though, the empty tomb scene is kind of beautifully handled. Such expert filmmaking put to such twisted ends is saddening.

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