Handel, Judas Maccabeus and Mel Gibson

 

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Something for the weekend.  The overture from Handel’s Judas Maccabeus.  Judas Maccabeus is a musical tribute to the revolt of the Maccabees, 167-160, against the attempts by Seleucid King Antiochus Epiphanes  to forcibly convert the Jews to paganism.  The revolt was not simply against the Selucids, but also against a sizable chunk of the population of Judea who were only too happy to embrace the ways of the Greeks.  Led by Mattathias, the father of Judas and his brothers, collectively known as the Maccabees, the revolt started in 167 BC when Mattathias, in the village of Modein outside of Jerusalem, cut down an official of the Selucid empire who was attempting to cajole Mattathias, a priest of Yahweh, to offer sacrifice to Zeus.  Mattathias and his sons then literally took to the hills, with Mattathias uttering a cry that has rung down the centuries:  “Let him who is zealous for the Law, follow me!”

Mattathias, an old man at the start of the revolt, soon died, and leadership descended to his son Judas.  Fighting a crafty guerilla campaign, Judas and his brothers, against all the odds, established an independent Jewish state.  After the heroic days of the Maccabees, the new Jewish state eventually descended into a fairly squalid series of civil wars, which ultimately led to the Romans under Pompey the Great seizing Jerusalem in 63 BC.  The Romans thereafter ruled Judea through puppet rulers.  Our Catholic Bibles have First and Second Maccabees which retell the heroic saga of the Maccabean Revolt.  This of course brings us to Mel Gibson, who has brought two heroic revolts to the screen and is apparently working on a third.

Earlier this year I lambasted Gibson for starring in the stinkeroo of the year, The Beaver, which cost approximately $21,000,000.00 to make and earned just a tad over $6, 370,000.00, with all but a million of that coming from foreign releases.  However, I recognize that Gibson has undeniable talent as both a star and a film producer, and I think he could produce an excellent film on this subject, involving as it does faith and war, two subjects that have brought out the best from Gibson in the past.

The scriptwriter for the project is Joe  Eszterhas, who wrote the script for the execrable Showgirls, one of the worst films ever made by fallen Man.  However, he underwent a conversion to Catholicism early in the last decade which he writes about here, and the team of Eszterhas and Gibson might be a demonstration of God using odd tools for His purposes.  I look forward to viewing what they come up with, and I pray that this film may help Mel along the path of his own personal redemption.

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19 Responses to Handel, Judas Maccabeus and Mel Gibson

  • Predictably, the ADL is not happy about this.

    http://insidemovies.ew.com/2011/09/09/adl-responds-mel-gibson-maccabee-film/

    Once you get a scarlet letter, hard to remove especially when the Jews are the targets given their miraculous ability to shape public opinion. Poor Mel. He’ll never be forgiven for his drunken rant. Everybody’s apparently forgotten Jesse Jackson’s Hymietown comment and Hillary Clinton’s “f—n jew bastard” remark (ironic now that she has a Jewish son-in-law).

  • “The Jews…” Don’t go there, Joe, for all our sakes. A little chauvinism can be fun — otherwise, we wouldn’t cheer for our high school football team — but without care and reflection it can also drift into the horrors of 1933-1945.

  • Oh, brother. I may be in need of reeducation camp and sensitivity training.

  • Of Gibson’s movies ‘Braveheart’ was historical tosh but in Scotland had the unfortunate effect of pandering to an unhealthy inferiority complex manifested in a growing culture of victimhood which does that once proud nation no credit. The best part of the film is the last fifteen minutes. I’m not sure what sentiments ‘The Patriot’ was pandering to. Surely Americans no longer need to mythologize their history and demonize their erstwhile adversaries. They did after all win that particular war (albeit with a lot of luck and with outside help). I find film-makers’ perversion of history far more offensive than the soft porn of ‘Showgirls’ which is really neither here nor there.

  • Colonel Tavington in the Patriot John was based on Colonel Banastre Tarleton who is still remembered for “Tarleton’s Quarter” that he gave to the surrendering Americans at Waxhaws by butchering them. My only regret is that Dan Morgan didn’t get to kill Tarleton at the Battle of Cowpens instead of merely defeating and humiliating him. I found the Patriot very good entertainment that is not to be confused with a documentary on the American Revolution in the South, although it does do a fairly good of showing the success of American partisans in keeping the war alive in South Carolina after the American forces under that British import Horatio Gates had been shattered at Camden.

    Much of Braveheart is a historical mess from the British lords seeking to enforce a right of the first night with Scottish brides to William Wallace impregnating the future Queen Isabella, who I believe was all of nine years old at the time of the death of Wallace. Having said that, the battle scenes are first rate, and the Scots have long taken pride in their struggle for independence against England. I do agree that modern Scottish Nationalists strike me as whiney and silly.

    There was nothing soft core about Showgirls, and I regard such pornography as far graver than the liberties that Mel Gibson has taken with history in what are, after all, movies. Of course Gibson, like most Aussies, transplanted or not, does have a big chip on his shoulder regarding you Brits. Perhaps Don the Kiwi would care to elaborate on this phenomenon?

  • I find many educators’ brainwashing of pupils in history (providing ideologies not educations) far more worrisome than film-makers’ entertainments.

    Regarding “Scotland the Brave”: Did Obama (“I will not rest . . . “) predict Scotland will be a nation once again?

  • (Guest comment by Don’s wife Cathy:) The Gibson/Eszterhas collaboration won’t be the first film depiction of the revolt of the Maccabees. There was also the 1962 film The Old Testament, which Don & I used to have (maybe still have?) on DVD. It doesn’t seem to have received very good reviews, though — see here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056650/

  • I guess this film is current and generating some buzz. An hour ago I’d never heard of it and yours is now the second blog discussing it. You’ll be shocked, just shocked, but this other one (which I stumbled across while looking up “oderint dum metuant”) manages to invent a pre-Classical 9/11 conspiracy in “The Hammer”‘s uprising. Here’s the link:
    http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2011/09/mark-kleiman-on-the-rise-of-the-hasmonean-dynasty.html

  • Don, I take your point, but the fact that Tavington was based on that gallant officer Banastre Tarleton who was not the proto-Nazi portrayed in the film (made by Germans, hmmm…) did not play well on this side of the pond where anti-Americanism lurks beneath the surface and which I have spent the last thirty years attempting to counter.

    On the tenth anniversary of what Europeans must call 11/9 be assured that our prayers are with you. God Bless America.

  • Thank you John. We Americans realize that we have no better friends than the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

    In regard to Tarleton, he figured in another recent film, Amazing Grace, that detailed his career in Parliament as a shill for the pro-slavery forces.

  • Interestingly, Spielberg’s film ‘Amistad’ created quite a stir on this side of the pond as it portrayed the Brits in a good light – the RN officer giving testimony in a US court, the bombardment of the slave fort and the liberation of the slaves by British redcoats – not what we expect from Hollywood!

  • Without the anti-slavery stance embraced by the British Empire John in the 19th Century, I have no doubt that slavery would still be flourishing in much of the world.

  • Mel Gibson, through his movie the Passion and the reactions to it, almost single-handedly destroyed one of the reliable myths that the ADL types could rely on to provoke guilt among Christians. The idea that Christians and in particular Catholics invariably work themselves into a frenzy over the perfidious Jews during Holy Week, is apparently widely believed among sections of the Jewish population. He will never be forgiven for this.

  • Although I do think that Gibson obviously has personal demons to deal with regarding Jews, his drunken rant established that beyond question, the argument that the Passion was anti-Semitic was truly hilarious. I guess it sailed right by the critics, who often seemed to have only a very vague knowledge of the Passion, and zero knowledge of Catholic theology regarding it, that the only time Gibson appears in the picture is when he had his hands nailing Jesus to the cross.

  • For what it is worth I do not think that Gibson has “issues” with Jews in general. His schtick – the mad rebel on edge – does not comport itself easily to the prevailing orthodoxy in Hollywood that between Jews and Christians, they have to be uniformly portrayed as helpless victims, sardonic critics and altruistic lovers of mankind .

  • “Gibson, like most Aussies, transplanted or not, does have a big chip on his shoulder regarding you Brits.”

    Not to mention the old saw about a well-balanced Irishman having a chip on BOTH shoulders…

  • Hi Don.
    Just caught up with your comment of 9/10 @ 7.21 pm. re the Aussie “chip on the shoulder”.
    I suppose ‘chip on the shoulder’ could be an apt description, certainly in the earlier days. There is an excellent book written by Robert Hughes entitled The Fatal Shore which details the early settlement of Australia (see Wikipedia or Amazon) – in one chapter it details the settlement of NZ as well some decades after Oz; deals with the socio-political climate of the time – late 18th. century.
    One of the things that the Aussies and Kiwis used to find annoying about the Brits was their penchant for comparing everything over here in a negative light with “Back home”. The natural respose was, of course, “Then why don’t you piss off back, then.”
    This, in NZ anyway, was common, particularly in the 50’s and 60’s. In those postwar decades NZ and Oz were needing immigration, and for NZ , british migrants were subsidised to come out here. It cost them 10 pounds for a sea voyage, and many took up the offer – a small number of them were’nt happy with the decision, and decided to return back to the UK. They were called “ten pound poms”, a rather derogatory title, but which the majority put up with, and assimilation became easier.
    The Aussie situation was a little different. While NZ was settled mainly by entrepreneurial types, Aussie, of course became the dumping ground for convicts – rightly or wrongly accused of mainly minor crimes and transported to the colonies. As convicts, they were often branded with the letters “P.O.M.E” – Prisoner of Mother England.Many were Irish, and generally lower working class people. So there was a built in resentment to the English, and of course, the upper classes were able to purchase land holdings in Oz, and the military – soldiers and officers -were treated favourably by the authorities, and gave quite a distinct class difference. This is where the nick name of ‘Pommies” or just “Poms” comes from – and still today are called such. In NZ, its more a friendly term – but when I lived in Oz in the 80’s, many Aussies still spat out the term in an almost insulting way, preceded by an adjective beginning with ‘f’.
    I must tell about “John the Pom” – a Pommy guy from Nottingham, John Swaby, who came to Oz in the early 70’s with his wife and young family. He had a great nature and a wild sense of humour (as most Poms do, actually). One of his favourite jokes went like this:
    “When I came out to Australia, after a few years, Aussie guys would come up to me and ask, ‘Tell me John, what do you think of the average Australian?’
    To which John would reply,’ I think the average Australian is a pretty good bloke – its the white fellas you’ve got to look out for.” :-) (a dig at the Aussies who are still pretty prejudiced against the ‘black fellas’ – Australian Aborigines)

    I had a joke which enabled you to tell whether a pom was a good bloke or not.
    ” A Pommie walked into a bar with a frog on his head. The barman asked, ‘where did you get that?” The frog replied,’ Dunno – started off as a wart on me bum.” :-)
    I had to dodge a fist on the rare occasion, but most of the guys took the joke, and you could guarantee that they would come back with with an equally humorous rejoinder.

    Life’s great, aint it? :-)

  • At the entrance to a safari park in Australia, along with the the warnings about dangerous animals, don’t open car windows, don’t get out of car etc. there was a list of entry fees to which was added “Poms on bicycles, free”. Poms everywhere were highly amused, reinforcing the point that racial insults only work if those against whom they are directed feel inferior in the first place. On the radio recently one of the “£10 poms” who emigrated to Oz in the 1950s recalled that his workmates wouldn’t speak to him for six months, only referring to him in the third person, e.g. “Does the pom want a cup of tea?” It was only when he was referred to as a “pommie bastard” that he realized he was half way to becoming accepted.

    Going back to Don’s point about slavery, it is often forgotten that the eradication of the slave trade was Britain’s number one foreign policy objective for most of the 19th century and the main task of the RN after the defeat of Napoleon. The east African slave trade, run by the Arabs for over a thousand years, was particularly intractable, not least because it was bound up with the ivory trade (the slaves carried the tusks to the coast). The only answer was to establish protectorates in east Africa, something HMG was reluctant to do but was pushed into by men on the spot, notably Sir James Kirk. The great slave market in Zanzibar was finally closed in 1890.

    A footnote: Uganda, though never a colony, was known as “the jewel in the crown of the British African empire” and Ugandans who remember the last years of the British protectorate are quite nostalgic about it. Bizarrely it was offered to the Zionists as a possible Jewish homeland – now that would have set the cat among the pigeons …

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