Parents take heed

This editorial does not intend to insult anyone’s religious beliefs. It is only asking that parents think twice about taking children to the new Mel Gibson movie.

If judged by in-your-face violence perpetrated on an individual, The Passion of the Christ is the most violent film ever legally put to tape. It is indeed the most violent cultural entertainment phenomenon to make its appearance in the 21st century—although there can be little doubt that it has paved the way for more. This is more violent than Reservoir Dogs, Saving Private Ryan or video games like Doom or Quake. However, since this violence is couched in terms of religion, it’s somehow considered wholesome.

The very groups that would be loudest in their complaints about the violence if the movie didn’t have a religious aspect are encouraging attendance to this religious slasher flick. Yes, like all art that holds a mirror up to our society, The Passion of the Christ has redeeming social value. But the fact that it has religious themes should not have given it a pass when it came time to give this film a rating. It should have been rated NC-17. Parents should have had a clear understanding that this movie is not suitable for children.

At a recent matinee viewing of this movie, children—some in arms, some toddlers, right on through teenagers—left the movie visibly shaken. Some crying. The fact of the matter is the image of this man being beaten with the equivalent of barbed wire until his flesh falls in ribbons from his body, suffering innumerable brutalities up to and including his death upon the cross, will be burned into the memories of children who don’t have the defenses or the knowledge to understand that this is only a movie.

The movie isn’t even in a language American children understand. As children sat in the theater wide-eyed, transfixed, they weren’t even given the dubious blessing of understandable dialogue. They couldn’t read the subtitles; they were too young. All they received were the images of someone recognizable getting beat into hamburger and then killed. Unfiltered. Unprotected. With the tacit endorsement of parents. How are parents going to have the moral authority to tell their children they can’t play violent video games when they have subjected them to this?

Despite what some critics have said about the film, God does indeed make cameos in the movie. The problem is that God only appears in symbols, like the dove, which children don’t have the capacity to recognize.

This editorial simply asks parents and religious leaders to have the common sense to recognize that this is a movie, and it should be judged by the same criteria as other movies. Children should wait until they are old enough to understand the themes of sacrifice and reconciliation before they see this film.

There’s no doubt that this is a powerful depiction of the suffering of Jesus Christ, but part of its power comes by making viewers vulnerable through their human repugnance at the violence that was perpetrated upon the man on the screen. Yes, violence is a powerful tool in movies. Children shouldn’t be subjected to it.