Thursday, November 5, 2009

Bromance at the movies: Volume 1

Recently I've found myself poring over my top 100 films list, looking for repeating patterns, similarities, and idiosyncrasies that might provide insight into my general artistic tastes. While I have yet to distill all of this info into something conclusive that fits with in a bloggable stereotype, I have divined one inevitable fact: I do love a good bromance. I don't mean bromance in the cop-out "let's be good friends" sense, but full-on bromance. I want my movies to earn their pun. So, as a way of beginning an analysis on man-love in movies, and as a way of telling Maine to suck it, I'd like to take a closer examination at the most relevant bromance in "history," as chronicled in a free-wheeling hippie musical. I'm talking, of course, about the unbridled love, passion, and implied sex between Jesus Christ and Judas, shown through Jesus Christ Superstar.
Oh shit yes. I'm going there. I'm going there hard.

Jesus Christ Superstar as a play is inherently subversive. It portrays Jesus's early followers and writhing penitents, desperate for some form of reward ("Christ you know I love you/Can't you see I waved/ I believe in you and God/so tell me that I'm saved"), while the people around him tell him to "keep them yelling in their devotion, but add a touch of hate." Meanwhile, Jesus staggers around, yelling that he's not the Son of God, while Mary Magdelene spends many a night with him, even if she can't please him. Take a look at this clip that very accurately captures the film's perspective of early Christianity:

The 1973 film version, directed by Norman Jewison, takes the offensiveness even farther, however. For your viewing pleasure, I humbly submit this clip:

Let's just ignore the fact that Jesus seems to be inhabiting a love-cave with a barely-dressed harem of women dancing around him while Mary Magdelene rubs oil on his body. What's interesting here is Judas: watch him watching Mary. What's in his face, his eyes? That's right. Jealousy. He's not pissed that she's wasting her fine ointment; he's pissed that she's making moves on his man. If you think I'm reading too much into it, just wait for Jesus's reply: he tells Judas to stop bitching about the poor, and start worrying about him. Jesus says that he'll be leaving Judas soon, and he wants him to be alright. Then, they hold hands. No, not just hold hands: they full-on caress each other as Judas dissolves into tears. Please note that Mary Magdelene is very nearly grinding on Jesus the whole time, but Jesus only has eyes for Judas, and vice versa.
The whole film plays like this. Was this done with the express purpose of angering the religious right? While it's a nice ancillary benefit, I can't help but feel that it wasn't director Norman Jewison's primary objective. Consider this: if Judas were played like the straight (in every sense of the word), conventional villain, then Jesus's story is simply a tale of a traitor acting for money. That's been done. It has no real emotional heft or meaning. Add a bit of love into the equation. Suddenly, Judas isn't just some bad guy: he's torn between the man he loves and what he sees as the future of his country. The film shows Judas struggling with indecision, worried that the uprising that Christ is creating will bring Roman retaliation from which his homeland won't be able to recover. He loves Jesus, but is finally convinced that the people he love, including himself, need to suffer so that Israel can have a future. This bit of love turns a cliched villain story into a heart-wrenching parable of prioritizing the good of the majority over personal emotions.
Hence a bromance is born. I've only shown you the one clip, but the film is rife with significant glances and innuendos. Hell, it's not a bromance so much as a full-on romance. The film only earns that extra B because of its reluctance to be explicit. Maybe next time, Jesus. Maybe next time.

Am I going straight to hell, or do Jesus and Judas make the wrongwaysbusiness? Your choice, not mine.

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