Friday, August 1, 2008

Un-Banning Brian

Sue Jones-Davies, Mayor of Aberystwyth, Wales, U.K. has proposed lifting the ban on Monty Python's classic movie, “The Life of Brian”. The film is a whacky piece of comedy that examines the mass hysteria of crowds, and herd mentality.

The difficulty for many Christians with this film, however, is that Monty Python used Jesus Christ as an integral part of their spoof. In a sideways fashion, Jesus is upstaged by an average guy nextdoor, Brian Cohen. So, wanting to come and see their saviour, the hyped-up crowds descend on what they think is Jesus' house only to mistakenly end up at Brian's house. From that point on, Brian grows up with an entourage of followers, and is continuously fending them off with the proclamation that they've got it all wrong, that he's not the saviour.

Still, many Christians were deeply offended by the off-beat humour of the British troupe, and have held to that offense ever since. Reverend Bell opposes lifting the ban, saying,

"There's been no change in attitude or response to the film amongst the Christians who have spoken to me in Aberystwyth...

"The film at its root is poking fun at Christ and we don't want that to happen. I don't think that the film should be shown. Why should the ban be removed?

“If someone was going to make fun of my wife in a film then I would oppose that… Making fun of Jesus Christ, whom I love more than my wife, in a film is going to offend me."

The problem, as I see it, though, is that the film is not about Jesus. And that's where most of the misunderstanding comes in. The film is very directly about people blindly following a mistaken identity; it's about the madness of crowds.

There are plenty of examples of crowd delusions beaten into history, and Charles Mackay has catalogued some of them quite well. The fact that this film gives some stage to Christ does not make it about Christ, nor does it mean that Christ is considered farcical. The film is simply a creative jaunt into a giant 'what if?' What if people had mistaken the baby born next door to Christ as the Messiah? What would happen if Brian were thought to be the Christ, and not Jesus?

"Jones-Davies has previously said, 'I would like to think that any religion would have the generosity to see the film for what it is, which is a comedy,' according to the BBC."

I quite agree. Over-reaction is something that plagues a lot of religious folk. Banning an imaginative comedy for making fun of crowds that mistake Brian Cohen for Jesus Christ is simply proving Monty Python's point: people are easily whipped up into thoughtless frenzies. This being no exception.

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