The following post contains graphic and good-taste-defying descriptions of mind numbing, humanity draining, stomach churning, breathtakingly evil sentiments by a religionist. Read on at your own risk.
Cheers to Tarry Mattingly, the religion professor and journalist behind GetReligion, for this piece about the increasing prevalence of graphically depicted torture scenes on network TV, and the silence of the religionists. “[M]ost religious groups are totally silent about the role that entertainment plays in daily life,” he says, “other than to blow the warning trumpets every year or two about sex in a specific show or movie (as if waves of teen-agers are rushing out to see Brokeback Mountain)…”
He’s one of the good guys.
Jeers to Greg Popcak, Mr. Exceptional Marriages himself, who–writing in a comment on this post at GetReligion–explains why as a “Christian” he finds torture scenes such as those in the movie Hostel to be less morally offensive than the love scenes in Brokeback Mountain.
Here’s the argument of Mr. Exceptional Marriages in full:
Here’s my take, for what its worth. I won’t be patronizing either; Brokeback because it doesn’t speak to me and I don’t care to line the pockets of those who have a cultural agenda opposed to mine, and Hostel because I think it is in horrible bad taste and I don’t care to encourage that kind of “entertainment.”
That said, I still find Hostel less objectionable than Brokeback because:
(1) No one in decent society is suggesting that snuff-porn based “relationship” should be the cultural norm between two consenting adults and that people who want to kill each other in the name of love should be granted the same status as married people and
(2) Even in an awful movie like Hostel, there is no question that what we are witnessing is evil. It might be awful to watch, but then, evil always is. Fascinatingly awful. Brokeback is MUCH more morally ambiguous.
(3) As some have noted, Hostel can be used to illustrate how objectification of people for sex can lead directly to the objectification of people for torture. If I can use people however I want (pleasure/contraception), why can’t I abuse them however I want (torture for thrill)? I think it is much more difficult to draw similar clear moral lessons from Brokeback.
(4) Picking up on this theme, in Hostel, evil is either clear and, ultimately, unattractive as a way of life, or obviously punished. This is actually a common ethic in the whole horror genre which is why some argue that the horror drama is actually the modern answer to the traditional morality play. Brokeback, again, is much more ambiguous, and although the protagonists experience pain as the result of their actions, I am not certain that the movie makes it clear that the pain is the result of their actions rather than the result of a society that prohibits them from “being who they really are.” Therefore, anthropologically speaking Brokeback is more objectionable—I would argue—than a movie like Hostel, and even though a movie like Hostel is decidedly uglier, that is part of its moral appeal—if you will.
I don’t know Popcak, but I want to ask anyone who can write this sort of drivel: When did you lose your humanity, man? When did your heart stop pumping the same blood that flows through the blood of us all? When did your cold, hardened, shriveled mind start spewing rationalizations of the most Nazi-like variety, and relabeling such evil as Christian? God have mercy on you.
Well, Poppy, these words are for you. I have seen both these movies. I had been planning to wait to see Hostel on video, but your comment changed my mind about that. I had to see for myself if anyone in his or her right mind could compare these two movies and come to your conclusion. I saw them back to back just yesterday. Hostel in the afternoon sickened me so much I left the theater wanting to vomit. It was more graphic, more gruesome than anything I had ever seen depicted on film before. None of the characters were likable, but you may be interested to know that the slightly more likable characters, the ones with a shred of conscience, the almost innocent ones, well, they died the worst. They got tortured longer and more gruesomely than the rest, drills and screws in the eye sockets and all that.
Thinking of your evil post, Mr. Exceptional Marriages, I felt compelled to go out to see Brokeback Mountain in the evening. I heard your voice in my head, and I wished it would be silent. That Popcak voice that could tolerate torture and abhor love, and do so in the name of all that is most sacred. I could still hear it even as the story of the sadness and brokeness of humanity came home to the audience, and the waves of crying began among the audience moved to grief. I cried, and I even cried for you, that you must live with such darkness within your soul, and when you lash out with your thought turds on the Internet, the suffering of the world grows. Perhaps my tears can help bring some silence in my head from the harmful words you breathed like pollution into the blogosphere, Mr. Exceptional Marriages. Perhaps they can tame my rage, and turn even my anger into a source of clarity rather than destruction.
None of the readers of Mattingly’s GetReligion blog found Poppy’s comments objectionable enough to respond critically. Makes one wonder if the guy’s opinion that torture is more morally acceptable subject of film than same-sex love might very well be a mainstream opinion among many religionists. If true, that would explain a lot about the silence Mattingly hears in the pews.
But I choose to have more faith in humanity than that. I choose to have more faith in Christians. I have sat in a theater watching Brokeback Mountain filled with hundreds of gay and straight couples on dates, and heard the sobs of women and men. For every heart ruled by the darkness of ignorance and twisted by corrupt thoughts, there are many more hearts still beating with love, still growing, learning, and identifying with the suffering of others. Tortured souls need not become torturing souls, if they are open to love and truth. It’s a hard world to be human, but not impossible.