Posted by Tom Teicholz
In the reaction to the announcement that Mel Gibson was going to make a film about Judah Maccabee, the discussion has focused on whether Gibson should be the one to tell the story of this Jewish hero. I believe the concern should not be so much about whether he is the right person, as what story it is that Gibson is actually going to tell.
Gibson first announced (or threatened, as the case may be) that he was going to make a movie about the Maccabees when Jewish organizations were protesting “The Passion of the Christ.” What Gibson promised was the real story of the Maccabees.
The story of Hannukah may be a heart-warming miracle, but the Maccabees, in truth, were anything but that. One could argue they were the Taliban of their day, religious zealots who put to death those of their fellow Jews they found not to be sufficiently pious.
Despite the romance that has become Masada, and the young soldiers and tourists that are taken there to bond with Jewish glory, the Maccabees essentially organized a death cult, a suicide pact, that we might compare to other modern cults in Jonestown or Waco, and that stand out in marked contrast to Jewish belief, practice and history.
Gibson, over and over again, in his movies, be it “Braveheart” or “The Passion” or “Apocalypto” has put forward a belief that blood and gore, torture and murder lead to transformative, redemptive, even religious experiences. Gibson’s Maccabee movie, is to be written by Joe Eszterhas, who after penning “The Music Box” about a daughter who discovers her father was a Nazi collaborator, discovered his own father was a Hungarian Nazi collaborator, and has recently himself, found religion.
Gibson’s “Maccabee” could well be his response to his Jewish critics, giving them a dose of Gibson’s bloody medicine, payback for their criticism of him, his father (and in Gibson’s mind), his religion.
I have no idea whether this movie will ever get made (although Gibson still has enough money to finance it himself). However, if it does, I think it’s message will not be of how Jews are a light to the world, but rather a tale of how imperfect their heroes are in fact. Perhaps, in the end, that will be good for the Jews. But I doubt it.
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