Nail-up, Pin-up, same difference: meet Image Boy

by Yule Heibel on April 3, 2004

In today’s Toronto Star, What a trend we have in Jesus by David Graham:

…celebrities, including Brad Pitt, Ben Affleck, Ashton Kutcher and Pamela Anderson, have been spotted wearing “Jesus is My Home Boy” T-shirts and baseball hats. The shirts and caps appeal to religious and fashion types, explains Chris Hoy, a partner in Teenage Millionaire, the company that sells the shirts. “We were looking for pop icons of the 21st century and Jesus topped the list.”
Barbara Atkin, fashion director of Holt Renfrew, makes it her job to stay ahead of cultural trends. “We are fascinated with Jesus now because we are searching for comfort, hope and meaning in a fearful world,” Atkin says. “Whether people buy the message or not, they are clinging to the symbols.”
In the wake of the ’60s anti-war movement, Jesus was portrayed as a pacifist (Jesus Christ Superstar). But now, in our current violence-obsessed culture, Mel Gibson’s vision of a bloodied action-hero is “a reflection of the savage quality of American life,” says Fox, who argues that in the film Jesus appears more super-human than divine.
Media critic Neal Gabler, who has written several books on popular culture, has drawn a clear distinction between Jesus and God. The reason Jesus has become a celebrity and God has not is simple, he argues.

“There’s no decent visual for God.” [More…]

It was ever thus. (And, shameless self-promotion in wake of Gabler’s pithy summary, see also my other entry re. iconoclasm and Gibson’s movie. I really appreciate Gabler’s use of the word “decent” here. Right on.)


Joel April 4, 2004 at 1:44 am

This agnostic student of mythology is very disturbed by Gibson’s machinations. Americans are more ~obsessed~ with violence than any other people, I’ve noted. It’s not something they live through every day, but they think it is going to happen to them at any time, they live as if Armagaeddon is going to come down on them tomorrow.

I find that ironic given that I see nothing of this violence except as an export product out of the United States — in the form of films, arms, and military adventures.

Christ wasn’t a macho man who worked out with weights and went for a slimmer, trimmer body. That’s stoicism.

Gibson should read Paradise Lost where Milton casts Satan in the classic role of the hero arming himself for battle and setting out to “right things”. Putting Christ into the classic mode of hero destroys what Christ was all about.

Being crucified is anything but heroic. You don’t see the glitterati lining up for that honor. No. They’ll sooner wear the t-shirt.

Yule Heibel April 4, 2004 at 4:04 am

Good point about Milton’s Satan, Joel. And it’s true: there is an obsession with violence in America that isn’t nearly as pronounced in many other countries, and that violence is a huge export product (as well as a product for the domestic market in the form of consumerist entertainment). Now it’s mixed in with fundamentalist religion and a hefty dose of technology, including the usual tech-suspects — armaments — but also the various entertainment industries, the propaganda machine. Brrrr…

Joel April 4, 2004 at 5:09 am

Yes, Yule. If this were a bunch of tribesmen in the Amazon or the New Guinea Highlands, there wouldn’t be nearly as much cause for concern. Why can’t the American military start a cargo cult and put people to work waiting for Jesus instead of trying to make the Revelation come true?

Anonymous April 13, 2004 at 1:47 pm

If Jesus character was copyrighted then would Mel Gibson have to pay a licensisng fee to Vatican? or could he argue for that Christ was under the Fair Use thingi?

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