The Witzelsucht Memorandum
I think I have a great novel
inside me. I was using it to address an
embarrassing itch, and somehow, it got lodged
in my colon.
What kind of man makes a movie depicting unimaginable tortures
inflicted on one of the most famous Jewish men of all time? A man
nurtured on movies depicting unimaginable tortures inflicted on THREE of
the most famous Jewish men of our time.
Now that Mel Gibson's "The Passion of The Christ" is finally
here, doing box office boffo and putting keisters in seats from coast to
coast, it's time for Wit Memo
to step forward with pointless, sarcastic insights that have escaped everyone
As just about everyone knows, TPOC is an account of the last
12 hours in the life of Jesus Christ, regarded by a minority of
the world's population as son of the biblical God, by still more
as an avatar of commendable conduct, and by yet others as a ritual incantation
to be uttered upon receiving an estimate from an automobile repair shop.
The months preceding the release saw growing controversy involving purloined
scripts, closed screenings for friendly audiences bound by confidentiality
agreements, and Gibson's widely quoted wish to not only kill NY Times columnist
Rich, but to do in Rich's dog as well.
The intensity of emotion evoked by the film may be hard to understand
for those who don't believe that the universe is run by an old man with
a long white beard sitting on a throne in the sky who had sex with a Jewish
woman 2,000 years ago. Such skeptics might wonder why a God who stayed
hand when he was about to slay his only son Isaac couldn't also
have stayed David E. Kelley's hand when he was about to create
The critics and the web wannabes have split over whether TPOC is anti-Jewish
and whether it's a good movie, but have all agreed on one thing:
TPOC is unrelentingly and luridly violent, with something like half of
its over two hour running time devoted to explicit and sometimes slo-mo depictions of assorted
tortures, raising the obvious question, what would move Mel Gibson, an
adherent of a conservative Catholic sect that rejects the ecumenical modernizations
adopted in Vatican II, to studiously depict acts of mayhem that, by some
accounts, aren't even mentioned in the Gospels upon which the movie is
The answer is most efficaciously approached through one of the other
questions that some have danced around, namely, does Mel Gibson have Difficulties
With Jews? That concern arose when the stolen screenplay revealed
one of the Jewish high priests who tried Jesus having a too-late change
of heart and crying out, in a line of dialogue removed from the English
subtitles, "his blood be on us and on our children," or some such palaver,
thus casting Jews as Christ Killers for all time to come.
A coupla problems with that scenario. First off, this high priest
. . . Caiaphus, Calphalon or Calabash, whatever his name was . . . who
asked him? For a judge who'd just called for a death sentence he
sure is wishy-washy: there's no way he'd win an appointment to the federal bench during a George W.
Bush administration. Second and more importantly, as everyone
knows, it says right there in the Bible that you don't "visit the sins
of the fathers upon the children." Well, actually, the Bible
says you do visit the sins of the father upon the children, but only for
three or four generations, max. So we're off the hook in any event.
And anyway, that blood-on-our-children line appears in the book of Matthew
and in historical "passion plays" and was uttered in church by all Catholics prior to Vatican II and thus doesn't tell us too much about Gibson's own particular beliefs.
Then there's Gibson's nutty dad Hutton, a Jew hater of the old
school who in a recent radio interview did not accuse Jews
of ritually slaughtering young Christian girls to make their matzo
and Passover wine, but probably only because he was too busy spouting
Holocaust denial and going on about Jewish world banking conspiracies.
Remember Billy Crystal's bit about the discomfort he feels when
people refer to "The" Jews? The elder Gibson goes him one
better, using simply "The Jew," like Jacques Cousteau talking
about "the moray eel." But it's not fair to pin Hutton
Gibson's views on Mel, since you don't hold the son responsible for the
sins of the father. Oops, wait a minute, there's that three- or four-
generation business in the Bible, so . . . sorry!
And finally, there's Gibson himself. We can take it as a given
that no man who loves The Three Stooges as much as Gibson does could
possibly have a problem with Jews. Gibson is a famed fanatic of Moe,
Larry and Curly (and then Shemp), aka Horwitz, Fineberg
and Horwitz, the most universally recognizable comedy team of all
time, and Jews who sprinkled their screen banter with misplaced Yiddish,
such as offering a toast of "Ver Geharget" - - drop dead. Gibson's
hosted Stooges revivals and tributes, and he's employed their slapstick
moves in his Lethal Weapon movies.
No man who has loved this Jewish comedy team as consistently and devoutly
as Mel Gibson has could possibly harbor any anti-Jewish sentiments.
No man who's spent so many of his formative years watching three Jewish
men being hanged, shot, stabbed, roasted alive, pierced with lances,
run through with swords, poked, punched, slapped and kicked, blasted with
cannons, flayed by saws, files and rasps, assaulted with hammers and axes,
run through wringers and devoured by lions could possibly
have any negative feelings towards . . . umm . . . ah . . . that is to say . . . I mean . . . well
anyway, let's put it this way: here at Wit
Memo we adore the Stooges, we're nominally Jewish,
and we certainly don't hate oursel-- ah, maybe we just better abandon
that whole line of reasoning.
Which finally delivers us to the answer. Picture those punishments
that the Stooges endured, that have been an abiding inspiration to Mel
Gibson: pierced with lances; their flesh flayed
by saws and rasps; devoured by lions ... those torments are downright biblical.
And yet The Stooges came back again and again, restored to life and as
good as new by the start of their next two-reeler.
In all of human history, there's been only one man who ever took that
kind of a licking and came back ticking. If that kind of violence
was good enough for the Jewish Stooges then it was good enough for the
Jewish Christ, and as no one outside of a few prissy mothers of school-age
children ever minded seeing it inflicted on the Stooges, then there was
no reason for Gibson to have foreseen that anyone would object to seeing
it directed at The Lord. It's how Gibson is used to seeing
his heroes treated.
When "60 Minutes" carping codger Andy Rooney told Don Imus
that he wouldn't see TPOC because he wasn't willing to spend $9 "just for
a few laughs," he was far closer to the truth than he realized.
So where did Mel go wrong? All the blood and bits of flesh that
he showed thrown by the torturer's scourge. The Stooges never did
that. The Stooges may have been killed on a number of occasions, but they never
bled. It's fine to show the quirky surreal aftermath of horror,
but not its mundane consequences. Despite being stabbed repeatedly
Shemp didn't bleed, but the water he drank immediately afterwards sprayed from a dozen holes in his torso. If Gibson had included a scene like that,
he'd be off the hook . . . at least where the violence is concerned.
In Gibson's world view Stooges are God-like, and God Stooge-like.
All concerned could do a lot worse.
Bonus points: Did we Jews kill Jesus Christ?
Even if we didn't actually whack him we definitely dimed him. On
this point there's a certain amount of disingenuousness on the part of
some Jewish spokesmen who, no doubt wary of the abuse inflicted on Jews
over the last two thousand years in the name of revenge, have taken the
position that Jews had nothing to do with it whatsoever. The way
these guys tell it, there wasn't a Jew for miles around when the deed was
done. Imagine one of those one-sided phone call routines that Shelly
Berman and Bob Newhart made famous:
"Hi, Schlomo, it's me, Hymie .... so nu? Listen, bubullah,
can you put Jesus on? . . . What? . . . Are you sure?
. . . When? How? . . . They did what to him? But why?
. . . They said we what? What are they talking about? When
we said we'd slay him we were talking about our new act. . ." etc. etc.
But sometimes it's appropriate to apologize for something you didn't do,
if only to keep the peace, so here goes:
Okay. We admit it. We did it. We killed him.
But, it was an accident! We swear! We were just cleaning the
crucifix, and it went off! We didn't even know it was loaded!
And Mel, now that we've apologized, can we just drop the whole thing,
and never speak of it again?
Or, as your Stooge hero Moe himself once put it in one of their
classic two reelers,
"I said I was sorry, so shut up!"