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 else.

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 Frank 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 Abraham's 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 “Ally McBeal.”

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 supposedly based? 

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!"

The Witzelsucht Memorandum