So, after reading Jackson’s column (and Quin’s response to it) last week, I found myself turning on a rerun of Bible this weekend to see what all the fuss is about. (“Turning on” here is actually code for “watching five minutes before shutting off the television and wondering whether I should throw away my last $5 bill on a double bourbon at the bar next door or run two blocks to the nearest church and make confession.”)
My apologies to Quin, but if anything Jackson is too soft on the show’s producers. Bible is rubbish; tawdry, banal, possibly even sacreligious rubbish that makes Cecil B. DeMille’s Ten Commandments look like Gregory of Nyssa’s Life of Moses by comparison. Jackson quotes producer Roma Downey saying that “We’ve tried to make it gritty and real and authentic.” Absolute rot. How does one make the Word of the Lord (verbum Domni) “gritty” or “authentic,” much less “real”? Isn’t God’s unique revelation to mankind as, uh, “real” as it gets? Goodness knows we’ve already produced plenty of nonsense “translations” of the Bible (including the NAB read at the Novus Ordo Mass in the United States) to accommodate il- and post-literates. How much further do we need to fall on the downward spiral of crassness and impiety before we’ve achieved that most essential of postmodern existential imperatives, “authenticity”?
Quin’s argument seems to be:
1) Bible sucks.
2) Bible was also produced by “nice” people.
3) Ergo, the show shouldn’t be criticized.
There’s a logical leap between 2) and 3) above that I don’t think any critic should feel obligated to make. It depends upon an unspoken premise that if a nice person (or a person with “good intentions”) creates bad art, he or she should not be attacked for doing so. Only someone to whom art is nothing more than propaganda could possibly believe such a thing. Lots of people with admittedly “good intentions” are philistine vulgarians, and I for one would rather watch a well-made film about the life of a leftist saint (e.g., Gus Van Sant’s Milk) than, say, an anti-abortion drama with Hallmark Channel production values.
Can we please allow art and criticism (even of film and television) to float above the cienaga of politics?