A Religious Fanatic and A Sexist Bring You the True Story of Hanukkah!
Recently, the world was blessed to learn that "Warner Bros has set up an untitled drama that teams Gibson and screenwriter Joe Eszterhas on the telling of the heroic story of Jewish warrior Judah Maccabee." I can't wait! One of Hollywood's most popular misogynist, racist, anti-Semites (great article by Phyllis Chesler detailing this) is teaming up with another powerful misogynist great article by Alex Cranz on his sins, but also well detailed in the book-that-changed-my-life, Backlash by Susan Faludi) to bring a classic story of Jewish empowerment to the big screen. I'm so excited it is causing me to write horrible run-on sentences.
Courtesy of Zuma Press
Actually, they kind of are the perfect team to bring this little tale to life. In 2009, I learned that the Maccabee revolt started after a woman in a prominent Jewish family got married. It seems that the custom was that the governor could rape any bride, so she stood up at her wedding, and ripped open her gown. Shocked and horrified, her brothers tried to drag her away. She stood her ground and said that it was a disgrace that they tried to protect her "valor" at the wedding but would surrender her to be raped later. Her brothers realized their foolishness and declared war. (See: Women at War, a helpful explanation albeit sort of mistitled by Chana Kroll.) I cannot wait to see how Eszterhas stages that dramatic scene: breasts flashing everywhere, crotch shots - crotch shots! You know how Joe loves the Madonna/whore complex and damsels in distress who need to be avenged.
Also, the Maccabees were religious fanatics and fundamentalists who essentially terrorized Jews who chose to practice slightly differently. Michele Alperin explains that "the Maccabees are portrayed in the First Book of Maccabees as religious zealots, murdering coreligionists who had chosen the path of Hellenism:"
When this apostate Jew steps up to the altar, Mattathias kills him as well as the government official and then tears down the altar. Mattathias declares, "Let everybody who is zealous for the law and stands by the covenant follow me" (I Maccabees 2:27). With this self-conscious echoing of the words of Moses when confronted with the Golden Calf – “Whoever is for the Lord, come here” (Exodus 32:26) – First Maccabees begins its justification of Maccabean zealotry.
I bet Mel is salivating over the opportunity to have a super bloody scene in which he gets to act all self-righteous and impose his "pure" religious views on others! Nothing like some good, old fashioned violence in the name of God right after a big, humiliating nudity scene!
Oddly enough, this film does not seem to have whipped up a positive response in the Jewish community. Stefanie Gordon wrote about the news of the film, "Yes, it's unfortunately true...for all we know, Judah Maccabee, pole dancers, and Sharon Stone will all share screen time." (Seriously, though, I am thinking that is a best case scenario.) Renee Ghert-Zand at The Forward's Arty Semite blog frets:
We all know what happened when the conservative Catholic Gibson made a film about one famous Jew in history. It’s unsettling to think what might happen when he makes one about another. We’re guessing that it would be nothing less than a miracle for Gibson to get this story right.
All of this had me wishing that Eszterhas and Gibson did a little more research and decided to make a movie about Jewish heroine Judith instead. It's full of sex and violence also. According to the Jewish Women's Archive:
In the second century B.C.E... the town of Bethulia was besieged by the cruel and domineering Holofernes, the Assyrian emperor Nebuchadnezzar's top general. If Bethulia fell, the whole country would come under Assyrian control. Discouraged, the city's elders agreed to surrender if they were not rescued within a few days. Judith, a young widow and most unlikely savior, challenged them to take responsibility for the survival of their famine-stricken community. Accompanied only by her maid, she set out for the enemy camp. Smitten with her beauty, Holofernes invited her to a banquet. When he fell asleep in a drunken stupor, they were left alone in his tent. After praying for God's help, Judith took his sword and decapitated him. With the Assyrian army thrown into confusion, she urged the Israelites to launch a surprise attack; they emerged victorious.
The other positive thing is that there is a maid involved. Thanks to "The Help," people love historically inaccurate portrayals of oppressive societies. It will be like "The Help" crossed with, um, well, I'm not sure since there aren't too many action movies with women stars beheading sleazy men. Just imagine what our friends Gibson and Eszterhas could do with such great material!
Then again, maybe we should leave poor Judith and her maid out of it. Oy vey.