Hollywood Panders to the Fundamentalists: The “Noah” Film Controversy and the disturbing trend of literalism and illiteracy

Due to the sensitive nature of rants dealing with religion, I highly suggest that you overlook this, if you are not fond of these types of divisive discussions. Please,please read this through, and know that you are open to have any opinion you want about this film and other topics raised in this rant.
Thank you!

“How anyone ever took the Bible literally, I’m not quite sure. You can’t have an IQ of even +2 and take it literally. It just doesn’t work.”   (Madeleine L’Engle; author of A Wrinkle in Time)

Fundamentalism is sadly ubiquitous in not just the world of religion, but has now pervaded the way we define certain traits of a particular religion (in this case, Christianity, which has 42,000 denominations). The word “monolithic,” basically summarizes the way people, outside of a particular religion, or even within it, tend to view it in an overall sense all due to the media’s sensational portrayal of how a certain religion may view a film adaptation. In this case, this film in contention has been Darren Aronfonsky’s Noah,  and all the supposed controversy has been mainly with Christian Fundamentalist’s ire over the questionable artistic liberties that Darren Aronfonsky took with his adaptation. Rather than show this controversy as stemming from this loud, querulous group of rigid religious thinkers, aptly named fundamentalists, the media instead tends to make the lazy mistake of assuming that these fundamentalists somehow and unrealistically represent the whole of Christianity. To the unscrupulous reader that reads the banner, Christians are enraged over Darren Aronfonsky’s heretical take on the Noah tale,they immediately envision a crowd of Christians of all shapes and sizes that have a Southern twang and are Red-neck looking in appearance. The irony of this, though, (lost to the media) is that many of the people getting flustered over all the controversy might even be Christian themselves that might not even take these tales as literally, as the fundamentalist are known (by namesake) to handle Biblical accounts.

This straw-man of the inarticulate, red-neck Christian Fundamentalist,  representing the whole of Christianity in a “monolithic” way, is a very vexing phenomenon. Strangely enough, this straw man of fundamentalists also enters its way into the way some atheist commentators talk about “those Christians,” as though “those Christians.” really are those stupid,pig-headed fundamentalists that burn Harry Potter books for a living. I don’t know of one Christian, even a fundamentalist, that has burned a copy of Harry Potter.Actually, many of those same Christians happen to even enjoy Harry Potter (much to the chagrin of some atheists that really wanted to use the lazy stereotype of “that dumb Christian”). Whether we like it or not, the media does indeed do a great, subtle job of lending to our lazy patterns of group-thinking, and I have come away from these stories. thinking that of the “that dumb Christian trope. With nearly every single story about the Noah film being about the “that dumb Christian,” we are also entering some troubled waters, when it comes to the egregious way people are uneducated about not just the diversity of thought among Christians, but the inherent complexities of the other two monotheistic religions: Islam and Judaism.

Paramount’s reaction seems to sadly be influenced by the media’s strange portrayal of the Noah controversy, as not just a fundamentalist Christian issue, but an issue that Jews and Christians will both have with the adaptation. Their statement was insultingly leveled at all religious organizations, as though every single religious person reads their Biblical text in that same myopic way that fundamentalists read these tales. If any of you have ever read Karen Armstrong’s dense, but richly informative History of God  (a must-read for the executives at Paramount Pictures), you are well-aware that the Bible and all religious texts have a rich history of being altered and changed, based upon different ways that Jewish scribes have seen the tale. Oh, of course, you’ll also learn that the original Noah story was a Jewish tale, not a Christian fundamentalist tale. Again, Paramount must have been reading too many of these news-articles with the vague terminology that implied the reactions of those Christians Fundamentalists seems to imply that same anger from all Christians and all Jews. The Jews are lazily thrown into the equation, as if they are literalists too (Jews don’t even believe in hell).

Read Paramount’s condescending disclaimer, and think to yourself “Why even make this statement, if they are going to show their facile grasp of the depth of different religious groups?”

 “The film is inspired by the story of Noah. While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis.”
(Taken From Yahoo Movie Story)


Note the erroneous categorization of the tale as a “biblical” story.  First of all, the Noah story is first and foremost a Jewish tale, and for Paramount Pictures to make such a thoughtless, disrespectful error really seems to back up my argument. Essentially, Hollywood is pandering to the Christian Fundamentalists, who share their same negligence of other religious traditions that also see the Noah story as an important story for their faith tradition. It also implies that the idiosyncratic way that fundamentalists view the “Noah story” as a factual account is somehow the way that millions of people worldwide (who might be a Jew, Muslim, or Christian that isn’t a fundamentalist)view the story.

More importantly, it is insulting for Paramount Pictures to feel this strange necessity to appease Christian Fundamentalists, who have a historical disregard for Jews. We are speaking of a group of Christians, who have a view of Revelations (a very inscrutable text) as being a straightforward, linear account of an apocalyptic event that sees Jesus’ return as a way of punishing the unsaved Jews in a much more violent way than Hitler could have ever envisaged. Unfortunately, we are talking about a group that takes the Noah story, so literally, that they believe that the psychopathic “God” character in the story is that same punitive, grossly immoral “God” that everyone should worship. They restrictively see the Noah story, not as a tragedy;rather, they see is, as fundamentalist are wont to see it, as a perfect picture of the way God will someday vengefully kill everyone that is not a Christian fundamentalist.

For them, the story of Noah is a “historical” account of the first time their notion of an angry God, rightfully punished those that were led astray. In the original Noah tale, we are subjected to a rather disturbing lack of detail about whether or not children or other innocent people may have existed amongst this community of “reprobate sinners.” Rather, we are shown that God did righteous good, on humanity’s part, by savagely killing the whole lot of it, without a moment of quiet meditation over the loss of many lives that had their own unique story. Interestingly, the tale ends with a God that contritely promises never to cause a flood of such destructive proportions again. Fundamentalists tend to ignore this bit, as it would undermine their perfect picture of “perfect justice,” being a righteous holocaust for those that are not  Christian Fundamentalists (holocaust is a perfect word to use, as many Fundamentalists will often include unsaved Jews in this group of people they say as reprobate sinners; irredeemably evil people).

Most historians have had to frustratingly go over ad-nauseum , over the past couple years, the historical reality of the way myths were written as a form of “fictional non-fiction,” for ancient people. Many, in our society, believe that myths are just something that is “false,” which is not the definition of the word at all. Our rhetoric, for better or worse (I say worse), has been greatly reshaped by these fundamentalists. We are beginning to read our myths as “nonfactual accounts of an incident.” Yes, the tales are non-factual, but people have to remember that this was the mode of writing that was most popular to tell the story of a certain event. We need to better contextualize these stories. The original “Noah” story is really one story among many different flood stories (not all of them have even been written down). Many of these stories started out as oratorical accounts (mostly spoken, and passed down from generation to the next).

So, the “Noah” story, as we read it today, has undergone many natural alterations, based on the scribe writer’s translation of the tale from another language.  Before the story went through those translations, the first written account of the Noah story was most likely the most recent version of a story that was being shared among different tribes, at that time, in ancient Israel.  People believed the story, because people were much more disposed to believing stories as being “true.” Back then, the scientific way of seeing things did not exist, and no one would fuss over how “factual” these stories are. Yes, people believed they were, in essence, true. Again, that does not mean the same thing as being “factual.” as being factual means that we have physical evidence to corroborate to prove the factual quality of the story

The post-modern age is a scientific age, and it is an age where we are naturally inclined to be skeptical about whether or not these tales are “factual.” We must accept our limitations in the scientific and historical department of finding out whether these stories are veritably true, and accept the fact that there is a very good probability that they are stories, like the epics that we enjoy as fantasy today like Lord of the Rings.While they might not be factual, they still are seen as a story that carries some kind of ethical or even environmental truth that will change, depending upon the current ethical obsessions of a particular generation.

We are passively letting these Christians Fundamentalists limit our enjoyment of myths, by being things we just merely “believe thoughtlessly/doubtlessly in the unreal factual nature of them.” We still enjoy Lord of the Rings, and people still find many ethical truths underpinning the films-themes of friendship and sacrificial love- without expending all our mental energy, worrying so much about whether these stories are “factually true. Why can’t they just be “true,” in terms of the type of ethical message they are conveying to us, or telling us about an event in nature that often happens? The Noah story is not a factual account of God destroying people, because that has never happened in history, in a factual sense. Rather, the Noah story probably does tell the story of the completely erratic, amoral character of nature, and the “God” character in this story acts as a anthropomorphic representation of nature in this story. The flood did not cover the “globe,” as the word “worldwide” would have stupefied ancient people. “Worldwide” to them maybe meant their small little geographical corner of the world, meaning the flood at that time (to the eyes of traveling nomads) felt like it was covering the whole world. These people were not as scientifically advanced, and we know many people thought that the world was flat up till the past millennium.

There are so many reasons why we can’t take these stories literally, and we need to stop letting these Christian Fundamentalists forbade us from the mere act of thinking. They have turned ethics into a practical joke, and this Noah film controversy is just another indication that we need to better educate ourselves on the different way different Christian denominations see this tale, and the way many historians see this tale. What about the scientific perspective on natural disasters? Why must our discussion of the Noah story be reduced to an insultingly petty level, because these ire-filled Christian fundamentalists often suffer from chronic illiteracy? They take some fictional stories like Harry Potter,so literally, that they are ironically the only people that really think that magic is “factually real.”

Our media has a better responsibility to stop pandering to Christian Fundamentalists, especially when it comes to a film that tells a story that has wider appeal than just “Christian Fundamentalist.” They need to recognize that many Catholics see the story as “a story,” but they still recognize the story as being something that carries some type of spiritual truth (something a bit more trenchant than the fundamentalist’s obsession with “factual truth”).Fundamentalists have been castigating us for too long, and stunting our ethical thinking, and assuming that ethics is more about “whether or not we thoughtlessly believe in an untrue interpretation of something,” rather than true morality that deals with character.

More importantly, we are doing the Jewish community a grave disservice, by implying in press releases that this story is a “biblical story,” when it is originally a Jewish story. Jews don’t recognize their religious text as “the bible,” or the old testament as “the old testament.” It is scurrilous and lazy to also connote that the Christian Fundamentalist’s interpretation of the story is the only true interpretation, even though the rhetoric and dogma of Christian Fundamentalists is often chronically anti-Semetic, anti-human, and immoral.

If we let the media, as a whole, tinker with our thinking, we might be inadvertently dumbing down the way we talk and discuss religious texts, in a world where all three of main monotheists religions are hardly monolithic and  not all fundamentalist in their thinking.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. tja444 says:

    Thank God (the gods, the goddess, the force, etc.) that most people (I hope) will view the Noah movie as a cool sci-fi/fantasy flick with a really great cast.


  2. Love your comment!! I hope that people won’t be dull-headed fundamentalists, and instead focus on the artistry of the movie. It was my favorite Aronfonsky film, since “The Fountain.” Yes, it is a great scifi/fantasy film!!!


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