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Noah goes Hollywood

The story of Noah in the Bible poses a serious challenge to religious believers. Taken literally and looked at without using a religious lens, this is a monstrous story of the worst genocide in the history of humankind, and committed by a supposedly loving god no less. Religions have for a long time managed to gloss over this story to obscure the most ghastly aspects of it. They spend time on quite a detailed description of all the preparation work on building and stocking the Ark, quickly go over the actual slaughter, and then spend time on what came afterwards, with rainbows and sunshine and birds and flowers heralding the dawn of a wonderful new world.

It appears that a new film about the story of Noah is to be released next year starring Russell Crowe as the Arkmeister himself. Here’s the trailer for Noah

For a commercial filmmaker who would not want to antagonize Jews, Christians, and Muslim audiences, the story poses a problem. This is because the before flood and after flood parts are, frankly, somewhat boring. What is visually and dramatically interesting is the actual rain and flooding and the conflict between Noah’s family and those left behind to die. How can you portray that without making god to be the moral monster he clearly is for callously killing off almost everyone, without ticking off your audience? Since pretty much everyone knows the story well, you cannot take too much license with the basic outlines of the plot.

Of course Hollywood is expert at finding ways to demonize any group and make them seem worthy of mass slaughter. I don’t know how screenwriter and director Darren Aronofsky will do it in this particular case but I suspect from the trailer that Noah and his family will be portrayed as a plucky little band of good and virtuous god-fearing people and the rest of the world will be represented by his local community who will forfeit our sympathies by being shown as a nasty bunch of people who first ridicule them and then at the last minute want to take over his boat and get on board.

In short, Noah and his family will be shown as the makers and the others will be the takers, not to mention also moochers and looters, who deserve to die and whom the audience will cheer the death of. I would be very surprised if there is even one innocent or sympathetic character, such as babies, shown dying by drowning.

In short, I suspect this film will try to sanitize the Noah story.

Comments

  1. raven says

    Yes, the Noah story is that charming one where god invents genocide in an attempt to fix his mistakes with the creation.

    1. It was also a failure. The people afterwards were the same as the people before. His next attempt to fix his mistakes was the human sacrifice of himself to himself, as jesus.

    2. That didn’t work either.

    3. We are on to Plan C. Jesus is going to show up 2,000 years late, kill 7 billion people and destroy the earth. This Final Solution will surely work. No people, no mistakes left lying around.

    The xian god’s solutions to fix his mistakes always involve murder or mass murder. And they never work. It is not only a Sky Monster, but an incompetent deity as well.

  2. unbound says

    Pffft. The vast majority of movie-goers will not be thinking as they watch. As long as there is sufficient action, they’ll swallow whatever is tossed their way.

    From the trailer, it looks like the mad mobs are trying to take the arc…of course, there probably won’t be any views of the villages across the world with infants. The discussion will be about the family of true believers against the infidels who are all uncivilized barbarians that probably eat their own children for fun.

    Standard christian fantasy…

  3. says

    Well, at least they didn’t cast Emma Watson as Mrs. Noah, which would be typical of Hollywood.

    I suspect this film won’t do well with critics, has a 50-50 chance of flopping with the typical moviegoer, and it will generate all sorts of outraged speculation by the Christian Right when it does flop.

  4. Chiroptera says

    Of course Hollywood is expert at finding ways to demonize any group and make them seem worthy of mass slaughter. I don’t know how screenwriter and director Darren Aronofsky will do it in this particular case….

    Make everyone except Noah and his family dark skinned. Maybe even give them vaguely Eastern European or Middle Eastern accents.

  5. raven says

    Make everyone except Noah and his family dark skinned. Maybe even give them vaguely Eastern European or Middle Eastern accents.

    Oh gee. That is so late 20th century.

    These days the victims will all be gay, Democrats, atheist scientists who set up a private health insurance exchange as part of the Affordable Care Act.

  6. wtfwhateverd00d says

    Hmm, just a question of terminology. Is it accurate to call it a “genocide”? God slaughtered everyone and everything without regard to racial, ethnic, religious or nationalistic politics, and even disregarding actual genetic taxonomies.

    While you are certainly free to condemn this indiscriminate wholesale sociopathic slaughter of lives across the planet, I think you’re way out of line to label this a genocide. I believe you owe god an apology.

  7. Alan says

    I’m suspecting that this movie will go quickly to DVD and from there be forgotten – unless the Streisand Effect takes over, so it’s best not to give it too much credit. Just let it die naturally.

  8. Sandy Small says

    Is it accurate to call it a “genocide”?

    I think “genocide” is a useful shorthand, but yeah, you have a good point.

    “Omnicide”, perhaps?

  9. John Morales says

    Mano @OP,

    In short, Noah and his family will be shown as the makers and the others will be the takers, not to mention also moochers and looters, who deserve to die and whom the audience will cheer the death of.

    So: a genre disaster film, except here the disaster is a deliberate world-wide one caused by an evil magical entity rather than an accident or a natural event.

  10. Pierce R. Butler says

    raven @ # 1: His next attempt to fix his mistakes was the human sacrifice of himself to himself…

    Nah, the next attempt came much sooner, when he got scared that a certain mud-brick tower would reach high enough to enable humans to attack his residence. At least that time his “fix” was a little more creative.

    There was also that bit where he tried to adopt a tribe assigned to present his message to others. Despite being given explicit command(ment)s, they flubbed the dub several times over.

    The JC gambit was at minimum Plan E. The later tries with the camel-trader and the guy with the golden tablets didn’t work out too well either, nor does Plan H(ubbard) look very encouraging so far.

  11. Pierce R. Butler says

    You could make a much better movie from James Morrow’s “Bible Stories for Adults, # 17: The Deluge” (see his Bible Stories for Adults collection), but don’t expect much after-market from the church basement circuit.

  12. wtfwhateverd00d says

    God seems pretty partisan and biased and perhaps even racist at other places in the bible (which I’ve actually never read). But in this case. He’s more Death Star than Death Squad.

  13. kraut says

    No wonder humanity is so fucked up. First all that incest between Adam and Eve’s daughters and sons, and a few centuries later again all that incest in Noah’s family, with the old man likely fathering children with his daughters. And then they wonder where the term motherfucker comes from.

  14. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @ wtfwhateverd00d :

    I believe you owe god an apology.

    Hey, if you can find God and get him to come speak to Mano Singham in person then I’m sure he’ll consider it!

  15. Lucas Beauchamp says

    Even the rainbow story shows God’s imperfection:

    “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” (Genesis 9:12-16, New International Version)

    In other words, rainbows are giant strings that God has tied around his finger because otherwise he might forget the promise that he made. Given God’s less-than-perfect memory, why should we trust what he has put in the Bible?

  16. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Pretty sure the Death Star also committed genocide – of a whole planet no less. (Poor Alderaan, even if it does seem to be just Luca’s mangled form of the name of the orange giant star making up one part of the Hyades*, Aldebarran, Alpha Tauri. Which, of course, is in our own galaxy not one far, far away.)

    *Actually its in the foreground at a mere 67 light-years versus the Hyades more distant – but still nearest star cluster – 153 light years.

  17. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Well it does go unpunished in the case of Lot’s daughters. See :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCSQg1jteAo

    ‘Messed-Up Bible Stories : 7 – The Seduction of Lot’ by ebolaworld -part of a pretty good comic & I think reasonably accurate series worth watching I reckon.

    Apparently it was the Israelites story for how another related nation of that time came into being. The whole Lot lifestory is really pretty horrific.

  18. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    When six thousand years old you are, not so good your memory will be!

    – Yoda, er I mean God.

  19. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    I suspect from the trailer that Noah and his family will be portrayed as a plucky little band of good and virtuous god-fearing people and the rest of the world will be represented by his local community who will forfeit our sympathies by being shown as a nasty bunch of people who first ridicule them and then at the last minute want to take over his boat and get on board.

    Well, if memory serves that’s pretty much faithfully following and true to the original script isn’t it?

    Not such a new tactic which, of course, don’t make it right.

    Out of curiosity, how else would you have them present this myth if you were making the movie?

  20. Suido says

    From wikipedia:

    Raphael Lemkin, in his work Axis Rule in Occupied Europe (1944), coined the term “genocide” by combining Greek genos (γένος; race, people) and Latin cīdere (to kill).

    With that etymology, it’s not a big stretch to include deliberate near-extinction events as genocide.

  21. Mano Singham says

    In the case of Noah, everyone except those who carried Noah’s genes were targeted for death, so genocide seems quite appropriate.

  22. Mano Singham says

    Not to mention the time it would have taken the koalas to go to Australia after the water subsided.

  23. Nepenthe says

    I have some hope. I’ve liked Darren Aronofsky’s previous films a lot and they certainly aren’t religious pablum. A bit on the “spiritual” side occasionally sometimes, but always well scripted and shot.

  24. jamessweet says

    I, like Nepenthe, I actually kinda want to see this. It’s Aronofsky, and I haven’t seen a film from him yet that I didn’t love. They tend to be pretty dark, too, and Noah looks to be no exception. I have heard that he didn’t really want to shy away from the fucked-up-ness of the Flood story. Of course, Aronofsky is a believer apparently, but he appears to be of the old school Jewish tradition that God (or should it be “G-d” in this case?) is not necessarily a nice loving father — he just happens to be The Boss, and hence you better obey.

    And in any case, even if it fails on that level, I want to see the movie just for the spectacle: The ark story is just so deliciously absurd, a ludicrous flight of childish fantasy, and here we have a serious filmmaker trying to portray it at face value (and, like I say, there is some talk he is really taking the story as it is, not cute-ing it up the way it has traditionally been done). There’s something just so incredibly ridiculous about that, it could potentially cross into the sublime.

    Of course, it could also be terrible. But I’m looking forward to finding out!

  25. jamessweet says

    I just read your post about the inter-religion panel that you did. (Nice job, by the way!) I think that “J”‘s take on the flood sort of bolsters my point here: As a Jew, Aronofsky may very well feel that God was wrong to drown the world. (I agree with your point that “Oops, my bad” is an insufficient response to exterminating almost the entire species, but that is tangential to whether Noah might turn out to be a good movie) Don’t discount the possibility that Aronofsky might give an unflinching portrayal of the cruelty of the flood story.

  26. Dunc says

    That’s my personal favourite argument against the whole ridiculous notion. People can handwave about the amount of water required, or the lack of genetic diversity, because they’re fairly abstract arguments. But the question of how all the lemurs and chameleons ended up in Madagascar, while the koalas and kangaroos ended up in Australia, when they all supposed started in the same place, had to cross large expanses of ocean, and didn’t leave any populations along the way, seems much more direct and concrete to me.

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