Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Keisha Castle-Hughes and Mary

So will you go to see "The Nativity" (the feature film about Jesus's parents)? Critics hate it. The story outside the film is more interesting that the film itself, apparently. Keisha (who plays Mary) is living a wayward, updated version of the virgin in real life: she's 16 and pregnant out of wedlock. Chief differences between the two: Keisha had sex to get pregnant and the father is her 19-year-old boyfriend. Oh, and I think we're short a couple of angelic visitations as well.

There's a bit of a bru-ha-ha over why the Pope didn't go to the Vatican's premiere showing. Some "eager to spread gossip" bloggers are saying he didn't attend because of the unwed teen playing the part of Mary. You know, not wanting to support the idea of pregnancy outside of marriage and all.

Ah, but I think that reasoning is too predictable, too cliched. What if he had more artistic concerns in mind and thought: typecast. Okay, I'll knock it off. Just a bit punch drunk after all the debate over on

The whole story got under my skin today. Thing of it is, I just don't know how any of us can speak with such authority about what happened to Mary. Maybe a better title for this film would have been, "There's Something About Mary."

Our perpetual virgin is so shrouded in dogma, layers of narrative, veneration, doctrinal development (and deconstruction), mythology, reported appearances, and thousands of years of devotion (as well as equally passionate and devoted repudiation by hardcore Protestants) that no one can think straight about her.

Talk about a taboo topic! Who can challenge the nativity?

So I'm curious. What do you, my esteemed readers, believe about Mary? Was she a virgin? Ever after as well? Did she really ride a donkey into Bethlehem and give birth in a stable? Did she and Joseph receive angelic visitations?

And will you see the film?


Dave said...

I'll see the movie. These kinds of productions are close to "can't miss" for me because I'm always interested in seeing how the Jesus story comes out when it's filtered through pop culture.

The casting of the "Whale Rider" girl makes the production even more intriguing. I liked that earlier movie and Keisha was a big reason for that. I have not heard any of this controversy that you mention but I will probably wade into that soon since the ripples these films stir up is also a reason for my fascination.

That's the simple part. As to what I think about Mary... that's tougher. I tend to not take very seriously most of the veneration, doctrines, visitations and appearances, etc. that have developed around Mary over the centuries. But that's just me. I have to acknowledge that to people for whom Mary is a spiritual or theological "big deal," my lack of seriousness about her is utterly irrelevant. Basically, I have no expertise or credibility on the subject, when it gets right down to it. I've never regarded Mariology as important enough to justify the time it would take for me to study up on the subject. Nor do I have any strong reasons to object or repudiate these traditions from the "hardcore Protestant" perspective. I see most of that as more a symptom of the historic rivalries that developed in the Reformation.

I think it's a fine idea to humanize and expand on the Mary tradition in the movies, though my hunch is that I'll find some of the reverence and piety of the depiction to be obligatory and unpersuasive. But to me, these are all expressions of mythology that aim to both please and shape the opinions of their audiences. The connection to the "real" or the "historical" Mary is really not all that important, imo.

Deb said...

I had a chance to go to a preview of the movie. There were moments where Mary and Joseph were portrayed as very real people. You saw them traveling in groups with others on their way to Bethlehem which is not how they have been depicted but traveling in community would have made it more possible. Unfortunately, all the events led up to a beautiful depiction of the nativity scene which was disappointing for me because they stopped being real people. I was disappointed to see the wise men in the scene because my understanding is that they would have probably shown up much later when Jesus was a toddler. My good friend, Rev. Tammy Jo, has often reminded me that there would have been a midwife there because Joseph being a devout Jew would have not gone near the whole messy birthing process. So, actually our nativity scenes should have a midwife with Mary, Joseph hanging out with the shepherds until everything and everyone is cleaned up and no wise men. But that wouldn't look good on the mantel now would it? After all, the wise men had the best sense of style.... I gotta go check out Jesus Creed comments now.

Anonymous said...

I will probably see the movie.
I liked this comment at Jesus Creed ...

"Also, the birth of a child out of wedlock may actually be the greatest obedience! After all, sounds like Keisha intends to have the baby and not abort it."

... In my fundamentalist days I judged a young girl who had a baby out of wedlock and have always regretted it. Why is it that we can be so pro-life and yet so unloving? It amazes me. Check out Barbara's story for an alternate picture of an unwed pregnancy.

Regarding the gospel accounts about the nativity - I believe them ... I believe that Jesus was born of a virgin ... I guess I am a traditionalist on this one.

mdog said...

eh, probably not


Kansas Bob said...

My wife and I saw the movie yesterday will some friends from our small group. Many scenes moved me at a very deep level and engaged me emotionally. Watching Joseph help Mary give birth to Jesus was an amazing experience. Seeing the responses of Mary and Joseph to angelic visitations was moving. Watching Joseph tell Mary that he believed her and would be a father to Jesus was spectacular.