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The Passion of Christ's Money Making Machine

I thought about going to see Passion of Christ. I've always been fascinated by the story of Jesus, plus I really want to see if the film is worth the press it has been getting. I was kind of giving Mel a pass until I actually saw the movie myself. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, almost admiring that the guy is so passionate about his faith and religion that he put his blood, sweat and tears into making Passion. Not to mention putting his reputation on the line. Scratch all that. Not only am I not going to see it, I would like to kick Mel Gibson in the nuts. I may be a former Catholic, but even my atheism can't stop that Catholic school kid that lurks deep inside of me from feeling offended about this:
Replicas of the nails used to hang Jesus on the cross have become the red-hot official merchandise linked to Mel Gibson's controversial new movie, "The Passion of the Christ." Pendants made from the pewter, 2 1/2-inch nails - selling for $16.99 - all but flew out of the Christian Publications Bookstore on West 43rd Street as soon as they were put on display. Hundreds of stores across the country will be selling licensed items tied to the movie, a graphically violent depiction of the last 12 hours of Christ's life, which opens next week on Ash Wednesday. The souvenirs include a book, pins, key chains, coffee mugs and T-shirts.
Ok, I know that movies make a lot of their money off of merchandise, but I keep having thoughts of Jesus cleaning out the temple and something just doesn't sit right with me about all this merchandising. I never thought the crucifix was such a great symbol for a religion, anyhow. As a child it frightened me, and not in the way my Catechism teachers intended for it to frighten me. Rather than feeling horror at the way Jesus died and giving thanks to him for getting nailed to the cross so I can be washed of my sins, it just repulsed me. Blood, thorns, suffering, pain....it didn't exactly make me embrace my religion. So now you can wear a replica of the nails that they drove through Christ's limbs around your neck. I'm going to hold onto my money and wait for the McDonald's promotion. Free Station of the Cross with every Happy Meal! Collect all fourteen! This week, it's Jesus Falls For the Second Time! I'm not parodying the death of Jesus, so stop writing the nasty email. I'm just finding the whole merchandise tie-in thing incredibly distasteful. A book, a poster, even a key chain...fine. Necklace nails and coffee mugs? Whore. I'm sticking to Jesus Christ, Superstar, thanks.

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Comments

Just out of curiosity: I couldn't find anything that suggested that Gibson was behind this brand-new hardware / jewelry merchandising crossover. Maybe it's just some aherm enterprising folks who thought, "Here's another way to turn a buck =and= promote (our particular view of) the Christian faith!!!"

Of course, I may have missed something. I'm at work proofing prospectuses (prospectii???) and it's like reading very bad fanfic.

Bill Hicks, after a thoughtful drag on his cigarette:

"Do ya think Jesus is going to be pissed off when he comes back and sees us all wearing little crosses?"

I'm interested to see who's behind the merchandising, but I agree with your sentiments.

I quote from the article:

"red-hot official merchandise"

Just think, if instead of being around in Israel in the first century AD, Christ decided to appear in 19th Century USA, then a noose would be the symbol to wear.

No need to bring up the joke (but God couldn't find a virgin or three wise men.....)

Well I agree that turning it into a money maker is a terrable thing. But look at all the other catholic occasions that have been turned (Christmas, Easter, ect). I guess the only silver lining that might arise is that after the movie some people may rediscover their faith.

Reminds me of another comic's bit about how if Jesus returns he'll have corporate sponsorship. The Messiah: Brought to you by Budweiser&trade. The King of Beers brings you the King of Kings!

I disagree with your sentiment. If there was n merchendise the would be no movie. The movie cost Mel 50 million. 25 for filming, 25 for distribution, marketing. I think the merchandise is of high quality. Mel is a good guy, who took a lot of chances to make his dream come true. He should be applauded. He has guts.

If you think that's bad, take a look at this.

Maybe it's just that I'm not a Christian (though I doubt it), but I don't see the problem with cross-nails.

I mean, the whole point of the cross is to remind you of Christ's horrible, painful death on your behalf. The cross itself, however, especially since these days it usually doesn't even have a body on it, lacks the visceral punch that a ragged metal nail has of making that very point.

The entire point of the crucifixion (especially the sacrifice aspect) is that Christ dies, and in a bloody terrible way, too. Christians are supposed to keep that in mind, aren't they? And a lot of Christian denominations seem hell-bent (pun half-intended) on minimising that... if the nails really are selling well, to Christians, then that's really all the support the idea needs, isn't it?

I am a Christian, and this kind of thing sickens me. I have to agree with Michele on this one. To the specific comments that have been made already:

1. If it's official merchandise, Gibson - as the executive producer - had to okay it in some way.
2. The Passion most emphatically does NOT need official merchandise to recoup the profit. It's a movie that has had very little official advertising - tons of free publicity and word of mouth and is opening on more screens than any independent production in years (2,000 screens IIRC). Repeat viewings and Christians who feel like it's a sort of pilgrimmage will bring in WAY MORE THAN $50 MILLION!
3. These are nothing new. The pewter nail necklace has been around for several years, although I don't think they have been as big as this one. What's new is the tie-in to the Passion movie.

If this is really all about the devotion of Mel Gibson, and the desire to present the life of Christ honestly, then there shouldn't BE any merchandising, unless it involves GIVING AWAY FOR FREE something for people to remember the movie by.

Michele - the bright point is that you beat the Catholic addiction. Your free. For me I had to go through the twelve step program with an Apostle for each step - that and learning to read helped a lot. ;-)

Wait a second. Has anyone been in a Christian bookstore? Merchandising merchandising merchandising. These keychains and replicas have been selling for years- long before the movie was concieved. Of course they're going to sell some stuff along with the movie- they'd be crazy not to. You can always count on Christians to sop up all the merchandising tie ins. That stuff weirded me out long before I became one.

I talked about this last night after seeing them on ET. Even I, a non-catholic, thinks it is ultra tacky. Passion jewlery.

"I disagree with your sentiment. If there was n merchendise the would be no movie. The movie cost Mel 50 million. 25 for filming, 25 for distribution, marketing."

Sponsorship, advertising, merchandising is all profit here. Mr. Gibson made the movie out of his own pocket without sponsorship, investors etc.

I think the nails are truly tacky and the analogy to the temple was very fitting. If Mr. Gibson did OK the merchandising or such tacky "artifacts" (as they were referred to in Medieval times because they were supposedly real), then I think he needs to take a long hard look at what thats doing to the reputation and point of his movie and pull the rights.

I'm saving my money for the crown of thorns trucker hat.

And if there's anything left over? Lee press-on stigmata.

"I'm not parodying the death of Jesus."

Yeah, woman, back off - that's my domain.

"Lee press-on stigmata"

hahaha haha sorry hahaha snort

Hey - you think merchandising of important Christian concepts is bad now... what do you think was one of the reasons of the Protestant split?

Heck, take a look at the Canterbury Tales and the Pardoner...

And think of all the Pope-o-bilia whenever he comes to visit the U.S. -- officially liscenced (argh, sp) Pope-o-bilia. I know the Pope-on-a-Rope wasn't official, but I can't imagine anybody would buy it. Ugh, tacky.

I believe tackiness has dogged Christianity for centuries.

Quoth Barney: "Jesus must be spinning in his grave."

Tacky indeed, and I await Mel's official statements with interest. If there really is "official merchandise" of this type that Mel approved, I am not amused. I know Hollywood can make awful demands on a person in order to allow them to get a film made, but since he was basically thumbing his nose at them anyway....
Then again, am I the only one that was sort of weirded-out by the fact that the Lord of the Rings merchandise often had the inherently evil (according to the book) fire-writing from the One Ring on it? Not to mention...who would want to buy and wear the One Ring itself, symbol of ultimate evil, and a terrible, soul-destroying burden to all who carried it?
Yeah, I know it's just merchandising, but still....

Michele, I'm not giving him a pass. If it's as reported, I don't like it either. All I'm saying is, like Drudge and the Kerry "intern story", I'm waiting to see what's what. Any yahoo can use the words "official merchandise". All due respect to the Post.

The official passion of the christ movie site, has a link on it for "spread the word" once you enter the site. When you click the spread the word, there it is, merchandise. It is official.
They are hawking a tool used to murder a man as I don't even know what but it's sick and twisted. I find the whole cross sick and twisted. They are praying to a mans murder and the tools of his murder rather than the man himself.

After looking at the official site, I have to say that none of the material is really new. Even the pewter "nails" have been around for several years. That said, the merchandise-movie tie-in is disturbing to me.

Here are my problems with Mel~
He takes the bible literally
He believes the holy ghost helped him direct
What a moron. Amend that, what a fundie moron.

I've got to get a coffee mug, just because.

ok, doesn't get more official than that. I'll sit down now.

As a Christian (not Catholic,just a run of the mill born again kind) I have a problem with with this kind of merchandising. I don`t see it as honoring God,but simply a means to gain profit.
I`ll see the movie eventually, but it`s not on my priority list. I read the Book and know what happens and I wont forget.
This movie is centered around the topic that all things in the Bible point to. The touture, death, and ressurection of Christ.
I think that while Mel made it in the hopes of gaining some converts the main emphasis is to renew the Faith of backsliders and fence sitters.

BSTI:
I too take the Bible literally. I am neither a moron nor a fundie moron. If that`s a problem...tough. In the end, when all is said and done, we`ll see who`s right.

America = Freedom of Religion
Religion = Good (in general)
America = Capitalism
Capitalism = Money
Greed = Good

I'm a Christian (though not a Fundamentalist kind, nor a Catholic) and I find the whole cross-nail necklace merchandising thing kind of sick.

I heard about it on the radio and I thought "how trivializing." It is hard not to think of it in Happy Meal terms.

"Send in sixteen boxtops and get a gen-yu-wine metal, hand-forged, Nail of the Cross! With decorative leather pendant!"

the other thing is, I feel like I don't need to wear outward symbols of Christianity. In fact, I kind of shun them - ever since I got "flipped the bird" by someone driving a car with a Jesus fish and fundamentalist-themed bumper stickers, I came to the conclusion that people should know who I am by how I act, not by what I wear.

Okay, so DONT be the one to buy them. Go see the movie. For petes sake, it doesnt take much for you to be persuaded out of the park, does it?

I prefer to be offended AFTER I have seen the movie...not before it.

Sharon, it's not the movie that offends me - because I haven't seen it. It's the merchandising tie-ins that I find offensive.

Hear the wisdom of the Prophets:

I don't care if it rains or freezes
Long as I got my plastic Jesus
Sittin' on the dashboard of my car
Made of plastic pink and pleasant
Glows in the dark 'cause it's iridescent
Take it with you when you travel far.

Get yourself a sweet Madonna
Clad in rhinestones, sittin' on a
Pedestal of genuine tortoise shell
Goin' ninety I ain't scary
'Cause I got the Virgin Mary
Assurin' me that I won't go to Hell.

--the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, parodying the kind of thing heard across the Big Empty west of Ft. Worth in the Sixties. (I don't know if there's anything on the Web about XTRA; look it up.)

Get a life, people. In the Middle Ages and up through the early modern era, pieces of the True Cross were the equivalent of McDonalds' franchises, licenses to coin money. Yeah, it's tacky. I rather like Mel Gibson and his movies, but, frankly, if I had to pick a one-word characterization of the man "tacky" would be right near the top of the choice tree. The message remains the message, and cannot be polluted. A little merchandising sure isn't sufficient.

Regards,
Ric Locke

I don't find the nail/spike thing any more demented than wearing a cross (an instrument of torture and execution). Imagine seeing people walking around with little chairs dangling on necklaces or perhaps stylized nooses.

easycure,

America doesn't = freedom of religion, it constitutionally grants it.
Religion doesn't just = good.
America doesn't = capitalism. I might as well say you = capitalism, you = pretty boy, so capitalism = pretty boy.
Capitalism doesn't = money any more than sea = water. Glass of sea?
You skipped money = greed, which you would see is wrong if you had ever given up time for a worthy cause.
You ended with greed = good, which is a telling conclusion. I know you think you're ironic but your whole thing's dumb.

I admire Gibson's faith and putting his reputation and career on the line. I have found Jesus's life and message fascinating.

What repulses me, however, is the Biblical / Christian interpretation of his horrid death. The idea that a loving God would send a spiritually advanced man like Jesus to be betrayed, tortured, ridiculed, and nailed to a piece of wood like an animal to satisfy an insecure need for worship is to make a total mockery of what God is.

Depressing.

Mark, if that`s what you got out of reading the Bible then you missed the whole messege.

Remember Michele, no-one can give offense - offense is taken.

30 years ago I bought my wife earing's with little crosses dangling on them with little diamonds.

How can these things be called mechanizing for Gibson's movie?
Gibson himself said in an interview that he had nothing to do with it. (this particular bookstore)

I think it will be a great movie, (his always are)
Every Christian should go see it just to remind yourselves what christ died for.

Everyone seems to be making a big deal of it for no good reason.
Do people reject God that badly in this nation? What have we become?
People can choose to NOT believe, and if they don't believe, what business it it of theirs to criticize that which other believe? It's none of their business, so shut up!

Christians don't go around bombing people, killing them, cutting off their fingers and limbs, so mind your own business! Does someone wearing a cross really hurt you? If it does, you must be a demon of some sort! it burns your eyes! AHHHHH!!! take it away! take it away!
I can see it bothering people who worship the devil, thats bout it.

I don't think it's offense, I think it's shock.
Shock that there would be movie tie ins at all. Here we have Mel, spouting his love for God and stating to anyone that will listen, that God told him to do this. Yes, he used his own money and he spent a lot of it, but he said God told him to. I find it shocking that in the telling of his very powerful message that he was told to tell and goes on and on about being struck by lightening and how his wife is going to hell, that he would want or allow merchandising. Isn't his whole point of doing this the Message? Isn't that why he has done it? If he wanted to make a profit from products, just be honest with us. Tell us the truth. Say hey, I made this movie cuz God told me to but I want/need to make some of my money back so go buy my nails ok? And we will all shut up. If you're gonna make a god movie and beg us to hear your message because you say it's the truth the light and the way, be truthful in how much money you are looking to make back and we will judge the work as any other piece of art/movie out there and not as the holy word you want us to think it is.

Getting down now.

I'm not saying that people can't wear the cross, what I am saying is that it is tacky to make a movie spouting your love for god and then sell tacky little trinkets to us. Sell us the message not your wears.

Christians don't go around bombing people, killing them, cutting off their fingers and limbs? WTF? Have you never heard of the Inquisition? The war in Northern Ireland? What about the abortion clinic bombings here in America?

Christianity is not immune to whackos willing to kill because their faith demands it.

Okay, so I am trying to understand something here, Michele, you are not going to see a movie because Mel Gibson stands to profit from it because of merchandise he apparently agreed could be sold??? First problem with the article is that these "nails" are nothing new, at least as far as I can tell. I have seen these small nails for sale at other places, and I will not buy them because it's gimmicky. I do understand the symbolic value of them, though, and the importance of them to a believer. Secondly, Jesus cleaned out the temple - the temple, not the world. Jesus also said give to Caesar what is Caesars. Thirdly, not liking the crucifix for aesthetic reasons is really probably what it's all about. It's not supposed to be pleasant or beautiful or anything like that. It just is. It's the symbol of unconditional grace and love.

In my opinion, refusing to see a movie because of tacky merchandise is an excuse, not a reason. You are throwing the bath water and baby out completely, and it's honestly unfair. If I refused to see all movies because of tacky or over-the-top merchandise, I'd probably only see independant art films. I have to ask, have you applied this same critique to movies you've been desperate to see or only movies you were on the fence about?

I still think you should see the flick, Michele.

Why should I see it? 4 years of Catholic high school plus Catholic college didn't do me any good. I don't think a movie that depicts the most violent version of the death of Christ (and the most Jew-blaming version) is going to change my mind about anything.

Besides the fact, I very rarely see movies in theaters. If I do, it has to be something I really want to spend my seven bucks on and this isn't it.

Seven bucks? Where are YOU seeing movies?

Actually, it's ten bucks.

Mel should do more Lethal Weapon movies. Those were funny. Watching him commercialize the death of Jesus is not.

I hope McDonalds is going to be making collectible 24-oz "Passion" cups! Collect all stages of the cross!

In Mark Twain's "The Innocents Abroad," he found enough "relics of the true cross" for sale in various European nations to build a house, and "several kegs" of the nails "that killed our Lord."

Nope, it's nothing new. They've been for sale for centuries.

Then again, tackiness has never been out of fashion, and never will be.

Michele,

I was mainly addressing the fact that you didn't want to see the movie BECAUSE of the commercialism, not just because you didn't have any interest. If you have no interest, you have no interest, but that's not what you really said. I would gladly pay for your way to go. Scout's honor.

As for this being the most Jewish-blaming version, have you seen it or are you relying on the talk of others? How can a movie based on the gospels which was written by and for Jewish people be anti-semitic. This never fails to astonish me. Almost all first century Christians were Jewish. The followers of Jesus were Jewish. Mary - Jewish, Jesus - Jewish, Simon of Cyrene - Jewish, Peter - Jewish, and they were all portrayed fairly positive if I remember correctly. If anything, the film and the gospels are anti-corrupt leaders, which is what the Jewish leaders were at that time - oppressing the people through legalistic rules that they themselves never followed. In an era when various church leaders (i.e. Catholic) are corrupt with power, why is this so hard to believe that the Jewish leaders were different than the actual Jewish people of the time.

Wow, it's hard to believe that the Jews of Jesus' time were human? That there were leaders that were corrupted by power? Wow, that is amazing. And of course, it stands to reason that if some leaders were corrupted by power, that the whole scheme was corrupt, doesn't it? There probably weren't ANY Jews who followed the Jewish laws because they were the law, and not simply as a method of oppressing others and themselves. Yeah, I'm pretty sure that described the leadership wholesale. Wow, Jews, the most oppressed people in history, have REALLY just been oppressing themselves all these years. Who knew? Because, of course, there was only a single faction of Jews and they all got together and agreed on everything. And I'm sure that since the gospels were written to turn people to a new religion (Christianity) they wouldn't have portrayed the existing power structure in a less than flattering light, and no one took any poetic licence with documents intended to proslytize and persuade? Nah!

Just for the record, plenty of Jews still follow those very same oppressive, legalistic rules. Funny, we don't find them oppressive and we do it pretty much voluntarily. I'm SURE that wasn't the case back then, though.

Criticising Christians over money seems to come up every once in a while. Big churches get criticised over tithes or expensive buildings, successful Christian writers get criticised over profits. I don't think its relevant unless the Christians have their motives in the wrong order. Its not unethical to set up an enterprise to do the right thing and make sure the enterprise is self-funding so it can do the right thing for as long as possible.

I haven't seem the movie and have no reason to doubt Mel's sincerity. While the movie may make money, it would have been difficult to anticipate that it would have any chance of doing so when he put up the seed capital to start filming.

Secondly, I have no idea what he will do with any profits once they are made. Given he spent a lot of money on what was expected to be a non-commerically viable project over a matter of principle, I am prepared to assume that greed was not a major motivation.

I think that reminding Christians of the depth of Christ's suffering for our sins is a good thing. The message of Christianity has always been that:
Christ, the Messiah, God's son died painfully on a Cross for our sins so we can have eternal life.

Plenty of people have anger against the Church, or against individual Christians or historical Christian mistakes. Christians aren't sinless, Jesus was. Anyone who wants to give Christianity a fair evaluation needs to focus on who Jesus was, and what he died for.

It's funny, as a friend of mine said, they find the commercialism for this crass, but yet they find a shirt or bumper sticker that says, "God's last name is not d*mmit" to be funny, in an irreverant sorta way.

To No Easy Cure:

The Constitution doesn't grant freedom of religion. It prevents the government from violating our rights. Our rights are presumed to exist independently from the Constitution, and would exist absent it. It's a major philosophical difference between the U.S. Constitution and the European Union constitution.

It's just a movie, go see it for what it is, a Mel Gibson flick.

It's not going to change the world and it's not going to make you a better or worse person for seeing it either.

The merchandise is for sale now at Ebay....that didn't take long did it?

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=1419&item=3388453718

The web site and merchandise are wild. Sombody once said that listening to entertainers opinions on anything is a waste of time. Mel has been involved in some great entertainment, but his axe grinding and the financing thereof, his rights in the USA, have nothing to do with entertainment. Maybe he's not an entertainer anymore. Maybe he's a teacher. If that's the case, he's in for a surprise.