Anti-Imperialism in The Life of Brian

April 6, 2012

The Life of Brian certainly isn’t politically correct, laughing a bit at the imperialists but coming down quite a bit harder on religious zealotry of all sorts (all sorts because they’re all the same, basically, to the Monty Pythons).

The jokes about the Romans seem to be all about upper-class-twit speech impediments (Pilate turns his r-s into w-s, Biggus Dickus turns his s-s into th-s), and about the ferociously difficult grammar of classical Latin:  e.g., the Roman Guard who assigns Brian to write “Romani ite domum” 100 times for making grammatical mistakes.  (The joke the Pythons may not be in on is that biblical Hebrew/Aramaic grammar is even more ferociously difficult than Latin.)

But all the people on the cross are there for violating Roman laws, not Judean laws (that’s the stoning).  So maybe the Romans are like the guy who very sweetly tells you to take one cross per person and join the line on the left, kind of nice till they decide to kill you.  Maybe that’s what people who grew up under British imperialism (the South Asians, particularly) might agree with, the trains and the judicial system and the fairly incorruptible administration, and improved sanitation is nice, but “Angli ite domum.”  And it isn’t entirely clear how you get rid of the imperial power.  England left a lot of colonies voluntarily, but France fought some very lengthy wars both in Vietnam and Algeria before getting the idea….

Jesus Versus His Followers and Roman Superiority in The Monty Python movie The Life of Brian

April 6, 2012

The Monty Python movie The life of Brain, is a satirical work on political organizations, religion, religious followers amongst other things.  Although the movie got a lot of slack for being what some called, “blasphemy,” it can’t really be judged on its portrayal of Jesus. We see Jesus twice in the movie and each time, he is portrayed as a holy person. 

The first time we see him is in the beginning of the movie where we see him (well his baby silhouette in a basket), Mary, Joseph, a lamb (I think), and the three wise men. There is a halo around Mary’s head and Joseph’s head, and the music in the background sounds like church music.  The second time that we see Jesus is when he is giving the Sermon on the Mount.  He is dressed in white (or off white) and the lighting around him gives him a glow.  These are the two images that we see of Jesus.


However, Jesus’ followers (or followers of any religion) are criticized highly.  The film explores those who are extremist in their religions (i.e., the man who doesn’t speak for 18 years and the man who insist on being crucified in a “purely Jewish” area), those who follow their faith blindly (i.e., the group of people who believe Brain is the messiah and believe everything he says…well except when he tells them he isn’t the messiah), those who treasure anything that they believe is holy (i.e., the group of people who treasure Jesus’ sandal), those who are illogical because of their faith (i.e., the man who offers to help a man carrying a cross and ends up being crucified because of it) and most importantly, those who misinterpret the teachings of the holy.  The whole movie is criticizing religion and appears to me, to be anti-religion rather than ant-christ.  According to the film, religious people are illogical, extremist, and downright stupid sometimes (I know it’s a satire).


So what does the film provide as an alternative to religion?

It would appear to me that what ever the Romans are is the alternative.  Although the Romans are not portrayed as perfect, they are portrayed as better then everyone else.  The Romans appear to be the logical, smart, and organized ones.  Even when the People’s Front of Judea is discussing the Romans, they list all the great things the Romans have done and do not provide a list of the horrible things that they have done.  The Romans are organized (as depicted when they are preparing the people for crucifixion), the Romans have accomplished great things (as stated by the People’s Front of Judea) and they provide logical statements when non-Romans make illogical comments (as depicted when the Roman officer tells the Jewish man that it doesn’t matter if everyone being crucified isn’t Jewish, since they’re all going to die).  Not only does the movie make the Romans the better people, it also seems to be supporting imperialism. After all, it gives us no reason to believe otherwise.


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