Our Cantonese tutor Serena called Gus last week with a problem.
“Can I come over? I have some questions about The Passion of the Christ.”
Our response: we all have questions about The Passion of the Christ, Serena. But sure, come over, we’ll see what we can do.
So Serena came over and shared her issues and concerns. From these discussions, I’ve come to the conclusion that The Passion of the Christ is not a particularly effective evangelical tool for people who have never really heard Jesus’ story before, because it omits all sorts of important background information about the characters, fails to explain their motivations, and makes unjustified narrative leaps. (This may be a problem with the source material, though; I hear it’s based on a book?)
Serena had some basic factual questions about who was who and what was what. There was some confusion about why Judas denied Jesus three times. I told her that that wasn’t Judas, that was another guy with a beard, whose name is Peter. Got it, she said, so Peter and Judas are both bad guys. Nope. But I can understand how that would be confusing, given the beards.
Serena also asked why the crowds at Jesus’ sentencing were calling for his death. She said the impression she got from the movie was that the Jews wanted to kill Jesus because a) he was not Jewish and b) they are evil. Yes, I told her, and: they are easily seduced by money. Also, fancy robes, and promises of political authority. This is another case where my cultural background allowed me to read the subtext more deftly than she could. From a pedagogical standpoint, it was definitely a good move for Mel Gibson to use clear Jewish characteristics (greed, malice, general big-nosery) to represent the villains — it’s helpful for non-Westerners who might otherwise be unsure about who was behind that whole Crucifixion mess.
Also, just for you: a tip if you ever need to describe Jesus’ final days in Chinese: don’t say 最后晚会 for the Last Supper, as I did in a moment of carelessness, because that means the Last Party. Serena laughed and laughed at that one. Yeah, whatever. Jesus’ final thirsty Thursday! Pregame’s in Bartholomew’s room (PLEASE try not to make too much of a mess! I think we all remember last Sunday lol), RSVP to James, son of Zebedee.
Another free Chinese tip: today I was making a flashcard on my computer and intended to type a sentence which started with the phrase “通过大家的努力”, which means, essentially, “Thanks to everyone’s hard work,” as in, “Thanks to everyone’s hard work, we made $300 at this Sunday’s Passion of the Christ bake sale. (Thanks especially to Sally for her “Eggy Homo” custard pastries — YUM!!)”
Unfortunately, when I typed it, I accidentally wrote 奴隶 instead of 努力 (the two words have different tones, but are otherwise pronounced the same), so that my sentence actually read “通过大家的奴隶” — “Thanks to everyone’s slaves.”
Not. The. Same. Well, sometimes the same, but rarely in modern cultures outside, like, sweat-shoppy contexts, but those aren’t fun to think about, so I ignore them.