Why is "The Life of Brian" considered "morally offensive"?

I read the description of it on Wikipedia. I read the commentary. I saw the film itself.

While it is morally repugnant, it is that way so it can convey many messages which I believe the Church should agree with.

As I understood it, "The Life of Brian" insisted that it wasn't Jesus who was the idiot, nor Brian.

It was the people.

It portrayed the perceived stupidity of many modern Christians who follow their faith without finding out what Christ actually taught about morality and faith (reading the Bible). It reminds me of a conversation between a priest and his newly initiated curate which went something like this:

Priest: So do you like me?
Curate: Yes, Father, a lot.
Priest: Then do you know me?
Curate: No, Father.
Priest: Heh. He likes me a lot, but he doesn't know me at all.

LoB also lampooned denominationalism, which is rather silly when you look at it. I was reminded in it that Christians of all denominations have far more in common than they do have differences.

And I do think the references to crucifying were a misguided misunderstanding of the importance of the cross. It's not the cross we worship; it's the man who died on that cross.

All in all, though, I do believe there were many, many good points in the movie, such as the distortion of religion to favour politics (as exemplified by Judith), the way people get hung up on trivial things (such as when they fight over his sandals and his gourd), not to mention some politically motivated satire and the aforementioned points.

So, why, aside from seeing some brief but rather unnecessary nudity, is it rated "O"?

Take a look here if you ever have any questions of this nature: usccb.org/movies/

As far as this particular film goes, here is their take on it.

Life of Brian -- Monty Python movie about a hapless fellow named Brian, a contemporary of Jesus, who is mistaken for the Messiah and eventually crucified by the Romans. The nihilistic, anything-for-laughs thrust of director Terry Jones's comedy deliberately exploits much that is sacred to Christian and Jewish religious tradition. Especially offensive is the mocking parody of the crucifixion scene. (O) (R) (1979 )

You do realize that it's lay people (not clergy) who are making those evaluations and that those "Morally Offensive" classifications constitute neither dogma nor doctrine, don't you? If viewing of a film, whether rated PG, PG-13, or R, constitutes an "occasion of sin" for you, then that is what makes it potentially sinful - not whether it's an "O" (Morally Offensive). They gave an "O" (Morally Offensive) to "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World," which I thought was one of the best movies of 2010 and one of the most insightful movies about relationships (e.g., Ramona's seven exes being symbolic of the "baggage" we bring into relationships.)

Incidentally, if you ever saw Jack Nicholson singing "Always Look On The Bright Side" from "As Good As It Gets," that song is from Life of Brian. Specifically, the song appears in LoB as they're singing on crosses. Most people wouldn't know that, or even remember that, unless it's pointed out.

I picked up what you did from the movie. I saw it as a parody of the masses (as in lots of people), just following something because it is the "in thing" to do at the moment. They had no clue as to what Brian was really about. It just made me see how shallow some of us are. We may say we are Catholic, do all the right things (so everyone can see us), but our hearts are not in communion with the church. (someone like Nancy Pelosi comes to mind.She will have to square her life before God, just like the rest of us, but she is not following Catholic teaching. When you don't follow Catholic teaching, how are you Catholic?)
Anyway, back to Brian. I saw the movie as a parody of humans, and didn't see anything wrong with it. There have been other movies that were very anti- Catholic, or very anti- Christian, but this wasn't that way. Maybe it was put down just because it was a comedy with Jesus in it, rather than something somber, and they veiwed it as disrespectful? I don't know, I thought it was fine.

[quote="TarkanAttila, post:1, topic:209564"]
So, why, aside from seeing some brief but rather unnecessary nudity, is it rated "O"?

[/quote]

Did you read the USCCB site's own reason?

The nihilistic, anything-for-laughs thrust of director Terry Jones's comedy deliberately exploits much that is sacred to Christian and Jewish religious tradition. Especially offensive is the mocking parody of the crucifixion scene.

tee

You sound sincere so I'll bite.

LoB completely and thouroughly mocks religions, especially Christianity. Being sound in the faith yourself, you may have missed that to 99% of the viewing public that aren't, religion is presented as a tale for idiots that only the very foolish believe or follow.

While LoB may make some fine points about being closer to God in a real sense; that is most certainly not its intent or overriding principal. It clearly and soundly presents the pure athiestic opinion of religion in general. If you doubt the BBC's feeling on the matter: watch a little "David Attenborough". He was in charge of programming for the BBC and was asked to head the organization. He is soundly a Darwinistic athiest and doesn't hesitate to openly jab religion in his "programmes" himself. "Attenborough is Paradise" is exemplary of this fact.

[quote="InspiritCarol, post:6, topic:209564"]
You sound sincere so I'll bite.

LoB completely and thouroughly mocks religions, especially Christianity. Being sound in the faith yourself, you may have missed that to 99% of the viewing public that aren't, religion is presented as a tale for idiots that only the very foolish believe or follow.

[/quote]

It's a COMEDY. Not a documentary, not an drama, not a 'chick flick.' A comedy. To whom is the film morally offensive? That's what I want to know any time I hear that "O" (Morally Offensive). Offensive to whom? Not everybody has the same background they're bringing into the viewing experience.

Umm… Comedy can’t be offensive???

I think the Monty Python players would be truly hurt if they saw you weren’t offended on some level. They were trying SO HARD.

Give me a break. Most comedy, even “COMEDY” is offensive. So what? Why do you people CARE that some people call a duck and duck?

LoB was an absolute favorite of one of my atheist friends in High School. I’ve watched it more times than I care to remember and can say with absolute retrospective clarity that LoB IS offensive. It is SUPPOSED to be offensive and we can choose to revel in that and maybe even laugh at ourselves on some level, or we can slouch in a corner and lick our wounds.

Who Cares? Why are you getting so worked up that people find the act of mocking the life of Christ and religious worship in general offensive?
Wow. Really, if the LoB isn’t offensive, I can’t even begin to imagine what possibly COULD be?

That just reminds me, if I could chime a bit.
Many people somehow have this idea that the Life of Brian is a parody of the life of Jesus. That's not really the case - Jesus is a separate character in this film, and He is portrayed straight, and has relatively little screentime (the comedy only starts when the people mishear Him - 'Blessed are the cheesemakers' and all that).
What the LoB is, is more of a satire targeting religion, as well as a parody of those overblown Biblical Epics of 50's and 60's Hollywood.

Something about the production, from wikipedia (better read it, anyone):

There are various stories about the origins of Life of Brian. Shortly after the release of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), Eric Idle flippantly suggested that the title of the Pythons’ forthcoming feature would be Jesus Christ – Lust for Glory (a play on the UK title for the 1970 American film Patton). This was after he had become frustrated at repeatedly being asked what it would be called, despite the troupe not having given the matter of a third film any consideration. However, they shared a distrust of organised religion, and, after witnessing the critically acclaimed Holy Grail’s massive financial turnover, confirming an appetite amongst the fans for more cinematic endeavours, they soon began to seriously consider a film lampooning the New Testament era in the same way Holy Grail had lampooned Arthurian legend. All they needed was an idea for a plot. Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam, while promoting Holy Grail in Amsterdam, had come up with a sketch in which Jesus’ cross was falling apart because of the idiotic carpenters who built it and he angrily tells them how to do it correctly. However, after an early brainstorming stage, and despite being non-believers, they agreed that Jesus was “definitely a good guy” and found nothing to mock in his actual teachings: “He’s not particularly funny, what he’s saying isn’t mockable, it’s very decent stuff…” said Idle later. After settling on the name Brian for their new protagonist, one idea considered was that of “the 13th disciple”. The focus eventually shifted to a separate individual born at a similar time and location, who would be mistaken for the Messiah, but had no desire to be followed as such.

[quote="tee_eff_em, post:5, topic:209564"]
Did you read the USCCB site's own reason?

[/quote]

My two cents: Jesus wasn't the only person crucified in the centuries that the Roman Empire existed (read: the 6,000 surviving slaves who participated in the Third Servile War, the 800 Pharisees under Alexander Jannaeus, Jerusalemites in AD 70, Jehohanan bar-Hagaqol, some of the Apostles themselves, many early Christians, etc.), and crucifixions were not at all unusual in those days - on the contrary they were so common and mainstream, so why would a crucifixion scene automatically be a 'mocking parody'? Just because Brian et. al. happened to be executed in the same way as Christ did? :shrug:

I officially now have a phobia to the idea of filming a crucifixion scene in a Roman-era period piece, lest I receive the same reaction. :D

You make a good point here. Comedy (even those ‘safe’ ones) is bound to offend someone in some way; otherwise it wouldn’t really be comedy.

[quote="patrick457, post:11, topic:209564"]
My two cents: Jesus wasn't the only person crucified in the centuries that the Roman Empire existed (read: the 6,000 surviving slaves who participated in the Third Servile War, the 800 Pharisees under Alexander Jannaeus, Jerusalemites in AD 70, Jehohanan bar-Hagaqol, some of the Apostles themselves, many early Christians, etc.), and crucifixions were not at all unusual in those days - on the contrary they were so common and mainstream, so why would a crucifixion scene automatically be a 'mocking parody'? Just because Brian et. al. happened to be executed in the same way as Christ did? :shrug:

I officially now have a phobia to the idea of filming a crucifixion scene in a Roman-era period piece, lest I receive the same reaction. :D

[/quote]

The parody lies in the fact that Brian and co crack jokes and burst into song while up on their crosses - obviously a mockery and parody of the solemnity and profound nature of Jesus' crucifixion.

And indeed, all crucifixions, being deaths, should be treated respectfully. If a member of your family died in a car accident you probably wouldn't want a comedy film to make light of the whole idea of dying in a car accident, would you?

[quote="LilyM, post:13, topic:209564"]
The parody lies in the fact that Brian and co crack jokes and burst into song while up on their crosses - obviously a mockery and parody of the solemnity and profound nature of Jesus' crucifixion.

And indeed, all crucifixions, being deaths, should be treated respectfully. If a member of your family died in a car accident you probably wouldn't want a comedy film to make light of the whole idea of dying in a car accident, would you?

[/quote]

This is where I would again chime in: in a spiritual and mystical sense, the Crucifixion of our Lord is profound and solemn. It's one of, if not the greatest event in the whole history of mankind. That being said, in a historical sense things may not have been that pretty or 'solemn', contrary to what popular art might often depict. Contrary to what the masters have always shown, there may not have been a huge crowd of people who came just to see Jesus die and mock Him (there were bystanders yes, but I doubt that half of Jerusalem would just stop celebrating the Passover just to see an execution). The surroundings were certainly not clean-looking and sanitary. Christ was certainly not hanging pretty on that cross.

My personal interpretation of the scene is that the Pythons were not so much lampooning the solemnity and profoundness of the actual event, but the sanitized, faux 'solemnity' that has obscured the event, thanks to centuries of art and years of films. By showing Brian's death in a not-so reverent manner, they were trying to break that formal hieraticism that art has imposed on Jesus' death.

I know we can't help but make the connection between the cross and our Lord after 2000 years of Christianity, and there are a few undeniable parallels between the two (and vice versa), but at the end, the Life of Brian, in the exact opposite way of what 'straight' Jesus films seek to explore, is more about what Jesus was not and what His disciples have chosen to hear Him regardless of what He actually said.

Now, the final scene is where I believe Monty Python shows us an irony and a twist: we the audience all know that Brian and co. are now fated to die 'the most wretched of deaths' with seemingly no hope of escape - since a succession of apparent rescue opportunities all came to nothing - yet there they were keeping their spirits up, singing the cheery, optimistic and positive (it was conceived to be a parody of Disney songs) Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. The life of Brian (the film as well as his actual life) thus ends on a rather dark irony. And that resolution's as Pythonesque as you can get.

[quote="patrick457, post:14, topic:209564"]
This is where I would again chime in: in a spiritual and mystical sense, the Crucifixion of our Lord is profound and solemn. It's one of, if not the greatest event in the whole history of mankind. That being said, in a historical sense things may not have been that pretty or 'solemn', contrary to what popular art might often depict. Contrary to what the masters have always shown, there may not have been a huge crowd of people who came just to see Jesus die and mock Him (there were bystanders yes, but I doubt that half of Jerusalem would just stop celebrating the Passover just to see an execution). The surroundings were certainly not clean-looking and sanitary. Christ was certainly not hanging pretty on that cross.

My personal interpretation of the scene is that the Pythons were not so much lampooning the solemnity and profoundness of the actual event, but the sanitized, faux 'solemnity' that has obscured the event, thanks to centuries of art and years of films. By showing Brian's death in a not-so reverent manner, they were trying to break that formal hieraticism that art has imposed on Jesus' death.

[/quote]

When I say 'solemn' I don't mean I believe depictions of the Crucifixion should look pretty or fit some standard Hollywood mould.

All I mean is that it should be respectful and (why not?) reverential. Christ and those watching Him would not have been cracking jokes or singing ridiculous songs, nor would any other poor wretch who was crucified, nor those who watched them.

The depiction in the Passion of the Christ broke the standard Hollywood mould in many ways. It retained a reverence and respectfulness, however, and there was nothing 'faux' in the slightest about it.

You don't need to have jokes and songs to make people view the event in a different way, and I think it's in pretty crass taste to depict ANYONE dying so. The fact of death itself demands a certain amount of respect.

[quote="LilyM, post:15, topic:209564"]
When I say 'solemn' I don't mean I believe depictions of the Crucifixion should look pretty or fit some standard Hollywood mould.

All I mean is that it should be respectful and (why not?) reverential. Christ and those watching Him would not have been cracking jokes or singing ridiculous songs, nor would any other poor wretch who was crucified, nor those who watched them.

[/quote]

Well, those darned hecklers standing by would have been cracking jokes and taunts at Jesus' expense, as the Gospels show us ("Thou that destroyest the temple..."). ;)

To be serious. IMO this is where the film requires us to have some suspension of disbelief. Would a crucified man really react that way in real life? Probably not.
Not to mention that suddenly showing someone die in a respectful manner would have been out-of-character for the film - who heretofore has taken everything lightly, and for that matter, the Pythons, who hold nothing sacred, as you may know. This from the same group who followed Brian up with The Meaning of Life years afterward, with Death showing up at a party to claim souls and lead them to a rather materialistic sort of Heaven. And Every Sperm is Sacred.

And BTW, Jesus is not Brian, similarities notwithstanding (nudge nudge). Our Lord is up there, preaching on the mount; Brian is down here, with the crowds. And I mean that literally.

The depiction in the Passion of the Christ broke the standard Hollywood mould in many ways. It retained a reverence and respectfulness, however, and there was nothing 'faux' in the slightest about it.

Indeed. What I meant though is those epics from old Hollywood, with their stiff, dour, often Anglo-Saxon - dare I say ultra-Docetic - Jesuses whose clothes never get soiled and who does not get severely wounded at the Passion. That I think is what the Pythons are spoofing.

You don't need to have jokes and songs to make people view the event in a different way, and I think it's in pretty crass taste to depict ANYONE dying so. The fact of death itself demands a certain amount of respect.

Well, that's exactly what Python-style humor is: it can at times be surreal, offensive and even - dare I say - crass (Mr. Creosote, the Undertakers Sketch, Sam Peckinpah's Salad Days, and that lost "Wee-Wee" sketch - something that even John Cleese thought was not in good taste - come to mind here for some of the grossest and most crass material they've done). :sad_yes:

Taunts of that kind are worlds different to comic songs and jokes about being crucified in an exclusively Jewish section of Golgotha :wink:

To be serious. IMO this is where the film requires us to have some suspension of disbelief. Would a crucified man really react that way in real life? Probably not.
Not to mention that suddenly showing someone die in a respectful manner would have been out-of-character for the film - who heretofore has taken everything lightly, and for that matter, the Pythons, who hold nothing sacred, as you may know.

As Python themselves noted, some subjects are beyond comedy - they didn’t dare ACTUALLY treat the life of Christ as a joke, why then the very real tragedy and horror of crucifixion?

This from the same group who followed Brian up with The Meaning of Life years afterward, with Death showing up at a party to claim souls and lead them to a rather materialistic sort of Heaven. And Every Sperm is Sacred.

Every Sperm is Sacred, while intended to be a comic mocking of both Catholic and Protestant attitudes to birth control, actually at heart states a very beautiful truth - every sperm IS sacred, containing within it the mysterious seed of God’s gift of life, and what a wonderful thought that is.

Well, that’s exactly what Python-style humor is: it can at times be surreal, offensive and even - dare I say - crass (Mr. Creosote, the Undertakers Sketch, Sam Peckinpah’s Salad Days, and that lost “Wee-Wee” sketch - something that even John Cleese thought was not in good taste - come to mind here for some of the grossest and most crass material they’ve done). :sad_yes:

Important difference being your examples aren’t parodies of real events surrounding death, or real deaths, but pure fantasy. No-one ever in real life died while gorging at dinner a la Monsieur Creosote, or fell victim to a killer bunny a la Holy Grail or in real life had an undertaker suggest cannibalising their loved ones a la the Undertakers Sketch.

On the other hand, people REALLY were crucified.

Well, you’ve gotta always look at the bright side of death, after all. :stuck_out_tongue:

As Python themselves noted, some subjects are beyond comedy - they didn’t dare ACTUALLY treat the life of Christ as a joke, why then the very real tragedy and horror of crucifixion?

Two words: black comedy.

A bit unrelated, but our whole discussion brought to mind that part in Petronius’ Satyricon where the centurion neglects his job of guarding the bodies of dead crucified criminals, due to a widow starving herself to death at her husband’s grave. Meanwhile the body of one of the thieves is stolen, and the centurion is about to commit suicide rather than face crucifixion himself. The widow instead puts the body of her once beloved husband on the empty cross so that nobody will know of the theft!

Every Sperm is Sacred, while intended to be a comic mocking of both Catholic and Protestant attitudes to birth control, actually at heart states a very beautiful truth - every sperm IS sacred, containing within it the mysterious seed of God’s gift of life, and what a wonderful thought that is.

Yep. Sure makes me glad that The Adventures of Martin Luther didn’t make it into the final cut of that film. That would have kinda ruined the message. :stuck_out_tongue:

Important difference being your examples aren’t parodies of real events surrounding death, or real deaths, but pure fantasy. No-one ever in real life died while gorging at dinner a la Monsieur Creosote, or fell victim to a killer bunny a la Holy Grail or in real life had an undertaker suggest cannibalising their loved ones a la the Undertakers Sketch.

On the other hand, people REALLY were crucified.

Hmm, good point. :slight_smile:

Oh yeah, "It's not about Jesus". Really?

The whole thrust of the film is that first century Judea was chock-a-block full of people who were willing to irrationally acclaim anybody at all as the Messiah on the most flimsy pretext. If that's not anti-Christian I don't know what is.

Yes the final cut of the film was carefully edited to create ambiguity about ewehether Christ and Christians wewre actually being targeted, but the whole concept of the film was as an argument for atheism. The book with "additional scenes" which was sold by the Pythons as a companion sale to the film, contains scenes such as St Joseph telling the BVM that she's been taken in by some spieler who deflowered her claiming he was the Holy Ghost.

[quote="Petergee, post:19, topic:209564"]
Oh yeah, "It's not about Jesus". Really?

The whole thrust of the film is that first century Judea was chock-a-block full of people who were willing to irrationally acclaim anybody at all as the Messiah on the most flimsy pretext. If that's not anti-Christian I don't know what is.

Yes the final cut of the film was carefully edited to create ambiguity about ewehether Christ and Christians wewre actually being targeted, but the whole concept of the film was as an argument for atheism. The book with "additional scenes" which was sold by the Pythons as a companion sale to the film, contains scenes such as St Joseph telling the BVM that she's been taken in by some spieler who deflowered her claiming he was the Holy Ghost.

[/quote]

~phew~ Thank you for stating the obvious, "Petergee". :thumbsup:

Ah well. Sometimes the obvious escapes people; and I mean no offense when I say that. I miss stuff too. ~lol~

BTW, my absolute favorite COMPLETELY OFFENSIVE Monty Python moment is the "Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch" scene in "The Holy Grail". And YES it IS also VERY offensive.

From wikipedia:
Instructions for its use can be found in the (fictitious) Book of Armaments, Chapter 2, verses 9-21, parodying the King James Bible and the "Athanasian Creed". en.wikisource.org/wiki/Athanasian_Creed.

“ ...And Saint Attila raised the hand grenade up on high, saying, "O Lord, bless this Thy hand grenade that with it Thou mayest blow Thine enemies to tiny bits, in Thy mercy." And the Lord did grin and the people did feast upon the lambs and sloths and carp and anchovies and orangutans and breakfast cereals, and fruit bats and large chu... [At this point, the friar is urged by Brother Maynard to "skip a bit, brother"]... And the Lord spake, saying, "First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin, then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who being naughty in My sight, shall snuff it." Amen.[1]

Yes, I squirmed a bit, but I laughed my head off too. Do I need to go to confession? (That's a real question - cause, gosh, I guess I could be way off base here). ~still laughing though~

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