Blog December 2008
During the week I gave the Transition Year students their RE Christmas Exam - As we had been looking at the history of Jesus films I showed a clip from the Gospel of John and asked the students to evaluate it - Jesus is played by Henry Ian Cusick who plays Desmond in the TV series Lost, so there was a useful recognition factor. Actually I've just got this DVD recently and Cusick's performance is excellent. In the clip I showed he's having a right go at the Pharisees. After I've seen more of this version I'll comment some more, but so far so good as far as performances go, though as with other entries in the Visual Bible series it's a word for word enactment of the gospel, including the narration, so some scenes not given much dialogue in scripture seem rather stilted. I also tried to give some of the questions a Christmas theme - e.g. I played Come Darkness Come Light, the title track of Mary Chapin Carpenter's new Christmas CD (see review here), asking students to write about the themes and how they were conveyed. Also I used Christmas at Denny's by Randy Stonehill and asked about the use of traditional Christmas imagery in a contemporary setting.
episode of The Simpsons on RTE 2 was of particular interest
to Catholics. In this episode Bart was expelled and had to find an alternative
school, which turned out to be a Catholic school. There was a sort of
a compliment to Catholic education ("the most affordable private schools")
followed by a huge dose of Catholic (and Irish) stereotypes. For starters
the teacher was a ruler-wielding tyrant nun with an Irish accent - at
one stage Bart moved back his desk to avoid getting a thump of her yardstick,
but due to his poor grasp of measurement moved back only 33 inches and
got a whack anyway! However, inspired by a friendly priest (voiced by
Liam Neeson) and comic book lives of the saints Bart eventually decided
to become a Catholic, and later, inspired by the pancakes at a church
event, Homer joined him. Protestant Marge was not pleased ("Catholics
are a peculiar bunch"), nor was neighbour Flanders and Rev Lovejoy - ecumenism
isn't strong in Springfield. There were sly references to clerical child
abuse and mutterings about "no birth control" (Marge said she didn't want
another 12 kids).
Still in fiction territory I've been enthusiastic before about Prison Break (see article) due to the interesting characterisations and tight plotting, but mainly because of the distinctive moral concerns of the main character, Michael Scofield (an intense Wentworth Miller). But the fourth season, currently on RTE 2, is very disappointing. There are tell tale signs of deterioration - the plot is breeding red herrings at a fierce rate, a character we thought was dead suddenly reappears (we had seen, or thought we had seen, her head in a box!), the main character develops a potentially fatal illness, but what is most objectionable is the brutality and sadism that has crept in. It was always rough, but now even some of the likeable characters resort to excessive violence - most repulsive of all was when one character viciously tortured another in an extended sequence - OK they're both murderers, but the torturer had shown signs of softening, even redemption. His violence wasn't unmotivated, as the victim had murdered his child, but the programme just wallowed in the scene, going way beyond what was necessary to make the point, and some sympathetic characters, especially the female doctor (she of the head) turned their backs. Nothing yet in this series I could see myself using in RE class.
Have uploaded an article I wrote for An Tobar magazine about Arts Resources for Christmas and Advent, so I hope teachers will find some of the material useful.