Movie Article

Passionate Response

Owen Gleiberman replies to the hundreds of letters -- some dismaying, he says -- about EW's reviews of Mel Gibson's controversial film

A response to criticism of EW's ''Passion'' reviews

I have been an EW reader for over five years, and I especially enjoy the movie critiques by Owen Gleiberman and Lisa Schwarzbaum. But I am disappointed this month. How could the editor actually allow two reviews of ''The Passion of the Christ'' by writers with a Jewish background? -- Michael

The true irony here is that the much-vaunted anti-Semitism issue is a nonstarter. Are some Jews in ''The Passion of the Christ'' depicted harshly? Yes. Did I watch ''Schindler's List'' and come to hate Germans? No. -- Patrick

Where to begin? EW received more than a hundred responses to the two reviews, written by Lisa Schwarzbaum and me, of ''The Passion'' of the Christ. Dismayingly, the questions and comments above represent many of the sentiments expressed. I first want to address the issue of likening the Jews in Mel Gibson's film to the Germans in ''Schindler's List'' -- an insidious and hateful comparison that was made by Gibson himself during his Feb. 16 ''Primetime Special Edition'' interview. The analogy masquerades as a statement of high tolerance, since it appears to ''forgive'' both Jews and Germans while offering a big, compassionate endorsement of ''Schindler's List'' in the process. But consider, for a moment, the parallel that is really being drawn here: The Jews who called for Jesus' death in the Gospels (arguably as part of God's grand design) are being equated, right before your eyes, with Nazis. That's a far more extreme -- and destructive -- statement than any made by ''The Passion of the Christ.'' With forgiveness like that, who needs intolerance?

As for the implication that writers ''with a Jewish background'' aren't equipped to appreciate a work of Christian faith, my response is that no one would have despised that sentiment more than Jesus. Should a Catholic not write about a work of Jewish passion? Should Protestants not write about Buddhists? Blacks not write about whites? Men not write about women? You get the picture. What this letter describes is a world in which individuality, the very breadth and heartbeat of human experience and response, has ceased to have any meaning outside of the ''group'' one belongs to. That's a world we should all be saved from.

(Got a movie question for Lisa or Owen? Post it here.)

Originally posted Mar 19, 2004 Published in issue #756 Mar 19, 2004 Order article reprints