Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Why THIS IS THE END (2013) is a Strangely Appropriate Film for Lent (Written by a Christian Catholic)

It's not the best movie in the world, okay? You wouldn't necessarily consider it a religious experience considering its vulgar humor, but I found it a somewhat appropriate film for this time of the liturgical year: Lent.

To see if I am making a bold statement, I looked up some Christian and Catholic reviews of the film, which exist because of its nature, and they just knock it. So, I decided to share my positive point of view of it.

The basic premise is that Jay Baruchel comes to visit his estranged friend Seth Rogen, who also directed and wrote the film, in Hollywood. They go to James Franco's house for a party at which point the Rapture erupts. They are then stranded in the house with Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, and eventually Danny McBride, because dangerous creatures lurk outside and they must find means to survive while waiting for their impending fate. The guys at first are skeptical at the whole rapture idea when Jay brings it up to them, but then they start to take it more seriously.

I normally strongly dislike apocalyptic films. The end of times concept always gives me needless anxiety. But when I first heard about this movie before it even came out, I figured I'd give it a shot because it is funny, a parody of the apocalyptic genre, which is exactly what it is.

The Christian reviews say that in Biblical terms it doesn't interpret the Rapture/end of times correctly or even mention the idea of accepting Jesus into your lives in order to do good. With these criticisms, I actually agree. It shows the Rapture occur with a lot of violence and distress whereas it is not really supposed to be that way (even though it is kind of described this way in the Bible). From what I'm told, the second coming of Jesus should be a peaceful experience.

But what the Christian reviews also say is that it is mocking Christianity and Jesus Christ when in reality it tends to look at Jesus pretty favorably or at least indifferently. I've also read that some have problems with the movie because Jewish people made it.

At the end of the day (or times), the movie's message is to just look at what needs to be improved about humanity and to treat people with more respect and love. It is a movie that encourages people to repent and reconsider certain actions. None of the characters are perfect, and they acknowledge and accept that about themselves throughout. This is what I got out of it and I don't think it's as horrible as people seem to take it.

^I originally wrote this part of my blog right after I first saw the film on the first Saturday night of Lent this year, but then as I thought about the movie a bit more, I began to realize how symbolically accurate it is.

The following contains spoilers.

The Essence of Time

It is uncertain exactly how many days they are trapped in James Francos's house waiting for salvation, but their waiting could be the same as Catholics waiting for Easter Sunday and for Christ to come again. The idea of waiting is big with Catholics. Lent is a solemn time and the duration of their entrapment isn't exactly the most joyous.

It would be interesting if James's party takes place on a Tuesday because this would be very significant to my argument. Fat Tuesday, also known as Mardi Gras, is the day right before Ash Wednesday, the day that kicks off the Lenten season. Fat Tuesday is when Catholics indulge on parties and such before they restrain themselves during Lent.

Jay Baruchel Represents Catholics and Even Jesus Christ

He preaches and people mock him. He preaches and is isolated. He preaches and people are skeptical of his preaching. Sound familiar?

In the movie, Jay carries himself as a loner and doesn't fit into Seth's Hollywood crowd, and in a lot of ways Jesus Christ was a loner too, always traveling on foot to spread the Word of the Lord. Also, it is Jay who traveled to visit Seth, not vice versa.

Even though the rich and popular people, much like Seth's Hollywood friends, invited Jesus into their homes like James welcomed Jay into his, Jesus does not fit into any specific group but prefers to associate with the sick and poor to help them. The only difference is that Jesus accepts and embraces all groups of people whereas Jay shuns those different from him simply because he doesn't want to be bothered.

Jay is also the only one who knows the Bible and tries to teach the other guys how to properly live their lives by avoiding sin in order to gain salvation. At the same time, he comes across as a bit self-righteous and the other guys accuse him as such, which is another thing people accuse of Catholics, even when it's not always the case.

Just like Catholics aren't perfect and have their faults, so does Jay.

If Aslan from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Clark Kent/Superman from Man of Steel are supposed to represent Jesus in their stories, why can't Jay in this one?

And on the same token...

Danny McBride Represents Those Questioning Catholicism

A lot of what Danny says resonates with certain arguments against Catholicism, such as:

"You don't see me putting rules on you guys." (In reference to the guys not wanting him to drink another glass of water so they could save their water supply)

Plenty of people feel this way about Catholics. First of all, Catholics have a lot of rules to begin with, especially when it comes to Lent. During Lent, Catholics must fast and abstain from different things, much like how the guys are frugal with their food and water supply. Secondly, this line is often said in regards to abortion, contraception, and gay marriage. Non-Catholics don't want Catholics to impose their beliefs onto them, which is exactly how Danny feels about the way the other guys treat him.

A few scenes later, he says this following line to Jay, the guy apparently representing the Catholic community in this:

"The only reason why you care about any of us is because you think it's what God wants you to do."

What's interesting about this line is that it could make Catholics question their own actions. Am I doing this because it is what I feel is right or am I doing this because God is watching and I want to go to Heaven? Do I really mean what I say and do or is it because I was taught this way all of my life?

A good example of this is the scene, around the time when we first meet Danny, where a random guy pokes his head into the house and pleads for the main characters to let him in. However, they are reluctant to do so, fearing that he could be a danger to them. As Christians and Catholics we are taught to help others, but yet we are concerned about people taking advantage of our good nature, so then we become hesitant. In fact, it is Danny, the guy representing those questioning Christianity, who opts to let the guy in. Of course, this is before he is convinced that the Rapture is happening.

Final point. The Eucharist, also known as Holy Communion, is the part of the Mass when Catholics receive the Body and Blood of Christ orally and is one of the sacraments. It is a representation of the Last Supper when Jesus celebrated Passover with the Twelve Apostles before Calvary, his Passion (sacrifice). This event is remembered on Holy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter Sunday each year since.

When he leaves the group, Danny becomes a cannibal. I may be delving in a bit too deeply here, but there are those who believe that Holy Communion is cannibalism, simply because they don't understand. This idea could be represented by this scene.

This Might be the One Movie that Accurately Portrays Rape. Also, Emma Watson Represents Mary Magdalene and Jonah Hill Represents Judas

Okay, so I've made it clear in the past that I don't like rape scenes for fear that they could possibly trigger bad memories in its audience if people in the audience are rape survivors. Plus, they are just very uncomfortable scenes. This Is the End actually makes at least two references to rape, which made me a bit wary of even watching the film. However, they aren't that bad of scenes.

These scenes don't necessarily have much to do with Lent, but more so with good and evil, so I felt that they should be acknowledged.

First there are the moments with Emma Watson, which is a testament (no pun intended) in itself to prove that it's somewhat a feminist film as well, regardless of the fact that the entire movie is run by a group of men.

I discovered this video way before I watched the whole film and found/find it hilarious. I felt guilty about laughing at it because I've always felt that there are certain things you don't joke about, rape being one of them. So what made this so funny to me?

Answer: It shows the rape concept from a male point of view.

I felt that this scene deserved its own analytical blog post. Men are sadly often viewed as potential rapists so this is a bunch of good guys trying to find a way to avoid that stereotype in a comical manner. They aren't making demeaning jokes about Emma or rape but are rather somewhat making fun of themselves and how the world sometimes views men. Comedy is often used to help make people aware of issues. If this was a scenario with the genders reversed it would be a different story and chances are rape wouldn't be an issue.

This scene becomes a comedy of errors. Emma mishears them and rushes to defend herself, demanding that they give her their beverage supply. She is the one female character in this entire thing that has a chunk of screen time and her delivery brilliantly portrays the strength of women. In this scene, Emma sits in for all women, even the the women of the Passion of Christ, which details the events up to Jesus's crucifixion (death on the cross), such as the Virgin Mother Mary, that other Mary, Veronica, and especially Mary Magdalene.

It is argued that Mary Magdalene was one of Jesus's apostles, also making her the only female one. This debatable point makes sense in this context considering Emma almost becomes the one female member of the group but then she leaves the group just as fast. It also explains why Jay (Jesus) is the one concerned about making her feel completely comfortable among the men.

Then there is that OTHER scene.

Jonah prays for God to kill Jay, which is horrible and cringe worthy in itself. Jonah's betrayal of Jay is reminiscent to how Judas, one of the Twelve Apostles, betrayed Jesus by handing Him over to the Romans for a sum of money, pretending all along to be on His side but then at the end proving otherwise. This event is actually foreshadowed and evidenced throughout the film with Jonah's false sincerity towards Jay as he often throws him under the bus, such as suggesting to send him out to retrieve James's extra water jugs and thereafter throwing a knife at him when Jay asks for one. Ever since the beginning of the film, before we even meet Jonah, Jay senses that they don't like each other much like how Jesus foresaw that Judas would betray him.

It gets worse.

Even though Judas was more repentant for his deeds, much like him, Jonah doesn't have a good outcome for his actions. A demon with a huge member sneaks onto his bed and it is suggested that the demon takes advantage of him, parodying a scene from Rosemary's Baby (1968).

But that's all you really see. The scene isn't as graphic as I expected. Another reason why this scene isn't as uncomfortable is because Jonah is raped by a demon, which is highly unlikely in everyday life, so therefore audiences may not be as emotionally affected by it. But the more I thought about this scene, the more I realized that it symbolically accurately portrays rape in a matter of seconds.

With all of the debates and discussions about rape out there, this film finally shows that rape is evil by the mere fact that Jonah is raped by a spawn from Hell. What makes it even more progressive is that a guy is raped, acknowledging that it happens to men as well. Because of this event, Jonah becomes possessed with a demon, proving that rape has less to do with sex and more to do with the rapist attempting to have control and power over its victim. Lent-wise, it could also symbolize how Satan is out to defeat God/Jesus, as represented by the friction between the two actors.

The only criticism I have about this is that normally when a man is raped in a comedy movie or TV show it is played for laughs, which isn't right.

Now that I think about it. If God killed Jay like Jonah asked, wouldn't that just send Jay to Heaven much sooner, kind of defeating Jonah's purpose?

And Finally, We Never Actually See Jesus

In fact, Jesus is kind of rarely mentioned except for one scene when the guys finally agree with Jay that there is indeed a God and they even go as far as to suggest to not use His name in vain. What's great about this scene is that they aren't joking or making fun of God. They are in the middle of a serious discussion and looking back on their lives, somewhat in the form of Confession/Reconciliation. Even in the scenes after this one the guys try to figure out what exactly God wants from them.

At the end, Craig, Jay, and Seth all make it to Heaven, but even then God doesn't make an appearance. What's strange about this is that Satan does in the scenes beforehand. Apparently Morgan Freeman was asked to play God, but he turned it down. This would've been cool, but I think leaving God out actually adds more.

Much like the main characters, Christians and Catholics are often faced with the struggles of right and wrong everyday. It's this unsure feeling about what God wants and what He really looks like that makes us human. Not having God in the film just maintains that mystery and humanity.

Just as an end note, the final scenes about the beauty and happiness of Heaven are actually very precious.

I really did not expect to get so much message from or even like This Is the End. I thought it was going to be just another goofy Seth Rogen production, and it very well is, but it's also actually really deep and a pretty good movie depending on how you look at it.

I probably got more out of it than Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (the film's other writer and director aka Seth's partner-in-crime) intended, though.

1 comment:

  1. For future reference:
    Actors of fully Jewish background: -Logan Lerman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mila Kunis, Natalie Portman, Bar Refaeli, James Wolk, Julian Morris, Esti Ginzburg, Kat Dennings, Erin Heatherton, Odeya Rush, Anton Yelchin, Paul Rudd, Scott Mechlowicz, Lizzy Caplan, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Gal Gadot, Robert Kazinsky, Melanie Laurent, Marla Sokoloff, Shiri Appleby, Justin Bartha, Adam Brody, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Gabriel Macht, Halston Sage.

    Actors with Jewish mothers and non-Jewish fathers -Jake Gyllenhaal, Dave Franco, Scarlett Johansson, Daniel Radcliffe, Alison Brie, Eva Green, Emmy Rossum, Jennifer Connelly, Eric Dane, Jeremy Jordan, Joel Kinnaman.

    Actors with Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers, who themselves were either raised as Jews and/or identify as Jews: -Andrew Garfield, Ezra Miller, Alexa Davalos, Nat Wolff, James Maslow, Josh Bowman, Ben Foster, Nikki Reed, Zac Efron.

    Actors with one Jewish-born parent and one parent who converted to Judaism -Dianna Agron, Sara Paxton (whose father converted, not her mother), Alicia Silverstone, Jamie-Lynn Sigler.