The Maltese Falcon and the MacGuffin of the Spirit

As I revel in my return to the Bay Area, I continue to catch up on classics that have to do with San Francisco. Last weekend I rewatched The Maltese Falcon (1941). Truth be told, the film version, based on the Dashiell Hammett novel, could have taken place anywhere. Other than some stock footage of San Francisco, the place names, and "view" of the Oakland Bay Bridge behind Sam Spade's desk, the city doesn’t play much of a role. It's still a classic.The head-scratching plot begins with the c … [Read more...]

‘Hail, Caesar!’ The Coens’ Latest Study of Human Frailty

To watch a Coen Brothers movie is to take a meandering existential journey through red herring subplots, eccentric characters, and entertaining discursions into philosophy. (“Nihilists! …I mean, say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos.”) Whether or not it all makes sense in the end is largely a matter of interpretation. The only certainty is that human beings will be found fallible—sometimes tragically, sometimes hilariously—but always fallible. … [Read more...]

Popping Collars Part II: “Jesus becomes a monster for us and with us”

My book, Hollywood Biblical Epics: Camp Spectacle and Queer Style from the Silent Era to the Modern Day, dropped yesterday. Get it on Amazon or anywhere fine books are sold.Continuing now with the "Popping Collars" podcast in which the Rev’s Greg Knight and Betsy Gonzalez and I discuss biblical epics, scripture, and popular culture.Here’s the link to the whole podcast, which is much more entertaining than reading a transcript.Again, I offer the caveat that this is a not-at-all acc … [Read more...]

‘The Silver Chalice’ and the Bible in our Minds

If one stores a collection of images of a particular literary figure, or setting, or style of costume, that collection is not stored mentally in chronological order. It does not matter whether I have seen Rita Hayworth’s Salome before viewing Gustave Moreau’s painting or after reading the version in the Gospel of Mark. All the representations collide and coalesce in my construction of the figure of Salome. In our postmodern image culture, readers are also spectators. -- Alice Bach*This is o … [Read more...]

What Is It with Gay Men and ‘Carrie?’

One of the joys of living with a partner who was born and raised in another country is seeing American pop culture again for the first time through his eyes. One night, Fred and I were watching Another Gay Movie, Todd Stephens’ bawdy gay male take on teen sex comedies. Determined to train Fred in the subtle art of camp, I carefully explained the film’s references to Mommie Dearest and Airport 1975.At one point in the movie, there’s an extended riff on Carrie. Although I had seen the film, I … [Read more...]

Teorema: God Will Save You from Your Dull Middle-Class Existence

At a dive bar in New Orleans this past January, Ryan and I got together to discuss possibilities for for the coming year. As the drinks flowed freely and we watched my beloved Bengals blow another playoff game, our bar napkins filled up with penned ideas. Maybe it was my mounting gloom at the outcome of the game, or the effect of cheap booze on a cold winter’s day, but the best idea we could come up with was “outlaw directors.”“Great!” Ryan said, “but what’s an outlaw director … [Read more...]

The Camp and Queer Bible Goes Down Under

On short notice, I was given the opportunity to contribute an introductory essay to an event surrounding an exhibit of Father Michael Morris' biblical film poster collection. The exhibit, called Epic! 100 Years of Film and the Bible, was showing at the Jewish Museum of Australia in Melbourne. The event was part of their "Midsumma Festival," and focused specifically on LGBT interpretations of the Hebrew Bible. Many of my students and colleagues have heard my lectures or descriptions of my … [Read more...]

Religious Baddies

We're having a little fun here at Pop Theology as Halloween rolls around. This time of year, we celebrate all things monstrous and horrific, and while evil comes in all shapes and sizes, many of us also know that it often comes dressed in religious garb. Below are a few of our favorite religious baddies, evil characters who are either explicitly religious or feature as the villains in explicitly religious films. These films range from the 1950s to the present day and cover genres from biblical … [Read more...]