Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection

I’ve mentioned before that I love the story of Rainbow Crow, the beautiful Lenape tale of how the crow got its black feathers and hoarse, croaking caw. It’s a terrific story.

But I do not want to see “Rainbow Crow: The Movie.” The story is perfect as it is — as a story that can be told in less than five minutes, 10 if you really milk it. It shouldn’t be turned into a 90-minute movie or into a three-hour epic because it is not a 90-minute story or a three-hour epic. Trying to turn it into one would change the story and turn it into a different kind of story.

Russell Crowe as Noah, Earl of Locksley

And that would be wrong on several levels. It would be as disastrous as an epic movie about “So this gorilla walks into a bar …”

Which is why I think Darren Aronofsky’s “upcoming epic, Noah,” now filming in Iceland, is just a very, very bad idea.

I love the story of Noah. It is epic in scope and in setting, but it is not an epic story. It’s a very short story painted in broad strokes. It is a story that does not work when not painted in broad strokes.

In the Bible, the entire Noah saga is 88 verses long, and those 88 verses cover more than 100 years. Read it out loud, slowly, and it will take you only about 20 minutes. That’s how long this story is: about 20 minutes.

That’s how long it should be. Make it any longer than that and you change it — change what it is and change what it means.

* * * * * * * * *

I generally take a pretty skeptical view toward Scientology, but I’ll say this for them: They have some pretty good actors in their community.

My own evangelical tradition, on the other hand, has Kirk Cameron and this: Actors, Models & Talent for Christ.

Yes, of course it’s a scam. AMTC, that is, not Scientology. It seems to be a Jesus-flavored variation of the old modeling-scout con. (“You’ll be a huge star! You just need lessons …”)

Many people hold that Scientology is a scam, too, with adherents reportedly required to pay big bucks to advance through the levels of the “religion.” But even so, Scientology can point to the careers of, for example, Elizabeth Moss, Giovanni Ribisi and Beck, as well as Tom Cruise and John Travolta. So unlike Actors, Models & Talent for Christ, Scientology is, at least, a scam that’s given us some memorable performances.


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  • hidden_urchin

    Plus, every Christian isn’t even taught that God caused the flood.

    Really?  I guess they skip Genesis 7:4. 

    Anyway, the story of the Flood, as best as I remember it, is based on even earlier Mesopotamian stories.  Re-reading it, I think that it is probably a tale of death and rebirth more than anything else.  It reminds me a bit of Shiva dancing the destruction of the universe so it could be created again.  I don’t find it very different from a lot of our current stories about the end of this civilization due to plague/zombies/ EMPs where survivors have to rebuild (and the focus is always more on the survivors than the people who die).  People seem to be fascinated with the idea of starting over and trying to get it right this time.  

    I also think that the story suffers more in the current time due to our cultural aversion to death and living in a time when large portions of the population do not die in famines or epidemics (in the West, at least).  The idea that, even if many individuals died, humanity as a whole would always continue would probably be more comforting than horrifying for a society that regularly saw the loss of many, many members due to what would appear to be the whim of a deity.

    The problem, as usual, is when someone tries to take something that is true in a mythic sense and insist it is factually accurate. sigh

  • LouisDoench

     Battlefield earth is one of my absolute favorite awful movies.

  • LouisDoench

    Noah & family fending off pirates because, of course, they weren’t the only ones who owned a boat.

    OMG I never fucking thought of that! How could I have lived 43 years, 25 of them as a blasphemous heathen and not have thought of that? (hangs head in shame…)

  • LouisDoench

     “The banjo is such a happy instrument–you can’t play a sad song on the banjo – it always comes out so cheerful.”

    Steve Martin

  • Tonio

    Numerous religions have Flood stories, and there are theories about these originating at the end of the last Ice Age, particularly the Black Sea transforming from an inland lake. The difference with Genesis is that the Flood was a deliberate act, so that throws aside any allegorical meanings and makds the focus on the act’s motivations and morality. It would be far more useful as an allegory if the Flood was a natural event.


    Reading it as allegory and not a factual account, what is the spiritual/moral lesson we are meant to derive from it?

    I can’t speak to what we’re meant to derive from it.
    My personal take-away from it is:
    * God is capable, both physically and ethically, of destruction on an unimaginable scale. Therefore, no matter how bad things are, we should all be thankful to God for not having made them much MUCH worse.
    * Obedience to God is important, not just for ethical reasons, but also because sometimes it’s the only thing that lets you avoid the oncoming Flood.
    * Some people are so much better than everyone else that even when destruction is merited on a large scale, considerable effort is devoted to ensuring that those individuals are spared. (See also Sodom. Compare and contrast with Nineveh.)
    * No disaster is so all-encompassing that we cannot start over and thrive.
    * Sometimes a project is so fucked up that all you can do, even if omnipotent and omniscient, is wipe it clean and start over.
    * Doing so usually doesn’t actually help.
    * Kids who don’t cover up for their drunken fathers will not do well in later life.

    I endorse some of these lessons more than others.
    I find some of them reprehensible.

  • Michael Mock

    hidden_urchin – I’d throw Atlas Shrugged into that list, too. The world is irredeemably horrible, let’s watch it fall / tear it all down, and then let those who have proved their worthiness (by, y’know, not dying) build something better from the rubble. In fact, if you count Galt’s Gulch as a sort of Ark, it’s very much the same story…

    It’s not a fantasy that stands up to any sort of moral scrutiny, but there are days when I can see the appeal.

  • snowmentality

    I heard a radio commercial for AMTC yesterday, before I saw this post this morning. They’re holding a “recruiting event” at a hotel in my city. The ad was done by a woman with a sickly sweet voice, with “inspirational”-sounding instrumental music in the background. Its repeated slogan was “Bad is bold in Hollywood. Good needs to be bolder.” The selling point was clearly “We’ll send you out to to take over Hollywood and make it moral and RTC. Just pay us lots of money first.”

    I guess branding this scam “Christian” and making it about striking a blow for RTC “values” in popular entertainment, rather than about being famous, is a viable new marketing strategy. Ugh.

  • Tonio

    Tonio’s Bizarre Theory of the Day: Mario Puzo’s original Godfather novel has a far longer Frank Sinatra Johnny Fontaine sequence set in Hollywood. Fontaine’s friend Dean Martin Nino Valenti observes that the male actors are closeted gays, and reacts with disgust when his favorite female star treats him like a “male whore.” Maybe something like this is the whole basis for the longstanding view of the entertainment industry as Sodom and Gomorrah – not just the caricature of rampant fornication but the caricature of lack of conformance to gender norms. The whole reason the metrosexual stereotype exists is because many people wrongly believe that focus on appearance should be a female trait and not a male one (the male gaze concept  and this belief could drive the resentment against male actors.

  • Jim Roberts

    The Sensuous Curmudgeon discusses bathtub arks. Or, rather, discusses Ken Ham discussing bathtub arks.

  • wanderingoutlaw

    I don’t know much about AMTC since it became a “Christian” company but the original founder Millie Lewis was a legitimate talent and model trainer.  (She also attended a mainstream Episcopalian church–the same one as my great-grandmother, grandmother, and mom.) Her most famous student is Andie MacDowell.  Her daughter who has been involved with AMTC since the beginning evidently had a mid-life crisis a few years ago and became an evangelical christian and changed the direction of AMTC and changed the meaning of the letters AMTC. Funnily enough, her late brother, a vajrayana buddhist practioner and a friend of mine, is the one who gave her the new name of the business, changing it from American Modeling & Talent Convention to Actors, Models & Talent for Christ.

  • The_L1985

    There’s a reason I don’t collect manga anymore. ;) I do have all 20 volumes of Angel Sanctuary.  If there were the least chance you lived nearby, I’d loan them to you.

  • The_L1985

     I was immune to the “multiple flood stories, ergo Christianity is false” argument, because Answers in Genesis has an answer:

    “There are tons of cultures with flood stories BECAUSE the flood was global!  After all, why would anyone write or tell a story about a global flood if the only floods they or their ancestors had ever experienced were local?”

    It wasn’t until after I abandoned YEC in general that I realized just how stupid that argument is.

  • The_L1985

     I know 2 of those, but I’m drawing a blank on the 2nd one.  Is that the plot of The Black Cauldron?  Because I neither read the book nor saw the Disney movie.

  • The_L1985

     Er, that first story is Hansel and Gretel.  And it is most definitely the “good guys” (the kids) burning the “bad guys” (the witch) alive in that story.  They throw her in an oven.  With visible flames in it.

  • The_L1985

     Was this the series of Bible picture books written in rhyme?  My school had the ones about Rachael and Leah, and the one about Nebuchadnezzar acting like a wild beast.

  • The_L1985

    One word:  Deliverance.

  • Tricksterson

    I still think Tom Bombadil would have worked as long as he was played by Robin Williams

  • Wingedwyrm

    Okay, with regards to Hansel and Gretel, we have at least the knowledge that these were two small chiledren, with very limited power, acting in self-defense against a witch who, by the way, was the one roasting children alive despite a lack of definite need to do so.

    And, no, I don’t think that the childrens books I’m referring to were written in rhyme.  I do remember popup books in Sunday School, one of which allowed one to pull a tab and make the animals get on the boat, make the rain fall, make the animals do something else on the boat, make the animals get off the boat, etc.

    So, in terms of sermons, in terms of sunday school lessons, in terms of stories told before naptime, and in terms of books printed explicitly for the purpose of telling these stories to children told of God creating the flood, because everybody was so wicked, and casually ignoring what that wickedness consisted of and whether or not any families included children who’s entire wickedness consisted of being decendants of the wrong people.

    Though, it is worth noting that, at other points in the bible, being born to the wrong ancestry is treated as a serious sin.

  • SisterCoyote

     I understand what you are saying there. I really, honestly do. The people going around looking forward to the next time God destroys the world (sparing only them) are serious issues, have serious issues, and that does change the world we live in, for the worse. But I disagree that it makes Noah’s Ark more than just a story. I also disagree that the character of Yahweh, in those stories of the Old Testament, gets a moral blank check. Hasn’t it been discussed here before, where he’s called out by his prophets?

    But mostly, it bothers me that you are making these arguments here, in response to Fred basically saying that – it’s just a story. That was my issue with some of the comments. Fred posted saying he’d rather not see an epic of broad strokes made into more than what it was; people responded as if he had gone “The Definitely True and Noble and Faultless story of Noah’s Ark deserves more respect than a mere mortal’s film could afford it!” And it leaves me grinding my teeth.

  • SisterCoyote

     Aaahaha. I left that part out of my comment, mainly out of shame – that was my response as a kid, coming across other creation myths for a first time, too. (Up in Maine when we were kids, my dad picked up a massive book of Native American Myths and Legends, and from it I learned: there was totally, definitely a global flood at some point in history, and how babies are made.)

    The frustrating thing is that, even now, rationally knowing that these stories aren’t meant literally, having kept my faith and lost much of the absurdity, I still feel like I should be ducking for lightning strikes every time I type “creation myths.” It’s insidious, and maddening.

  • Yeah, I’m not saying my family was normal. But we went to two big, prosperous churches, which followed different traditions, and they both taught that the flood was a story, not literal. Jesus resurrected from the dead and healing people was literal… probably, but what he taught was most important. Anything before Jesus in the Bible should be respected, and believed if it went along with Jesus’ teachings. If it went against Jesus’ teachings that God loves us and needs us to love each other, it should be taken with a dump truck of salt and seen as an artifact of its times. This was taught to me in both the Lutheran church I went to in Michigan and the Baptist/Mennonite/Quaker/Friends church I went to in the Shenandoah. Neither church was perfect of course, but when I see what right-wing Christians today are shouting about, and what therefore so many people seem to think Christianity is “really” about, it’s like the Twilight Zone. 

  • No, the moral of the Flood story is that God loves us and all of creation and therefore helped save us from a disaster. Also, don’t give up, because if Noah and his family could save all these living things with the help of God, you can do anything with the help of God. I don’t believe in either of those morals any longer, but that is what the story is, as it was transmitted to me.

    You can’t take a story like this and say “this is the One Lesson there is and therefore it is a bad story.” Is Cinderella about how virtue is rewarded, or is it about how being pretty is all that matters? Is Hansel and Gretel about how you shouldn’t trust women living alone and stepmothers, or about how girls can be smart enough to save themselves and their brothers? Is Beauty and the Beast about how love has nothing to do with appearance, or about how women need to suck it up in marriage? 

  • It’s The Black Cauldron. I think I saw the Disney movie once, and I can’t remember any of it, except that Taran and Eilonwy were way too young iirc. The book, however, was a formative one for me.

  • Wingedwyrm

    “the moral of the Flood story is that God loves us and all of creation and therefore helped save us from a disaster.”

    That’s the moral of a heavily edited Noah story.  In order to get that the people who told you that story started with the story of Noah and the Ark from the bible, edited out the fact that God caused the flood (and purposely so), either edited out that there were other human beings or accused them of being universally “wicked” and thus conveniently ignored all thought of those wicked people having children in their families (which the bible also does), and waved the surviving family (also editing their story during and post flood, because the moral problems do not stop there) like a warm&fuzzy hand to distract from any remaining moral problems.

    Without both the editing and the distraction, what the moral of the story, as shown in the bible, is less “God will help save you from disaster” and more “God might spare you from his wrath.”

  • Joshua

    Morals are in the eye of the beholder, especially in the case of an anonymous document worked over by multiple editors that records a far more ancient oral tradition that adapted in the telling.

    There’s no original author we can ask what moral she or he intended, even in principle. So we create the morals ourselves, often only using one aspect of the story. Making Lliira’s just as “legitimate” as yours.

  • Joshua

    In the Mesopotamian myth that (at least plausible) is the origin of the Genesis flood myth, the flood is created by one god and the people rescued by another. That makes the character motivations a little easier to understand.*

    * Source: Eerk. Something I read on Wikipedia a while ago. I have a couple of translations of the Epic of Gilgamesh on my hard drive somewhere, but never got around to reading them.

  • Wingedwyrm

    If we’re talking about which story is the legitimate story, and that discussion had nothing to do with Christianity or the bible, sure, there’d be no one legitimate Noah’s Ark tale.

    If, on the other hand, we’re having the conversation I believe we’re having here, which is about the story of Noah’s Ark as is normative to the story in the bible, the question of whether or not her moral is actually in line with the one in the bible does have a clear answer.

  • Tonio

    Wingedwyrm’s response has many of my own objections. The disaster was the work of the god so the being doesn’t deserve any credit for saving anyone from it. Almost all of “us” murdered in the deluge. There’s no point to comparing the flood story with those fairy tales because they don’t come from a body of work that describes, say, tyrannical stepmothers as good. A better comparison would be Left Behind, where a protagonist like Rayford is described as virtuous but he treats people shabbily.

  • Joshua

    That leads me to wonder, I think for the first time: what is the point of the Noah story, anyway?  Reading it as allegory and not a factual account, what is the spiritual/moral lesson we are meant to derive from it?

    OK, wall of text. Hopefully Disqus doesn’t chew my paragraphs.

    IMHO, and I’m not actually a preacher and so don’t have to do this kind of thing professionally, morals about “God miraculously helps us through great difficulties so hang in there” are far easier to draw from other stories in the Bible, both mythical ones and ones that I take as historical. Because, of course, there are many other stories where God isn’t directly the cause of the difficulties. So while you could, I personally wouldn’t bother.

    The Israelite authors and editors of the story as we have it in Genesis must have had a good reason to include it, as writing was such a hassle that anything without evident value would have been dropped. I expect that their reasons included the following:

      i) It was already a holy and ancient story. We have written versions of it from predecessor civilisations going back, what, another thousand years?

     ii) It is the first example of the idea of covenant that became a central idea in Judaism, where God makes an agreement with a representative person. This came into full flower with Abraham, but is a thread going through many parts of the First Testament, and as I understand it (and any Jewish readers, please do enlighten me if I’ve misunderstood) modern Judaism as well.

      iii) The early monotheist period didn’t have an evil Satan figure to blame bad stuff on, God is more kinda beyond good and evil, so the idea that God saves humanity from his own wrath against humanity would not have been as jarring as it does now, to our Christian-influenced reading of the story.

    The meaning I personally draw from it is that it’s great how we have a documented example of the way our holy myths are continuous with the myths of other cultures, not dropped from heaven on a stick, and of how reading the Bible as completely literal and inerrant is a dumb idea. Some parts of the Bible work best as an example of what to avoid.

  • And that would be wrong on several levels. It would be as disastrous as an epic movie about “So this gorilla walks into a bar …”

    If the gorilla is Grodd, and the bar is the one in Keystone City where lots of the Rogues hang out, I could see it being a pretty epic movie.

  • Tonio

    Yes, the Flood story does sound far different to people like myself who are familiar only with the Christian context. I couldn’t have even told you how modern Judaism reads the story. .

  • Joshua

    If, on the other hand, we’re having the conversation I believe we’re having here, which is about the story of Noah’s Ark as is normative to the story in the bible, the question of whether or not her moral is actually in line with the one in the bible does have a clear answer.

    I agree with the letter of what you say here, but not the wider whole of your argument. The concrete text itself has a fixed meaning, but that meaning does not include one single, correct, moral. Or even morals at all. The text does not say, “Here is what this story is supposed to mean, morally,” like some of Jesus’ parables or like (parts of) the Narnia books. In the absence of an original author, even someone like me who doesn’t go for death-of-the-author styles of literary analysis has to admit that the morals we draw from it are our constructions, not required by the text.

    So I agree with you in so far as, say, a moral about how cybernetics will eat your soul (I’ll omit the TV tropes link) would be a clearly invalid moral, because there’s nothing in the text that refers to cybernetics at all; but no further.

    These stories are used by Christians, to construct morals, as a source of allusions, as material for preaching or devotional reading. We do not solely provide exegesis of a text and leave it at that.

    When we construct morals, we do not necessarily attempt to cover every bit of the plot. We might one day use the story to justify how nice wine is, the next to celebrate rainbows, next week use it as an allusion about the moral decay these days, and how the young people don’t get off my lawn, as in the days of Noah.

    I think these processes are valid, and judging a moral against a comprehensive exegesis of the text isn’t. Because the text doesn’t say it has one or what it is.

  • Wingedwyrm

    Joshua, there’s a difference between a moral not taking every element of a story into account before being derived from said story and the moral not being able to work unless you explicitly ignore parts of the story.

    The moral of “God helps us through trajegies” doesn’t derive from the story of God singling out a favorite human to save when venting his wrath upon the rest of humanity.  Sure, it does derive from the *different* story that Lliira referenced, but that’s just the thing, that is a different story.

    It would be as valid to derive morals regarding cybernetics from the biblical Noah’s Ark story as it would to derive a moral about God helping someone through trial and tribulation.

    And, do note, I’m not arguing that the moral of a story has to be limited to one moral or to what an author intends or even that a valid moral to be derived from a story can’t actually be counter to what the author intends.  But, the moral does have to follow from what happened in the story and, if it has to explicitly ignore parts of what happened in the story then it doesn’t follow.  Neither am I arguing that rewriting a story to present a different moral that just doesn’t work from the original or isn’t as readily appearant from the original is necessarily a bad thing.

    I am, on the other hand saying that, when it comes to the biblical story of Noah’s Ark and the morality thereof, there is serious moral problem there, even when taken allegorically.

  • Joshua

    Well, as for the start of your reply, I won’t repeat myself. I guess we must agree to differ. But as for this:

    I am, on the other hand saying that, when it comes to the biblical story of Noah’s Ark and the morality thereof, there is serious moral problem there, even when taken allegorically. 

    I quite agree. In my reply to Vermic above, you’ll notice that it was a little short on moral truths I apply in my own life, and what there was was qualified by the comment that other parts of the Bible illustrated those truths better.

  • GeniusLemur

    I’ve read somewhere (bear with me here, I can’t dig up where I found this, and I’m working from memory) that there was a massive flood in the area (geologically, scientists found the evidence). It didn’t cover the whole world, of course, but it was close enough for a bronze age culture (more than 100 miles in any direction). Obviously this would have been a matter of great carnage and trauma at the time. It may be that the whole Noah story is just a matter of something that did, in fact, happen, together with an added explanation of why the people and animals weren’t wiped out. It was included in the Bible because it was considered so historically important, and attributed to God because who else could have done it? From there, it’s a short jump to “God had to, because humanity had become to wicked.”

  • Adaptations of Lord of the Rings tend to leave out Tom Bombadil,
    because it’s challenging enough to present this strange individual in a
    non-ridiculous way that most directors don’t bother.

    I daresay that even Tolkein himself failed at that task.

  • It was included in the Bible because it was considered so historically important, and attributed to God because who else could have done it? From there, it’s a short jump to “God had to, because humanity had become to wicked.”

    Also if God did it and then promised not to do it again, then the world is safe; there will never again be a flood like that. Whereas if it’s a random natural occurrence nobody can ever be safe.

  • Tonio

     The random natural occurrence doesn’t mean it personally and the humans didn’t do anything to anger it. There would be some comfort in knowing that the humans didn’t cause it (assuming we’re not talking about global warming) and couldn’t have done anything to change the outcome. Whereas the god in the story sounds like the type of abuser who alternates between brutal rages and false promises to control himself. Promises to never do it again would have been no use to the millions of corpses, and the survivors can never really confident that they won’t provoke the god’s anger like that again.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     Kind of like “Scientology is a religion.” Well, no, it’s an elaborate scheme for separating you from your money.

    These two things do not have to be mutually exclusive….

  • phranckeaufile

    There was already a series based on the David story. It was called The Sopranos.

  • Was Battlefield Earth intended to be an allegory for/reference to any aspect of Scientology, or was it unrelated?

    Only insofar as Hubbard hated psychologists, thinking them greedy phonies who are only out to get other people’s money by selling mental snake oil, and he forbid his followers from going to see them.

    Which says quite a bit about Hubbard’s lack of self awareness.

    Anyway, he made it a little allegorical in that the evil invading galactic conqueror aliens are called Psychlos and are extremely greedy, seeking to plunder the Earth of gold. I suspect that their silliness in the film was Hubbard’s posthumous attempt to make psychologists look ridiculous (according to Travolta, Hubbard left extensive notes on how he wanted that story adapted to the screen.)

  • Which says quite a bit about Hubbard’s lack of self awareness.

    Well, either that, or he just didn’t want the competition.

  • At the risk of defending Hubbard, I am given to understand that he had a lot of specific complaints about specific psychiatric methods, largely involving practices which modern psychiatry agrees to be barbaric (Namely the use of lobotomy and ECT in all but the most severe of cases)