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Ok, Everyone! Let’s Crucify!

January 28, 2010

The main dude in Baka no Test gets crucified in the latest episode.

There isn’t much in the world that’s funnier than crucifixion.

I’ll rephrase that ever so slightly: There isn’t much in the world that’s funnier than inexplicit crucifixion. Christ dying for our sins isn’t funny. Spartacus getting it for leading a slave revolt isn’t either. Mikuru getting crucified due to Haruhi’s gleeful sadism is funny. It’s hilarious. It makes life worth living.

I’ll chalk it up to my iconoclastic nature. I enjoy seeing things deconstructed. I like it when something that’s upheld as sacred or untouchable or whatever is turned on its head or rendered meaningless. Even when it’s something that I consider important. I’m down with that.

This is why I get a kick out of scenes like Yuuji and Mikuru getting crucified. These scenes take something that’s held sacred by many people, the visage of a person being crucified, and remove all of the symbolism and meaning behind that image in order to turn it into a sight gag. Mikuru squealing for help as she’s tortured on the cross is no different from Bugs Bunny pulling a prank on Elmer Fudd or Spongebob shaking his foamy ass at Squidward. The sacred has been made absurd. Insert laugh track here.

My favorite example of this, from an anime, comes from Sailor Moon. Here’s a show targeting elementary school girls. Sure, they fight monsters and stuff, but it’s pretty harmless. Then, BAM!, you see Sailor Mercury and the other Sailor Senshi dangling from crystal crosses.

What’s awesome about this is how the target audience and the creators likely see no religious symbolism in this. They know the image of Christ n the cross, but it has no meaning to them other than “that looks painful.” It isn’t a gag shot like in Baka no Test or Haruhi-Chan, it’s a serious image depicting suffering that’s lacking in the connotation a typical gaijin dog like myself expects. This image is just as hilarious as the previous ones because not only has a symbol been rendered “impotent,” but also because people will try to read far too much into such symbology. This isn’t a matter of Christian symbolism at work, this is a matter of  “it’s cool to see Mercury being crucified,” and that fact will be lost upon many viewers. Call me an asshole, but I find considerable humor in such misunderstandings.

My attitudes are reflected in Alejandro Jodorowsky’s movie Holy Mountain. Despite the movie’s pretentious-seeming style and allusions to alchemy, astronomy, drug use, metaphysics, and what have you, the movie is a comedy at heart. It takes all of this religious and philosophical imagery, combines it with a certain attitude that you’d only be able to find in the 60’s and 70’s, and turns it into a brilliantly absurd piece of comedy. In the above scene, the main character, The Thief, is carrying a cross down the road for the amusement of American tourists. The scene takes place in a small South American town, and it’s rifting on the idea that the well-to-do who claim to be “understanding” of the poor and destitute in third world countries are really just looking down upon their “uncivilized” manners and are just as much a part of the imperialistic attitudes of their homelands regardless of what they might say. The scene does this not by preaching or anything like that, it does this by creating a parody of the people it’s condemning.

That scene segues into a bit where a drag queen dressed as the Virgin Mary and her Roman centurion henchmen get The Thief drunk so they can make paper mache copies of him posed as Christ to sell to the imperialist dogs seen before. The scene climaxes with “Mary” holding the seemingly dead Thief/Christ and feeding him a bottle of tequila like a mother feeding a baby a bottle of milk to nurse him back to life.

All of this is played for laughs. Sure, it’s getting at all sorts of ideas or whatever, but at no point is any of this serious. Holy Mountain becomes increasingly absurd as it progresses and leaves no room for any other interpretation. You can dig at deeper meaning, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that you’re supposed to laugh at seeing the cross turned into a crass commercial product made by the third world for consumption by the first world. It’s meaning has been robbed just as much as it was with Mikuru.

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