Jul 12, 2010

Sexy Jesus



The Portuguese edition of Playboy has signed its own epitaph with an issue too shocking for the parent company. A series of photos depicting Jesus with topless models has rather unsurprisingly angered many.

Playboy magazine is to pull the plug on its Portuguese edition after it ran a photo shoot featuring Jesus Christ among topless models.

The spread was ostensibly a tribute to Nobel Prize-winning author Jose Saramago’s The Gospel According to Jesus Christ, but Hugh Hefner’s headquarters have reacted with outrage.

The pictures show a long-haired, glowing Jesus watching two models in a lesbian clinch, standing next to a prostitute and looking over the shoulder of a woman reading a book.

A quick glance through the reviews for the book in question make plain that the controversy starts with the source material. The tattooed model playing dead on the cover put me in mind of another depiction of a "flawed, human" Jesus and his Mary Magdalene in The Last Temptation of Christ.




Mostly, what the whole fracas brought to mind was our cultural obsession with a sexy but effectively neutered Jesus. We are always shocked,  just shocked, when Jesus is depicted as a sexual being and yet he is almost always represented in art and film as alluringly handsome.

I've been asking this question for a while now. Why is Jesus always hot? From Jesse, the stud-muffin of Mr. Deity fame, to the simple, sincere Jesus actor in Bill Maher's Religulous. We have no idea what the historic Yeshua looked like or even if he definitely existed. Such a Jesus was almost certainly a man of darker complexion than the iconic image so many of us grew up with.




Jesus is the quintessential unavailable man, driving poor Yvonne Elliman to distraction in Jesus Christ Superstar.




And what of poor Mary Magdalene, remembered through history (AD) as a prostitute even though there is zero scriptural foundation for that notion. It says something about the collective psychology of Christendom that we have sustained this inferred and insupportable narrative over the last couple of millennia about a gorgeous man who hangs around with a lusty prostitute but remains "pure" and even leads her to "purity." There is far more evidence, scriptural and otherwise, that Mary was a teacher as well, and possibly even the consort of Jesus. But that idea doesn't have much resonance. We prefer the idea of a corrupted woman (she had sex) and an incorruptible man who just happens to be totally hot. Because, of course, sex is always the woman's fault. We lead mere mortal men astray with our wiles, our serpents... and our tattoos, apparently.


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