5 Modern Stories That Are Way More Religious Than You Think
Most Hollywood films with religious symbolism ram it down your throat so hard that it feels like you're in church on a Friday night, being dick-slapped with a Bible, when in actual fact you're stealing from the internet while trying not to think about God's judgment too much. They love to reinforce the idea that the hero is the messiah (Neo, Leeloo, some other "e-o" sounding name). But there are some movies which slip their religious ideas under the radar so well that you don't realize ...
Clerks Is A Retelling Of Dante's Inferno
In Kevin Smith's debut, main character Dante gets called into work on his day off, and things go from shit to worse. He gets fined for selling cigarettes to a minor, even though it was his best friend who did it. The store gets destroyed during a fist fight with that same best friend. Oh, and his ex-girlfriend, whom he wants to get back with, fucks a dead guy in the restroom.
Dante's name is a reference to Dante Alighieri, author of The Divine Comedy, the first part of which, The Inferno, sees the author guided by Virgil, descending through each of the nine circles of Hell, where sinners are punished according to their sins (because God is not without a sense of irony).
Hell, even these two worked for God at one point.
This is reinforced in the movie by the title cards, which share themes with the book. Some of them describe sins (vagary, malaise), or judgment (vilification, purgation, perspicacity), or are biblical in nature (harbinger, lamentation, catharsis). Dante's trip into Hell takes in all of the Seven Deadly Sins. Dante's day at the Quick Stop isn't much different. The nine circles of Hell are Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Anger, Heresy, Violence, Fraud, and Treachery. All of these are covered in the film.
Limbo: Dante's life. By remaining a clerk and doing nothing with his life he is stuck in a perpetual limbo of his own making.
Even the black and white reinforces that.
Lust: Randall watching hermaphroditic porn, or Dante yearning for his ex-girlfriend, or finding out that his current girlfriend has sucked 37 dicks, or ... well, pretty much every second of the movie.
Gluttony: The hockey team consumes an entire drum of Gatorade.
Greed: Randall refuses to cover for Dante when he leaves for a funeral, even though he didn't know the girl personally -- he just doesn't want to miss out on "the social event of the season." Not to mention the running gag about the tobacco company being a greedy corporate machine intent on murdering its customers.
Treachery, Anger, and Violence: Dante loses his shit at Randall in the end (for telling Veronica that he wants to be with Caitlin) and tries to throttle him. They destroy the whole store in the process.
Heresy: When Dante admits to preferring The Empire Strikes Back to The Return of the Jedi, Randall calls it "blasphemy."
Fraud: Dante closes the store under false pretenses twice. First to play a game of hockey on the roof, then again to go to his dead ex's funeral (man, that guy has a weirder list of exes than James Bond). There's also the customer who's posing as an anti-tobacco advocate, trying to get people to quit smoking by chewing gum. He's later found out to be a representative from the company that makes the gum.
Still not convinced? How about the fact that the original script has the very first shot showing Dante's Inferno on Dante's bookshelf?
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The Cat In The Hat Criticizes Christian Values
Though it's widely known that Dr. Seuss. loved to bury lessons and meaning in his mind-bending children's books, The Cat In The Hat doesn't appear to have anything deep to say. A clinically insane feline turns up unannounced at the house of two siblings who are stuck inside because it's raining, makes a mess, and cleans it up just before mom comes home. It is a much-loved book which was made into a film that still makes me terror-vomit.
The story is just a fun thing that happens (or doesn't happen, if you're cynical) to two imaginative children while their parents are away. But the Cat's choice of possessions to juggle can be seen to represent Christian artifacts.
The boat probably doesn't mean anything. There are no boats in the Bible.
In his book The Parables Of Dr. Seuss, Robert L. Short probably overanalyzes his work, but our job here at Cracked is to overanalyze everything, so ... word. Short reckons that the Cat in the Hat represents Christ, who arrives with a "BUMP" and turns the world upside down for God's children (Sally and her brother). He posits that the absent mother is symbolic of the old religious law, and that the fish in the bowl is the churches which adhere to a restricting version of the Gospel. Well, duh. So Short's take on the story has Christ (the Cat) upend the old Christian dogmas by shaking things up ... but there is another way to interpret it.
The fish who tries to get the children to behave could represent Christ himself (he's strongly associated with fish in the Bible). It constantly berates the Cat in the Hat for acting out of the ordinary. Then there is the cup, which would be the Holy Grail, and a book, which I don't need to tell you represents the Bible. So I won't. Wait, shit. Sorry. Pretend I didn't just do that.
Good thing he didn't check in Mom's underwear drawer.
In this interpretation, by juggling these three powerful symbols of Christianity, the Cat in the Hat criticizes society and religion's demands to be too straightlaced and boring (like the Christ fish who doesn't want to have any fun), stopping you from enjoying life. By having them all fall onto the floor before being tidied away just as mom turns up, it suggests that it is possible to do away with these archaic institutions and live a freer, happier life.
Though not an honest one. The children are clearly going to lie to their mother about what happened while she was away, and spend the rest of eternity in a sea of soul scorching anguish.
Or maybe I'm overanalyzing it.
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WALL-E Retells Noah's Flood
WALL-E prepares kids for the end of the world by having humans flee garbage ball Earth and chill in space for a few centuries until the coast is clear. You know, the way all good stories are supposed to scare the shit out of children.
Our hero, WALL-E, spends centuries alone building soaring towers of crap while sifting through the junk for anything interesting. On the day we meet him, he finds a plant growing among all the shit. He has no one to show this to until EVE, a technologically superior robot, arrives. I can't think of a single thing that could symbolize.
Nope, no symbolism there at all. Not one symbolism.
The discovery of WALL-E's green shoot kick-starts a whole series of events, reveals a plot to keep our species fat and pacified (sort of like if HAL 9000 had been made by McDonald's), and ends up showing our tubby descendants that our planet is ready for us to fuck it up once more.
WALL-E is clearly a modern retelling of Noah's flood. EVE represents Noah's dove. She's white, for starters, with little winglike hands, and she finds the plant (olive branch) which means the world is ready to sustain life again. Okay, WALL-E finds it, but she gets it to where it needs to go, because WALL-E is a worthless little bastard.
"You're still here? Christ."
To do this, she must return to the Axiom, which is Noah's ark, but in space (and with no animals), where Homo obesus has been waiting out the "flood" of crap that engulfed the planet. She manages to get the message to Captain McCrea (Noah) who then brings about a new age for mankind: being unable to move in Earth's stronger gravity or breathe its poisoned air, and freezing their fat asses off during the first winter. Victory!
Pulp Fiction Is A Parable Of Saul's Conversion
Putting the obvious Ezekiel 25:17 quote to the side, there's a subtler biblical reference in Pulp Fiction. Jules' turning to the light is a reference to the conversion of Saul, who gave up persecuting early Christians to become the Apostle Paul.
At the beginning of the film, Jules clearly persecutes those who are smaller and weaker than he is, scaring the shit out of them not only with his voice, but also with actions and sweet, angry sideburns. With his wing man, Vince, they go into a yuppie apartment, and after some heated exchanges on the nature of breakfast nutrition and Bible passages, they start shooting people.
This is basically how Jehovah's Witnesses do it in Jersey.
Turns out there's another yuppie hiding in the kitchen, and he's packing. Once he's finished emptying his bladder, he empties his gun, but every single bullet misses Vince and Jules. After this incident, which Jules refers to as a "miracle," his worldview changes and he decides to be a shepherd of the Lord, just like Paul, by "walking the earth" and "getting into adventures and shit." Paul had a similar experience on the way to Damascus, where a light from Heaven flashed and an image of Christ appeared to him. And he was all like, "Whaaaaaaaaaaat?"
So Saul/Paul literally saw the light. He accepted this as a true revelation, and spent the rest of his days doing God's work, "to open eyes and turn them from darkness to light." Jules echoes this when he tells Vince at the end of the movie that, "Me, my eyes are wide fucking open." A line that would have made Saul's story way more fun to read.
The dorky shirt couldn't hurt, either.
He gives up his sinful life and sets about doing God's work. Vince, on the other hand, denies God's influence in making the bullets fly past them ("It happens"), and is killed. The Bible is chock-full of doubters biting the dust (Lot's wife turns to a pillar of salt when she turns to witness the end of Sodom and Gomorrah, Judas hangs himself betraying Jesus, and so on).
Now all I have to do is find the Bible passage where Saul calls himself a bad motherfucker ...
Children of Men Is A Dystopian Version Of The Nativity Story
Children Of Men, like the novel it is based on, sees society crumble after humanity has been completely sterile for 18 years. Kee is the first pregnant woman in a generation. Now, she may not be a virgin (something she makes a joke about halfway through the film), but Children Of Men is clearly a retelling of the Nativity -- the story of Jesus' birth -- just in a much gorier, realistic, and therefore terrifying way. It's not exactly something you'd want your kids making costumes for in the annual Christmas play. Though, to be honest, it would make it way more awesome.
The first two rows of parents are dead, but we got a standing ovation!
The entire film leads up to the birth of a child who, if the Human Project can solve the problem of our infertility at the end, will literally go on to save the world.
To do this, Kee (as in, the key to our salvation, geddit?) and surrogate father Theo (which is the Greek root for God) must find a safe place for the birth, and ends up bringing the child into the world in abject squalor on a dirty mattress in a run-down building, inside an internment camp. Which would have been much closer to the reality of the stable that Mary and Joseph ended up in than the bright, clean images we all grew up with.
What, no myrrh?
In an interview with Cinematical, director Alfonso Cuaron explains in detail some of the religious imagery that was used:
"So I will give you an example: They exit the Russian apartments, and the next shot you see is this woman wailing, holding the body of her son in her arms. This was a reference to a real photograph of a woman holding the body of her son in the Balkans, crying with the corpse of her son. It's very obvious that when the photographer captured that photograph, he was referencing La Pieta, the Michelangelo sculpture of Mary holding the corpse of Jesus. So: We have a reference to something that really happened, in the Balkans, which is itself a reference to the Michelangelo sculpture. At the same time, we use the sculpture of David early on, which is also by Michelangelo, and we have of course the whole reference to the Nativity. And so everything was referencing and cross-referencing, as much as we could."
As if that wasn't hammering home the point enough, the film was released on Christmas Day.
See how some religious families will kill their own children for the sake of religion in 6 Realities In A Super Religious Family That Wants Me Dead, and see how Robocop is an allegory for Jesus in 6 Famous Movies With Mind-Blowing Hidden Meanings.
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