Monday, March 31, 2014

Noah! Whoa!

SPOILER ALERT! In a sense I shouldn’t need to issue a Spoiler Alert for a movie based on the life of Noah. Who on Earth does not know how this story begins, proceeds, and ends? Perhaps, that’s why the makers of the Russell-Crowe-movie-Noah felt it necessary to throw in a few twists. To keep the audience engaged, the makers of the movie took into account what Kenneth Burke calls the Psychology of Information. Burke distinguishes between the attraction of the Psychology of Form and the Psychology of Information. Certain stories, such as Shakespeare’s plays and Disney’s fairy tales are enjoyed over and over and over again by the same audiences. These stories are enjoyed repeatedly by the same audiences, due to the Psychology of Form. We just enjoy repeatedly experiencing certain forms. A great example of this psychology is a hit song. People listen to the same song over and over, simply because they enjoy the form. There are other stories, however, that once they have been enjoyed, are cast aside. We may be engrossed, for example, in a football or basketball game. We may be so tied to the television set, watching the event unfold, that we cannot be torn away, even when an advertisement is shown. We do not want to miss a second of the action. Yet, when the game is over, we do not wish to watch the game again. We cast it aside.
Now, to the story of Noah . . . . There are certainly plenty who view the story of Noah from the perspective of the Psychology of Form. Not only does this group include believers who consider the story a supreme example of God’s interaction with and reaction to human beings, but this group also includes agnostics and non-believers who simply enjoy the story of Noah. Many of these individuals will be greatly disappointed in the Russell Crowe movie.
Enough of the form of the story of Noah is retained, however, that some individuals in this group may be satisfied. Most key characters are retained—Noah, his wife, and their three sons (Ham, Shem, and Japheth). The Ark is built. I personally enjoyed the visual effect of watching the construction of the Ark. Its dimensions, construction, materials (logs and pitch), cubic-rectangular shape, etc. are correct according to Biblical specifications. We are offered what photographers call “scale” by seeing actual animals in the Ark, so we can conceive of the potential for carrying multiple species of various animals. The sources of the Flood (from springs of water as well as heavy rain) are Biblical. The method of gauging the receding of the waters (sending out ravens and doves) is Biblical. From the perspective of the Psychology of Information, the movie-makers added interaction with Methuselah, the oldest person ever to live (and Noah’s grandfather), according to the Bible. While Methuselah is not mentioned in the Flood story, he is calculated, according to the Bible, to have died in the year of the Flood. The movie also adds Tubal-Cain as Noah’s nemesis. Tubal-Cain is a Biblical character who made instruments of iron and bronze, so it is feasible that these instruments were war instruments. Since it doesn’t matter who the antagonist is—the thoughts of all mankind other than Noah’s family were only evil continually--neither of these additions should be particularly grating to the Psychology of Form purists, but Tubal-Cain’s managing to board the Ark would violate the form.
A more egregious violation of form that might ruffle some feathers is the addition of the Watchers, depicted as giant rock creatures that resemble Stone-Age Transformers. Those in the audience less versed in theology might leap quickly to the conclusion that these “rock people” suddenly categorize the entire Noah story as a Fable. This would be a huge violation of what Burke calls Conventional Form for believers. Believers view the Conventional Form as History, not Fable. The movie makers had even gone so far as to offer potential justification for the historicity of a Young Earth theory (Google: “Disneology young earth” and view my blog Disneology #3) by presenting flowers that sprouted up in seconds from a drop of rain, and immense forests that grew in minutes. They even avoided potential conflict in the Creation account of Genesis as Noah rapidly related the “days” of Creation (Google my blog: “Disneology big bang” and view my blog Disneology #6). So, why utterly violate the Conventional Form of the story of Noah with these fictitious “rock people”?
The movie calls these “rock people” not humans, but angels—Fallen Angels. Since I have written a Master’s Thesis at Indiana University (as well as multiple Stan.Point blogs) on the subject of Fallen Angels, allow me to explain what I think the movie makers were attempting. In Genesis 6, right before the story of Noah and the Flood begins, the Bible speaks of “sons of God” marrying “daughters of men.” The movie is presenting these so-called “Sons of God” as Fallen Angels—something that I consider a huge mistake. See my blog on the issue: (Google: “ Genesis 6” and view my blog Angels & Demons 13: Who are the “Sons of God” in Genesis?). Furthermore, even if these Sons of God were Fallen Angels, they do not fit the context of Genesis 6, in which the Sons of God married the Daughters of Men. There is no hint of the “rock people” taking human wives in the Noah movie. Rather, by applying the term “Watchers” to these “Fallen Angels,” the movie is redirecting us to the book of I Enoch, which identifies the Fallen Angels as “Watchers.” Perhaps, the movie makers believe that the non-Biblical book of I Enoch was actually written by Enoch, the father of Methuselah and the grandfather of Noah, but this view of authorship is just silly. (Google: “ I Enoch” and view my blog Angels & Demons 2: The Prometheus Connection). The book of I Enoch is not in the Bible; it is what biblical scholars call Pseudepigrapha, meaning falsified authorship. The Enoch of Genesis did not write the book. Yet, the movie makers want to take later, Hellenistic Age concepts of these “Sons of God” and inject them into the Noah story. When I suggest the Prometheus Connection in my aforementioned blog, I supply most of the story the movie makers have adapted and added to the movie. The Watchers were condemned to an Abyss with Jagged Rocks; hence, the “Stone-Age Transformers” of the movie. The Watchers were banished to the Earth for the same reason that Prometheus of Greek Legend was banished by Zeus: they tried to help bring culture to humans. The character of the God of Genesis is, hence, transformed into a petty version of the god Zeus who is envious of humans and determined to stop their developing culture. Russell Crowe as Noah, hence, is transformed into a fearful-but-obedient agent of this mad god. Sound about right? While these new twists on the story of Noah, borrowed from the book of I Enoch, do provide new “information” for those who are motivated by the Psychology of Information, they are such bizarre twists that they drastically violate the Psychology of Form from the Biblical story of Noah. Perhaps the redeeming quality of having such severe violations of Form will be that it will motivate audiences to re-read the Genesis account to see if they missed something.