Thursday, August 24th 2017
Feb
2009
19

A tale of two Hollywood stars: David and The Pentagram

the-reader.jpg

The Reader’s Oscar night has one man asking, will the Pentagram ever get the same respect as The Star of David


OPINION PIECE: DANNY KENNY — The five Oscar nominations and Kate Winslet’s Best Actress win for “The Reader” give a twist to the old cliche, “if a picture paints a thousand words.” “The Reader” uses a thousand words to paint a picture — and such moving pictures can affect the hearts and minds of millions of people all over the (Golden) Globe.

In the past, a very different kind of “Oscar” (Wilde) once declared,”Illusion is the first of all pleasures” — and as we all know, Hollywood is the Master of illusion.

So let’s take a critical look at the Oscars’ favorite Hollywood clichés. Who and what does Hollywood teach us to love and hate by using its own distorted images? Here are the first two nominees for hero and villain. (Insert your own smarmy generic Oscar Host:)

Our first star is a shining symbol of hope against religious intolerance. I refer of course to The Star of David, which has come to represent a nation of survivors who were demonized and caricatured as villains throughout history. Thanks to the power of film (and TV) they have become a symbol of hope for a victimized minority who has triumphed over centuries of persecution and adversity.

Meanwhile our other featured nominee has been just as frequently portrayed as a dark force. I refer of course to The Pentagram, which has come to represent the demonized, Satanist, witches and weirdos. It’s become the number one horror star, popularly depicted as the six, six, sick psycho villain in slasher movies and psychodramas. This symbol is guaranteed to strike as much fear into the public’s hearts as Dracula’s stake or Hitler’s Swastika.

“And the winner is … (Open envelope) … The one we believe in most. . . because we see it all the time, therefore it must be true.”

So who decides who the real villains are? Lets forget our personal demons for now and let’s look at one of Hollywood’s top choices.

The Reader” is just one film in a long tradition of Holocaust-inspired “made for Oscar releases” that serve to remind the public on an annual basis that Nazis are baddies. . . in case we hadn’t figured that one out yet.  The Nazis have been the number one choice since “Sophie’s Choice” became Oscar’s, earning five nominations and a win for star Meryl Streep in 1982.

And the song remained the same, as Oscar “Schindler’s List” simply became Oscar’s list in 1993 when it was nominated for 12 Oscars and won seven. In 2002 “The Pianist” hit the right notes and scored heavily – three out of seven times, including best director for confessed child molester, Roman Polanski, which was one clear (legal) case that hit a discord with many and a blatant example that the Academy’s choices are certainly not unbiased in whom they celebrate or tone deaf in what they choose to ignore.

So what about other issues and groups who they choose to miscast or castigate?  Over the last 25 years Hollywood has repeatedly encored and explored the genocide and persecution of some of its most powerful players’ ethnic roots, while continually hitting a sour note when it comes to producing anywhere near as many movies about other minorities’ struggles against persecution and prejudice.

Thankfully some of these disenfranchised groups have evolved over the years into more positive roles and role models, as the political climate has changed, or, like Spike Lee, they found their own voice and tried to re-dress the balance of the prejudice that their exploitation created.

For many years the cowboys were the Western heroes in the eradication of America’s indigenous peoples, proving some screen images are indelible and people believe what they see until told otherwise. Which (Not the Wicked type) brings me to the ever present and growing minority that hasn’t been given an opportunity to tell their story in their own voice: the Witches’ voice of the real life and death Pagans. On the contrary, Hollywood has taught people to fear and loathe them by scrawling the Pentagram on the walls of every satanic-serial-killer type movie and using caricatured evil stereotypes of manic, cackling dagger-wielding Witches in films and TV shows. Look no further than last week’s depiction of a wiccan in an episode of The Mentalist called Redrum.

The fact that Pagans do not believe in Satan — and that the wiccan creed is, “Do What You Will But Harm None” — makes a mockery of TV and film producers’ misuse of the Pentagramed athame (a ceremonial dagger still used symbolically in Pagan ritual) to demonize the Pagans in acts of human sacrifice.  This  practice has no real factual historical evidence to support it.

What’s far more alarming for me is the lack of compassion their depiction of Pagans displays, despite the fact that the idea of burning witches is said to have originated with Saint Augustine (354-430) who stated “that pagans, Jews, and heretics would burn forever in eternal fire with the Devil unless saved by the Catholic Church.”

Even so, Hollywood heavyweights have never empathized or dramatically broached the centuries-long genocide and persecution of Witches and healers (mostly women), known as the “Burning Times.”  This is the term for the first major witch-hunts that began in 1450 in many western European countries, and became a Holocaust over the next 300 years.

But, hey, I’d be the last person to turn this into another “Witch Hunt.”  So I use the term “Holocaust” advisedly by its dictionary definition – i.e. “Great destruction resulting in the extensive loss of life, especially by fire.” This is a fair description of the witch-hunts where many of the victims were tortured and burnt alive, an issue that still seems to be ignored by the media and films. In fact, witches and folk healers are still put to death in some Islamic and African countries.

So “harm none,” in my personal creed, means I have no wish to compare people’s pain or history.  Pain lives with the survivors, and often history belongs to the persecutors and victors — and so, by necessity, do the estimates of such tragedies.

This makes it even harder for the Witch who is writing this column to understand why the-powers-that-be in Hollywood don’t think that the persecution of Pagans and women healers is a story worth telling, and a dangerous stereotype worth breaking.  Instead, we are caricatured as wicked-witch figures in teen slasher movies like Halloween III: Season of the Witch, and other mindless entertainment.

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I know the public doesn’t have the power to control what Hollywood and major TV production companies churn out. But producers do respect the power of money, so you do have the power to do yourself a favor and not buy into their bias.  You can bypassing the box office and not buy a ticket. The next time you see someone wearing a pentagram dangling around their neck as they kill someone on screen, you have the power to turn it off — or turn it over.  If you see someone at work or at a party wearing a Pentagram, the least you could do is just ask him or her if they’re a Pagan.

Rather than asking them, “So is it true what I saw in a film that you . . .” or as me Granddad used to say, “Say nothing till you hear more, and believe half of what you see — and less of what you hear”.

Maybe now that we have someone in power who believes in the vision that everyone in America has a voice, perhaps President Obama might even help. So when next time he asks, “Can we change?”  We can all reply, “Shalom Brothers and Sisters! Yes we can! Wiccan! Yes Wiccan!”

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12 Comments on “A tale of two Hollywood stars: David and The Pentagram”

  1. A.) A great majority of people killed in the "burning times" were not pagans at all, mostly, they were christian.
    B.) the Pagan credo is... well... there isn't one. "Harm Non, do as thou will" is the Wiccan rede and applies to Wiccans. Not all pagans are Wiccans, not all pagans agree with "Harm None, do as thou will" and most importantly, there were no Wiccans alive during the "burning times" because Wicca was founded in the late 1940s. The "Burning times" were well over by then.
    C.) Hollywood loves the burning times as much as they love the holocaust... it's just that they haven't figured out how to make an oscar-worthy movie based in 17th century Europe.

  2. It's an interesting article.

    I think one reason such movies aren't ever made is that the companies would be worried they would lose money over it. Movies with Nazis or pentagram wearing, devil worshipping psycho killers as the villains are proven to work. The same can't be said for a film showing pagans as the victims of mass murder. Also the persecution of pagans was supported by the church and making a movie where Christians are the villains is risky too.

    However the movie industry can change. Look at the portrayl of Native Americans. Early movies showed them as evil killers who needed to be wiped out or at least conquered by the good Christian white men. More recently though movies have been made showing more of the truth about a group of peoples whose land was invaded and who were treated with no respect and often massacred by the invading white people- e.g. Last of the Mohicans,Dances with wolves etc. So who knows, maybe movies showing pagans in a positive light will be made.

  3. Although, don't forget that Witches were also targeted in the Nazi destruction of anyone in non-conformity with their beliefs - Jews were the main target, but gypsies, witches, and other "non-Christians" were also rounded up and killed.

    Most of the medieval burnings/hangings were to do with power and the Church - Catholic vs Protestant, Royalist vs Parliamentarian. Be on the wrong side, be too poor and a burden on the state, be too rich and powerful and you were a threat!!

  4. when you set out on a path that was different from what some call normal did you really expect to see your way of life in the mainstream?

    leave me and my way of life out of hollywood that's what I say.

    a wiser man than me once said - I am different and if anyone finds that difficult to deal with leave me and my path alone.

  5. An interesting take on the race for an Oscar, archetypes and the history of Hollywood film making

  6. I found it interesting that the author of the article used The Holocaust in contrast to The Burning Times..The so called postive vs the negative..They are truly one and the same thing, occuring at different periods of history..Both symbols of blatant, heinous abuse of power, hatred and bigotry when harnessed by an organised body...
    However, I might add, in the case of Hollywood. the power behind the film industry has always been held by the Jewish community..Naturally they would wish to see their message of "The Holocaust" produced in a positive light and this a good thing..
    What the Pagan community needs is a courageous and honest Independent film company and director to take on the task of presenting it's "Burning Times" with historic accuracy and truth..There is nothing more horrifying than the reality of those times and the public should be introduced and educated to that reality..For the good of all...Lest we forget..

  7. Well, and what are we going to do about it? Just whine and complain? It only took one, ONE, producer/filmmaker to change the picture the regular Americans had of the First Nations people, and turn it around. Maybe there is a filmmaker out there who is willing to do the same one day for the Pagans, the Burning Times, the Pentagram...
    The reason why Americans are so "enamored" with Nazi movies is that 1) the U.S. is Israel's biggest ally, and 2) Americans grow up with complete denial and brainwashing about what happened to the First Nations people, so the Nazi era presents a dysfunctional distraction for them. Just point the finger at someone else, and it's all fine and dandy. While slavery has been finally dealt with historically, First Nations peoples' history still hasn't, and they are still treated like crap.
    Anyways, the fact that the Christian cross is the biggest symbol of murder, slaughter, torture, and genocide in the world today and over the past, well, at least 1200 years (counting from about Charlemagne, not even considering any that happened before), has to be concealed at all times, so any other symbols are fine to use. That is what Hollywood has to go by. Hollywood is run by Jews, and they cannot stab their colleagues the Christians in the back, so they are looking for other bad guys.
    As I get more and more into the Heathen faith, I want to bring back the Swastika as an accepted religious symbol, as has been used for about 3,000 years by all kinds of cultures all over the world, where it represented life, sun, power, strength and good luck. Do we let a mere 12 years of Nazi-terror eradicate this beautiful symbol forever? Now, why are we doing that, and why are we not taking it back?
    Same with the Pentagram. We are the ones letting its abuse happen, so why are we not doing anything about it? Can't Pagans get organized? Can't they go and protest and write letters and boycott such movies? This article on this certain website here is not going to help anyone or change anything.

  8. geez mighty amazon,

    let me know how that "bringing back the swastika" thing works out for you.

    i think we might have to let this one go...

  9. i appreciate what you are trying to say, but i have to tell you that i find this comparison deeply offensive.

    i am a pagan, a practicing wiccan, and i am also a historian. to compare the burning times, which was no doubt a horrible incident in humanity's history, but which only killed a couple hundred thousand over a couple hundred years (most of whom were in fact christian), with the Holocaust, which killed over 6 million in the period of less than 10 yrs, is absolutely ludicrous.
    yes, the european witch burnings were heinous. but they were a completely different sort of event, occurring across many nationalities on behalf of many governments and local citizens, and over a very extended period of time. it just doesn't even begin to compare with the efficiently organized systematic destruction of all peoples who didn't fit the aryan ideal.

    while i agree that it would be nice if hollywood didn't consistently demonize pagans, i also can't get that worked up about it. everyone knows that hollywood deals largely in 2 dimensional characters and situations. is someone going to start a crusade that hollywood not depict blondes as stupid? or people from the midwest as backwards? or catholics as superstitious? of course not. because we all know that it's all fake.

    if you want to make your own movies depicting pagan life as you see fit, wonderful. i fully support you. but please don't go about comparing pagan oppression with jewish opression. there is no comparison, and you will give the rest of us a bad name.

  10. So Thora your Wiccan rede is do what you will but only harm........I think the phrase"Only killed a couple of hundred thousand" says it all really! Also most of the estimates are from Christian sources, who now conveniently claim the victims they want were "Christians", funny that! Maybe like meself they were born Christian, but died Pagan, only to be " ressurected" as Christian again when it suits the church.
    So I compare their figures on the victims of The Burning Times to their estimates on sexual abuse cases when I was an altar boy,( when apparently there was none) and yet I for one know better! I don't know how you calculate or catagorize things in life ?But for me no one owns words they're for everyones use ,and abuse is abuse and Holocaust is Holocaust!
    Blesssed Be
    Danny The Pagan Altar Boy

  11. Danny, I think Thora (sorry, Thora, if you were going to reply) was saying only a few hundred thousand in comparison to the 6 MILLION Jews. One death by hatred is too many, but to put things into perspective, if you have a couple hundred thousand over a couple of hundred years or so, it's hardly on the scale of the Jewish Holocaust.

    My mother is an Irish Catholic, whose grandparents came to America to escape bigotry, hatred and probable death in Ireland from the Protestants. My father is a Russian Jew whose grandparents came to this country to escape bigotry, hatred and certain death. I was raised on stories of not letting others hold you down or back because of your beliefs.

    As such, I agree completely with Thora. Yes, the killing and persecution of witches, and those accused of being witches regardless of truth, is awful and horrendous. But again, in the scheme of things, not nearly as gut-wrenching as the gathering up and mass murder of the concentration camps of the Holocaust.

    On another note, no one ever mentions the Japanese American forced relocation to Internment camps during WWII. So, while Americans were fighting against Hitler and the eradication of people who didn't look like him, they were gathering Japanese Americans (um, people who don't look like them) and putting them in camps and treating them badly. The same thing is happening now with Muslims (Guantanamo). And it also happened, and continues to happen, with Native Americans and the reservations.

    The bottom line is, gathering people who don't look like you, worship like you, or act like you and putting them in a camp, jail or reservation, is mistreatment and best, horrific at worst. To compare any of those people and the systematic attempt to eradicate them to the occasional, albeit hate-driven, murder/hanging/burning of witches is unfair. Hate is hate, true. Killing for hate is heinous, true. One murder for hate is too many, true. But mass, systematic murder is still more disturbing, in my book, than the randomness of the Burining times.

    In my opinion.

  12. When comparing the propagandist versus the historian's take on the Burning Times, the difference is staggering. The propagandist argues that the historian has been fed data from the victor or Christian. This may be somewhat true. But its difficult to really gauge the numbers when you consider the Christians who gave confessions under pain of torture. If you believe confessions given under torture, one might also be inclined to believe the kinds of generalizations that come out of Hollywood. The world is not a black and white canvas, where the good guy always wins, and where good and evil are easily distinguishable.

    Still comparisons between Pagan oppression and Jewish oppression are also staggering comparisons. Even before the holocaust of WWII, for centuries Jewish oppression reigned across Western Europe, when the Jew was the fall guy for maligned magic and ritual murder. Hollywood has found a new fall guy, and its the modern Pagan.

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