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"The Prince of Egypt" and other "Biblical fiction"

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
So how does it sit with you?

We have a tape of the animated movie "The Prince of Egypt," and I have all sorts of problems with it, but at the same time, appreciate that my kids have a way to enjoy the Biblical stories in their simplest entertainment-value level.

Granted, it plays with the story-line. And I could have lived without the Moses-as-rockin'-dude moment and the Tziporah-as-desert-babe thing. And the moviemakers (Jewish) were so careful not to offend anyone else that they managed to offend me : ...

DH would like to throw the tape in the garbage, BTW.

Well, anyway, I know TNT or some such channel had movies about Abraham and whoever else ... and we all know about Richard Gere as David and Charlton Heston as Moses ...

Christian mamas I'm sure have a comment about Max von Sydow as Jesus, or Captain Christopher Pike (sorry, a Trekkie here ) in his version of Jesus ...

Any movies/books that you feel were particularly done well? Any that particularly annoyed you?

And please, mods, can we keep this in Spirituality? I'd like the particularly spiritually-inclined of any and all belief systems to be involved in this discussion ... (if discussion does occur ... :LOL)
post #2 of 22
I haven't seen Prince of Egypt but as far as Judeo-Christian themed movies I've seen the 10 Commandments and parts of the mini-series Jesus. There was a discussion on here or the media board (I forget which) awhile back too about pagan or witchcraft themed t.v. shows and movies like Charmed, Buffy, The Craft, Practical Magic & Mists of Avalon.

On one hand I think that these kinds of movies can be good when they serve to open people's minds and maybe spark an interest in learning about spiritual issues.

But I do NOT like them when people view them as literal fact. So much in spiritual matters is open to interpretation & there are many creative liberties taken by the film makers to fill in the blanks and make it entertaining cinema. Unfortunately a lot of people get their history through movies and don't realize how much they are missing.

Since I was raised Christian I can easily spot flaws in "Christian" movies, and can find points that go against what I believe. But I know that they are not educational films... they are entertainment. The same goes for The Craft and Practical Magic. I loved the movies and it sparked an interest in me to learn more about witchcraft, but at the same time I did not take any of it literally.
post #3 of 22
If they had just taken one or two parts of the story of Moses and execised creative liscence it would have been different but there was ahrdly anything in that that stuck with fact. For example they made Aaron out to ba e a real jerk when in reality Moses was the one who lacked faith etc . . and aron was the one with boldness and who spoke. It was his staff that turned into a snake etc and her really got shafted. I also think they really simplified Moses relationship to Pharoh.

There is another monvie made by Dreamworks, Joseph King of Dreams, which my friend said is a lot more accurate (although I haven't seen it) .

How much the artistic liscence bothers me is doirectly related to the story being told, how changed it is and what ois thier point. Prince of egypt bothered me becauise they were portraying fact as fiction when there was no reason to. It was too close to the truth for there to be that much falseness in it. Why not tell it the right way. But hten there is veggie Talse and since htey arej ust tryong to get the theme across and stray far enough from the story so that you not looking directly at it they don't bother me. DOes that make any since?
post #4 of 22
Perhaps this is petty in the greater scheme of things but when I first watched the Prince of Egypt in the beginning Moses is placed in the basket and sent down the Nile, his mother weeping.

Miriam sees that the Pharoah's wife (not daughter??) was adopting him and is reassured that he is safe.

My daughter was a bit traumatized by the baby being forced to seperate from his mother.

Now, in the *real* story (as I assured her) Miriam offered to find the Pharoah's daughter a wet nurse, Moses' own *mother* (so she got paid to nurse her own son instead of having him either slaughtered or seperated from his mother)

Isn't G-d better than hollywood

post #5 of 22
DB, my kids had the same reaction to to baby moses being seperated from his mother!

We have found these type of movies to be good stepping stones to discussion with our kids. Our children have become very savvy at picking out the flaws in hollywood's portraials of Biblical stories, as well as classic novels they have read. It keeps the kids on their toes and helps them to develop critical thinking skills right from the begining. We don't want them taking anything they see on tv at face value.
post #6 of 22
I had a problem with the Veggie Tale's Jonah film. Now, I should state that I am an observant Jew, and I didn't realize that the Veggie Tales were backed by a Christian organization until my brother in law saw we brought home the video and was upset the whole night.

I know that the Veggie Tales claim to be all about family values, morality, etc, and of course those are my values, too. But I feel that there is a deeper evangelistic message behind the cutesiness.

What I had problems with were:

1. When Jonah gets stuck in the big fish, there is a baptist-style church choir that sings a song, and perhaps I was reading in to it too much, but the ties and the shoulders of the choir gowns had a strong resemblance to crosses. Later in the scene, the pan out to a larger number of people and I felt I saw more crosses in the background. I felt this was a submlinal message of the Veggie Tales of Christianity.

Then again, I turned out ok, stuck to my religion, and very much enjoyed the "Davey and Goliath" claymation series on Sunday mornings, and I knew that it was Christian.
post #7 of 22
I've seen "Prince of Egypt," as well as some of the "Ten Commandments" movie on tv, and one time a movie about Lut (Lot, peace be upon him) though I've no idea if it was just about him or part of a Bible m ovie or what.

Islamically, both of them are objectionable, because it is not fitting for the Prophets to be portrayed by actors or drawn in cartoons, etc. Theologically, neither was close to what we believe about Prophet Musa (Moses, peace be upon him) and Harun (Aaron, peace be upon him), but as a Muslim, you realize that these movies are not made with you in mind. I have not seen the Joseph (peace be upon him) movie and have no plan to. Like another poster here, my husband was very offended by the portrayal of Musa's father in law and wife boogeying in the desert.

I've not seen any of the movies about Jesus (peace be upon him) and would not plan to, since they are all very far from our beliefs about him and his life. I would not really like for my children to watch movies about the Prophets that were not made by Muslims, b/c they are not what Islam teaches, etc.

There are some Muslim-made movies about Islamic history or Qur'anic stories. The most famous is 'The Message' by Moustapha Akkad (who made "Halloween") which stars Anthony Quinn, and never attemps to show the person of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) or his close relatives. I think it did a good job of showing the very early days of Islam. There are also other films and drama series in Arabic, which I don't have an opinion of one way or the other.

There are plenty of cartoon stories for kids that, again, do not attempt to portray the person of any Prophet, but rather tell stories from the Qur'an or stories based on Islamic values. As the years go by, these movies are getting better (script wise and production value wise).
post #8 of 22
Umm Zaid,

What are the Islamic versions of the lives of Moses, Aaron, Lot, Joseph, etc?

I have a very fuzzy notion that Abraham is considered a holy man in Islam as well as Judiasm and Christianity.

I also have a dim notion that illustrating prophets or any quaran(sp) stories is considered a sin (some people don't believe in any illustration because it is a graven image)

I am obviously ignorant about much of Islamic traditions and I would love to hear your version of stories that are familiar to me.

post #9 of 22
Thread Starter 
Umm Zaid's points are similar to Orthodox Jewish attitudes ... any videos or books, etc., made in the Orthodox community, if there are pictures of, say, the Patriarchs (Abraham, et al.) or prophets they are not shown from the front., ie., no representations of their faces. They might be depicted with their backs to the reader/viewer.

The folks who produced "The Prince of Egypt" and the Joseph movie (whatever it's called) did not claim to be observant in any way, so did not attempt to follow any Jewish reading of the story, and I agree, the portrayal of particular people (Aaron in particular) was downright offensive. I've already commented on the "desert-babe" syndrome.

At the same time, the thrill my children get watching the representation of the Exodus itself, that's almost worth balancing out the negatives.

DH grits his teeth ... and now that Passover is past for the year, has put the tape high up in the closet.
post #10 of 22
Originally posted by DebraBaker
What are the Islamic versions of the lives of Moses, Aaron, Lot, Joseph, etc?
Well, that would be really long, but briefly... we do not believe, as an example, that Harun might have ever done anything wrong or bad (like allowing for the creation of the golden calf, or even tolerating it and standing by weakly as the believers turned to worship it), ever, because he was a Prophet and God does not allow His Prophets to be involved in sins. Same for Prophet Musa. Same for Lot. We do not believe that he had sex with his daughters or got drunk. (Peace be upon them.) I believe the story of Joseph (peace be upon him) might be basically the same, but I have read that the Qur'anic story of him is more detailed than the Biblical one (and it is the only story recounted in great detail in the Qur'an).

I have a very fuzzy notion that Abraham is considered a holy man in Islam as well as Judiasm and Christianity.
Abraham (or Ibrahim, as we call him, peace be upon him) is our father. We believe that he, along with his son Isma'il, built the Ka'aba as the first house of worship on Earth. Our annual pilgrimage, or Hajj, which ends in our major holiday (Eid al Adha) recalls the journeys and lives of Ibrahim, Isma'il, and Hajar (Hagar), not the steps of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

I also have a dim notion that illustrating prophets or any quaran(sp) stories is considered a sin (some people don't believe in any illustration because it is a graven image)
Yes. As Amy said, a Prophet might be shown from the back, or with his face completely blanked out, but this is an "iffy" thing, so many people avoid any attempts to illustrate them completely. The stories can and are recounted in children's books, but the illustrations will be of things around them (the landscape, the house, the tent, the temple) or vague pictures of figures without faces.

I am obviously ignorant about much of Islamic traditions and I would love to hear your version of stories that are familiar to me.
There used to be a website of Prophet's stories from the Islamic viewpoint, but I haven't seen it in a while, so I don't know if it's still up. I'll see if I can find it.
post #11 of 22
Thank you for troubling to explain these things to me.

I think the more we know about one another the better connected we are, people who work toward peace and understanding.

I also appreciate the reverence I feel when reading your postings, a very sweet fragerence (can't articulate how I feel but it's lovely.)

Debra Baker
post #12 of 22
Thank you Debra for your kind words and for taking the time to read my ramblings.
post #13 of 22
Jesus Christ Superstar and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, by Andrew Lloyd Webber

JCSS--Lovely, moving, funky/harsh and music dreams are made of

JATD--Garish, annoying, seemingly made for kids. Wrong and sick making sexuality, despite the garish kid-cartoon aspects. Not a Donny Osmond fan, I was disturbed by my own feelings of titillation at seeing him topless in a long wavy black wig and an Egyptian loincloth. When he is almost raped by Joan Collins who is clad merely in a few well placed sequins, as Pharaoh's wife, gag! Each song is a different style--Elvis, French cafe-conc, western US, etc. Really rankling...
post #14 of 22
I agree that most, if not all, movies depicting biblical stories are too far off from the truth...We have, though decided that with most movies made today, we will be explaining something about is to our dc...I prefer to know that there are at least good morals to them...I have explained many times now the true story of the exodus, Joseph (We own Joseph: King of Dreams and it is quite flawed also) and other stories...As we watch the movies we discuss the differences. I guess I see them as teaching tools in a sense. But they do still annoy me quite a bit when we watch them.
Actually, it really annoys me how some of the bible books written for children do not hold to the actual accounts...One of my pet peaves is the frequent depiction of the ark as a cutsey little boat with animals peaking out...and the nativity stories...Until recently I believed that there were "3 kings" who came to the stable...that's not what's in the bible! I spend most of our bible time clarifying info from books and movies....
I believe in telling children the stories just the way they have been given to us in the bible...if they are too young for all of the details...wait till they are older.
Just my opinion
post #15 of 22
I agree with much of what has been said.

t-elaine--the ark thing really bothers me too and the fact that the three kings came to the stable (not a house, hello Jesus would have been 2-3) is something I don't think I realized until recently or thought about.

The one thing I like about Prince of Egypt is the Exodus picture..I was so glad that they actually portrayed it as a huge body of water and not a 6" stream. Oh the other thing that bothers me about most Moses stories is that Moses would have known that he was a Jew while living in the palace. He was to stay with his "nurse" till he was old enough to wean..which would have been 3-4 correct? Now the thought of having my 3yo leave me kills me but that would have been what happened right?
As far the the Pharaoh (the brother not the father) I did appreciate the brotherly/torn part of the relationship depicted.

I have seen the 10 Commandments and some of the other tv movies...not lately though so can't pick out the flaws but I am sure I could when watching it.

We really like the ACTS and MATHEW series. They are read word for word out of the bible. (not sure what translation) They are good for an accurate portrayal of Christ (IMHO).

Veggie Tales...I go back and forth. I saw the Ester one and it ticked me off. I don't believe that Ester was a snot nose, whiny, immature girl as they portrayed her to be.
Jonah..really bugs me..of course that could be that ds has a fit just about each time we go to the store and dont' get it. I really hated the choir part when Jonah was in the belly. Ds doesn't like it either for some reason.
I do like some of the VT stuff but the fact that it isn't as accurate as it could be does bother me.
post #16 of 22
When it comes to entertainment for my children , whether it is christian based or not, I feel the need to screen it first . I consider myself a bible-following Christian, but that doesn't mean I automatically assume any Christian based entertainment will still hold true to what I believe as a Christian. I agree with the above comments about the different movies not being biblically truthful and that Hollywood adds what they will for entertainment value. But that is also their job - I suppose they feel they need to improvise because the Bible itself is not entertaining enough (in their opinion). I wish that someone would make a straight from the bible (no hollywood mumbo-jumbo added) movie.

I also use the current movies as a starting point to discuss with my girls the truth as our family believes vs how the movie says it happens. We have some very excellent discussions this way. I also am amazed at the intelligence my kids show with their questions and analysis: "well why did this happen mom?" or "well that would be just like if we did such and such today mom." I love watching the thoughts ramble out of my kids' mouths. They are much smarter than we give them credit for!

I think with so many different sects of Christianity, we'll probably never have a movie or interpretation of a biblical event that all Christians can agree upon. We can just strive to understand what Jesus is trying to teach us now. I will be very interested to see the new movie that Mel Gibson is (directing? starring? producing?) doing. The one about the life/death of Jesus. Does anyone know the timeline as to when this movie is supposed to come out? Is it this year?next year?
post #17 of 22
Thread Starter 
girliemom, you make an excellent point, that whatever these tapes/movies are good/bad for, they are certainly a good starting point for discussion. And we've made sure to have plenty of those after viewings ...

You bring up Mel Gibsons film, I believe it's going to be called "The Passion." Supposed to be entirely in Aramaic and Latin. I don't know who speaks enough Latin to follow those parts, but the only people who use Aramaic nowadays are Yeshiva boys and rabbis who learn the Talmud (or study the Targum Onkelos in any depth). And I understand he isn't using subtitles, or at least that's his plan.

What I've read about the film seems disturbing, and various interfaith groups have said as much, too. He has a very specific interpretation that he is following, one that follows certain things, denies or ignores others, and basically is a reprise of the Passion Plays that used to play in Europe centuries ago.

Those Passion Plays are not allowed in some countries anymore, because of the horrors of violence and death the audiences would visit on ... a particular people ... after the plays stoked their passions.

Mr. Gibson has a very loyal world-wide audience.

This makes me very nervous and sad.
post #18 of 22
Over the weekend I was thinking some more about this topic...btw - a starting point for discussion is exactly what they are good for....
anyways...the Veggie Tales do not bother me as much as POE and J-KOD and such...because the VT videos are OBVIOUS fiction...a talking cucumber and tomato?...and these videos introduce more an idea such as standing firm on your morals, not lying, etc...while the POE is acting as if they are showing a true account with "real" people (yes I know there is a discalimer...but my 4-yr old can't read that)...I do love the Red Sea scene as well as in Joseph, when Isaac comes to Egypt to see Joseph alive (they always makes me cry) but the rest of the story has to be weeded out by me with my dd.
I guess this gives us that much more motivation to get to heaven...to see what it really looked like.
Take care,
post #19 of 22
I like the point about a "starting off point for discussion." We actually do this a lot, and my dds have less difficulty that I would have thought to "tell it like it says" in the Bible.

Actually, I LOVE the scene in VT Jonah inside the whale (we keep telling our kids big fish) with the choir. I actually don't feel like it's trying to "push" a certain message--I really feel like they were just having fun with the scene that no one knows about.

We say Jonah in the theatre with our kids and a friend's family, and we all loved it. Then we came home and sat down and talked about "what really happened." I had to keep reminding dd that there wasn't a school bus in the story of Jonah in the Bible ...

Just our family's .02.
post #20 of 22
I am disturbed also by inaccuracies in these productions.

I know it is basically for entertainment, but when one is to learn the facts, one can be very confused.

I remember a production one Sunday night on a major station with Jon Voight as Noah and Mary Steenbergen as his wife; there was a scene with "Noah" bargaining with G-d for the lives of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.

In the book of Genesis, Abraham is the partriarch and uncle of Lot who bargains with G-d for the lives of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, not Noah.

In "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Coat" production, Jacob has one wife (Rachel) and twelve sons.

In the book of Genesis, Jacob had four wives, twelve sons and one daughter. Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin, the youngest son, Joseph's full brother.

The inaccuracies in the "Ten Commandments" upsets me on an annual basis.

I know there are creative liberties taken, but sometimes the inaccuracies become full-blown lies.
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