The Challenge of the Silver Screen (Studies in Religion and the Arts)

Sacred Terror: Religion and Horror on the Silver Screen
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Monkey Business , The sexual innuendo in Groucho Marx's films, coupled with his suggestive delivery, was often the target of censors.

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She Done Him Wrong , I'm home every evening" — and cheeky delivery were often the target of censors. They were also partially responsible for the strengthening of the morals-focused Hays Code in Casablanca , Censors demanded changes in the story of the affair between Rick and Ilsa, requiring that Ilsa's husband Victor be deceased, instead of awayon business, to remove any suggestion of impropriety.

The African Queen , Among the many scenes and exchanges that the censors objected to in this classic were an "immoral relationship" between a missionary and a hard-edged boat captain during WWI, the "questionable taste" of the sound of stomach-growlings, and the film's depiction of "ridiculed missionaries" which may be offensive "to people of serious religious conviction. A Streetcar Named Desire , References to Blanche Dubois' infidelities were excised from the original version. The censors were also concerned with the moral ambiguity of the characters.

Les Amants The Lovers It was not so much the graphic portrayal of sex in this Malle classic, since the film only shows a glimpse of the protagonist's naked breast, but rather its celebration of adulterous liaisons. Ohio enforced an obscenity law to ban the film, but in the Supreme Court reversed the obscenity conviction of the Ohio theater that exhibited the film. Bonnie and Clyde , This film, released shortly after the end of the Hays Code, was notable for its portrayal of graphic violence.

Critics and the general public were concerned that the film glamorized violence because the main characters were highly engaging and likeable. The Last Picture Show , This film, featuring a scene of Cybil Shepherd skinny-dipping, was banned in Phoenix in for violating a state obscenity statute. A federal court later held that the film was not obscene. Carnal Knowledge , Although the film explored highly nuanced themes and characters, the censors were blinded by the titillating title and suggestion of sex. In , the film was seized and a theater manager was arrested in Georgia.

The Supreme Court eventually overturned the conviction. Salo, or Days of Sodom , In , the owner and manager of the Pink Pyramid, a small gay and lesbian bookstore in Cincinnati, faced fines and prison sentences for obscenity, after undercover police rented a videotape of the film. The Tin Drum , Oklahoma City police confiscated the film from video stores, the public library, and private homes in June , in response to complaints from Oklahomans for Children and Families OCAF. A federal judge held that the film does not contain child pornography, and that it is constitutionally protected because of its artistic value.

If You Love This Planet , This Canadian documentary on the medical and social effects of nuclear war triggered concern because it interspersed short clips from Ronald Reagan movies. After the U. Pages: 1— Pages: 13— Pages: 79— Pages: — Pages: Biographical Note Dr. Freek L. He has written numerous studies and articles on Hinduism, interreligious dialogue and, since , film and religion. The male-centered focus of these films and representations fails to provide any positive images of ordinary Asian and Asian American Buddhists who are not magical and mysterious founts of kung fu power.

Such films also rarely present Buddhist women; it is as if Buddhist women simply do not exist. Similarly, the prevailing beauty of utopic mountain hermitages found in Why Has Bodhidharma Left for the East , Samsara , and Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring seems accessible only to men on the quest for their own spiritual salvation while female lay Buddhists are inevitably presented as practicing a less than authentic or less valued Buddhism. These discourses privilege and create a hierarchy of ascetic male monks and meditation over and against a racialized and gendered Buddhism that has yet to receive appropriate scholarly and popular attention.

Such an exclusion is rather curious and troubling considering that the majority of Buddhists worldwide do not meditate, but rather, engage in other forms of practice including chanting sutras , merit-making, observance of the holy days marking the Buddhist calendrical cycle, bowing, adhering to the five precepts of the laity and living according to the Noble Eight-fold path. The exclusion of lay Buddhist practices is also influenced by a racial logic that holds that Asian Buddhism is somehow a weaker version than Buddhism in the West because it is too devotional and not as sophisticated as those who prize and practice meditation alone.

It is these devotional practices that comprise the majority of the religious lives of lay Buddhists yet they receive scant attention.

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The field of Buddhist Studies has yet to adequately mine film as a powerful source of reflection and representation of the religion. After establishing herself as a comic performer, Brice herself had a nose job, with the aim of securing more serious roles with a less ethnic-looking face. For example, we learn that even a simple printed poster should not be taken at face value. While many of the films referenced in this book fit the conventional criteria for a Buddhist film, I suggest another set of criteria that account for the presence of women and lay Buddhists as key players in the Buddhist social world. Sullivan, the Supreme Court upholds restrictions on providing information about abortion in federally-funded family planning clinics. In addition to envisioning women as temptresses with little possibility of liberation who are but the mere catalysts for male religious progress, images of women in Buddhist texts and film remain vexing precisely because they disavow the possibility of imagining and imaging an ordinary lay Buddhism that flourishes not just despite but because of the embrace of sexuality.

Thus, this book is an effort to raise up the virtues of lay Buddhism that have yet to receive adequate attention in either traditional texts and in popular constructions of Buddhism. It is also an effort to underscore the misrepresentations of Buddhism in film that have visualized a narrowly conceived image 16 of the tradition. Film can both curtail or enhance our visions of religion and our lives through the interplay between the film, the filmmaker, and the film viewer. One of the guiding ambitions of this book then is to remake the image of Buddhism on screen and in real life such that those historically obscured from the historical center of the tradition both in Asia and in the West that is, lay Buddhist women and Asian and Asian American Buddhists can begin to see themselves in and through the screen as full participants in the Buddhist economy of meaning making.

Similarly, there may be hesitancy in drawing attention to the ordinary forms and practices of Buddhism that do not fit the category of the sensational and the exotic. In so doing, this book also lays bare unquestioned presuppositions about women and lay practices as constituting less authentic forms of the religion in Buddhist texts that are absorbed into popular renderings of Buddhism that remain unchallenged in Buddhist films even today.

Popular Buddhist films such as Lost Horizon , Spring, 17 Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring , The Cup , and Travellers and Magicians contribute to the perpetuation of a narrowly-conceived Buddhism characterized by the male monastic virtuoso as primary religious specialist, and meditation as the primary practice at the expense of other vibrant forms. Yet, what might be the costs of this privileging of the monastic? The aforementioned Buddhist films are therefore limited in their vision of an expansive Buddhism that includes positive imagery of women, yet there are better ways to look for and see this vibrant Buddhism, and different films from the ones previously mentioned with which to do so.

Furthermore, this approach helps us to retrain our gaze to focus on those characters who may appear marginal, yet are in fact central to the flourishing of this religious tradition. To address this issue, I show how the undue weight given to male monastics and meditation in filmic accounts of Buddhism forecloses the possibility of a more diverse understanding of Buddhism that can expose the political claims of orthodoxy. Rather, throughout this book I highlight and analyze the archetypes of women found in texts and in film who exemplify the kind of Buddhisms that I wish to retrieve and envision on screen and real life.

The Indian Buddhist monastic disciplines found in the Vinaya monastic codes of the Buddhist canon focus primarily on sex as the most difficult of desires to quell; if unchecked sexual desire can leave a monk trapped in the cycle of rebirth known as samsara. Hence, much of the Buddhist literature aimed at uprooting sexual desire in men hold up women and their physical bodies as embodiments of sexual desire who tempt them off the path of purity.

Each morning brought contact with women who served the food; each morning therefore brought monks into close proximity with the bodies of women.

Therefore, the monks were constantly advised to avoid the deceptive allure of women. They trap the average man, Like snares net shy dear Like hooks snag fish, And like pitch catches monkeys. Cast as snares with deceptive and impure bodies, women in early Indian Buddhist texts were excoriated for their beauty. As a result, male monastic Buddhism has pathologized the ordinary sexual lives of laywomen and construed their material bodies and desires as antithetical to the pursuit of enlightenment.

The women unfortunately do not fare as well.

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The Challenge of the Silver Screen Studies in Religion and the Arts Editorial Board James Najarian Boston College E Author: Freek L. Bakker. The Challenge of the Silver Screen. An Analysis of the Cinematic Series: Studies in Religion and the Arts, Volume: 1. Author: Freek L. Bakker.

For example, in Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring and Travellers and Magicians both snares of samsara are killed off rather abruptly and the monks emerge spiritually triumphant. In addition to envisioning women as temptresses with little possibility of liberation who are but the mere catalysts for male religious progress, images of women in Buddhist texts and film remain vexing precisely because they disavow the possibility of imagining and imaging an ordinary lay Buddhism that flourishes not just despite but because of the embrace of sexuality.

In other words, if we were to rely solely on these films as primary sources for understanding Buddhism, we might think that most Buddhists seek the negation of sex rather than live sexual lives. While I certainly do not wish to claim that women in Buddhism can only be identified in terms of their sexuality, and only as lay Buddhists, it remains the case that both Buddhist texts and Asian and Western Buddhist films continue to breathe life into the stock characterization of women as snares of samsara tempting men in the marketplace of ordinary life and of nonmonastic Buddhism as less authentic and worthy of serious attention.

Therefore, I am also theorizing a lay Buddhist practice that accounts for and renders spiritually potent the lives of ordinary women as religious virtuosos. Such a reading highlights lay Buddhism as an authentic, vibrant form of practice and not a degeneration of some pure form. As I contend throughout the book, films and texts continue to offer a limited scope of Buddhism not only with regard to women and lay practices, but also with regard to images of Asian Buddhists constructed and received in the Western imaginary.

Such images simply cannot account for the variety and vitality of Buddhism as lived experience when narrowly represented as a male monastic tradition espoused in canonical texts and reproduced in popular culture. Admittedly the resources in Buddhist Studies have proven somewhat limited for such a Buddhist re-vision. As I argue throughout this book, the over-emphasis of male monasticism and meditation as the sine qua non of authentic Buddhism has constructed a Buddhist orthodoxy whose effects are still seen in filmic accounts of the religion.

Silver Screen Buddha is therefore an attempt to restore to the public eye the complexity of the Buddhist tradition that attends to the flourishing and validity of lay Buddhist practices. As such, this project is by no means a denigration of male monasticism and meditation but rather offers a pluralist account of Buddhism that is not saddled by claims to orthodoxy. The casting of an exotic and peculiar Buddhism generates an emotional pull that entices, inspires, and intrigues spectators who yearn for such perceived difference, but such visual representations establish a disciplinary border to control who gains entry into such Buddhist paradises and who gets to leave.

As I argue later in this book, Buddhist films such as Broken Blossoms and Lost Horizon engage in exclusionary practices that mimic U. Such faces appear in D. As a shopkeeper, the Yellow Man lurks about Chinatown and oscillates between a sexual threat to Lucy and an effeminate Chinaman incapable of getting the girl. When certain forms of asceticism masculinist or not predominate in what is held to be proper or orthodox Buddhism that is mediated for popular consumption, then surely there are costs that are borne largely by women, the laity, Asians, and Asian Americans that Orientalism and racialization historically constructed as the other.

As this study shows, race became a factor in the Western world of Buddhism precisely because the largely lay Buddhist practices of Asians and Asian Americans have been and continue to be negated in the process of social and filmic adaptation of the tradition from Asia to the West. Such obliterations occur, on the one hand, because their ordinary and everyday practices of Buddhism fail to fit the images of Buddhist mysteriousness, exoticism, and alternative spiritual views that found expression in the earliest depictions of Buddhism through popular films such as D.

Although produced in the early half of the twentieth century, they nonetheless had a lasting impact on the imaging and imagining of Asians, Asian Americans, and Buddhism on screen and in popular culture. In his introduction to Money, Sex, War, Karma: Notes for a Buddhist Revolution , David Loy notes that Buddhism has much to offer the modern West to combat the poisons of greed, ill will, and delusion 22 that have been institutionalized economically and socially. Loy claims:. The exotic names, robes, and rituals of Asian Buddhism are attractive to many of us, but sooner or later we must begin to distinguish the imported forms we appreciate from the essential Dharma that we need.

In a complicated series of representations and projections through film and other popular media, devotional Buddhism and Asianness have been conflated in Western culture such that the practices of Asian Buddhism have come to be regarded as backward, superstitious, and incompatible with the West. Such negative regard has of course serious consequences for how Asian American Buddhists are seen or, in this case, perhaps not seen but rather rendered invisible in the larger context of American Buddhism. According to this logic, meditational Buddhism is then treated as simultaneously authentic and modern.

In so doing, such efforts explicitly sought to elevate vipassana insight meditation as the most unadulterated form of practice that was authenticated through their discovery in Buddhist texts. Such claims to traditional veracity were tied to the Protestant emphasis on the textual sources of interpretation and translation, a practice that many believed to be most effectively and objectively carried out by the white European scholar. In such a Westernized Buddhism, Asian informant and lay Buddhists have been rendered less authentic and trustworthy translators of the tradition than the Western scholar.

Any analysis of Buddhism, film, and race would be remiss if it did not take into account the rise of the Buddhist monk in American popular culture from the early s to the present. However, this yearning is not for the sake of genuine engagement with otherness per se. Rather, it reaffirms images of U. Asian American religion scholars such as Cheah and Iwamura have of course devoted significant attention to these racist images and their Orientalist beginnings, yet few have taken on the role of the mediated discursive body that is marked religiously, racially, and sexually.

Rather than treating religion, race, gender, and sexuality as separate frames of analysis, I argue that one cannot understand Buddhism without understanding their intersections. Iwamura argues that the Oriental Monk as a signifier of otherness, exoticism, nurturing, and femininity is also implicated in current American struggles to both contain and reframe Asian religions in ways that appease the desire for difference while rendering this difference tolerable for the viewer.

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In so doing, it is the viewer, and not the viewed, that remains in the position of power 24 through the act of looking as the Oriental Monk soon comes to symbolize a virile white male Euro-American identity constructed over and against Asian and Asian American difference. The field of Buddhist Studies has yet to adequately mine film as a powerful source of reflection and representation of the religion. While substantial work has been done on the relationship between film, religion, and cultural representations, little comparative analysis has been done that articulates the relationship between the constructions of Buddhism in Asian and Western film in both academic and popular contexts.

Scholars and journalists focusing on Buddhism such as Donald S. Lopez, Jr. Despite the challenges of finding race, gender, and sex-positive representations of Buddhism in film, my analysis holds that the genre is still worthy of serious consideration, particularly at a time when global constructions of Buddhism in film serve as the primary mode of reception for domestic and international audiences.

Through an analysis of the mediated constructions of Buddhism through film, the following chapters offer both a constructive critique of such mediations and a reimagining of the tradition itself through the very same form of film. While I offer an analysis of the raced and gendered life of Buddhism in the popular imagination through film, my treatment of various archetypal films might not appear to give equal weight to both gender and race dynamics in each film.

The arguments I make include a critique of the cultural production and consumption of this monastic male difference in Asian and Western film and what this consumption means for Buddhism. The following two chapters highlight the reception of Buddhism through film and utilize the transmission of Buddhism through film in the West as a starting point to foreground the ways that filmmakers and viewers engage in 25 a process of cultural production and reception that is shaped heavily by the racialization of the religion. Both films present Buddhism as a seemingly noble foil to Western capitalism and war, yet Buddhism and its practitioners are frozen into a timeless captivity of difference that makes it near impossible to imagine Buddhism, Asians, and Asian Americans beyond the stereotypes of otherness, foreignness, mysteriousness, and the Yellow Peril.

I argue that the Western fascination with Zen essentializes its otherness as an easily adopted identity that exploits racialized constructions of Buddhist difference. Often viewed as the downfall of men, women receive very little positive valuation in early Buddhist scriptures and contemporary films; as such, the widely held belief that ascetic monks have always been and will continue to be the virtuosos of the religious life is reinforced. It is rare to find positive instantiations of lay Buddhism and especially lay women in Buddhist film. Therefore, I argue, it is necessary to retrain the eye to see that which has always been a critical part of the tradition yet is often easily obscured by the working of patriarchy and sexism.

Hence Chapters 5 — 8 highlight the potency of a lived and embodied Buddhism in the world that has been hard to find in the often racialized and gendered depictions of the religion seen on screen. Instead, women themselves are able to attain higher levels of mental awareness and development with the very bodies that often got them into trouble in early Indian Buddhist literature. Thus, the female sexual body is re-approached as a potential source of spiritual insight. As such, it also proposes an alternative way of being Buddhist in the world.

Rather than disciplining the self 27 through asceticism and intensive meditation, the Buddhism of Departures is based on the Jodoshinshu form of Buddhism that originated in Japan and emphasizes the practice of compassion and gratitude in everyday life. Departures thus offers an opportunity to valorize the lay life over the monastic life and imagine how Buddhism can remain spiritually potent outside the temple walls.

Full Length Martial Art Action Movie ll English Movie ll Silver Screen

I interpret Hwa-Om-Kyung as an opportune text that can revise how ordinary lay Buddhism is popularly perceived; rather than a diluted version of a pure form, the lay Buddhism of the young boy Sonje and his interactions with numerous social misfits cast as ideal spiritual friends overturns the idea that one must remain isolated in meditation to effect enlightenment. Here the margins of society the poor, the disabled, the misfit, the female are made center as its inhabitants become the salvific guides to the young pilgrim.

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Samsara demonstrates that spiritual capacity is sometimes best honed outside the realms of asceticism. I argue that films like Samsara counteract the prevailing images of Asians and Asian religion as exotic and timeless, anchoring Buddhism in an embodied form that is engaged, informed by, and enmeshed in sexuality and desire—all those things that ideally should be avoided at all costs from both a scriptural and Orientalist perspective.

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In so doing, I approach this film with an eye towards its imaginative portrayal of Buddhism through the eyes of Eve, a nine-year-old Chinese Canadian girl. Such a film demythologizes the Orientalist fantasies that have preoccupied popular and scholarly interpretations of Buddhism that have made their way on screen and, in turn, contributed to the racialization of Buddhism and the perpetuation of negative attitudes toward women. Lastly, I return to the concept of Buddhist film as a spiritual technology to create the world anew.

I argue that film has the potential to serve as a corrective to the raced and gendered images of Buddhism that have foreclosed the opportunity to see the internal diversity of Buddhism and to remake religion, race, and gender so long as we cultivate the skillful means to do so. Back to Search Go to Page. Go Pages Front matter unlocked item Acknowledgments.

Introduction: Buddhism and Film.