Laughs the rts series “la vie de j.c.” above or with jesus?

Actually J.C. Proclaiming only the kingdom of God. Instead, he has to deal with inclusive language, farting apostles and his domineering girlfriend Mary Magdalene. The French-Swiss satire series "La vie de J.C." recounts episodes from Jesus’ life. Is it funny or blasphemous?

"This will be spectacular! ", drives the voice of God Jesus – or J.C., as he is called in the film, to. J.C. hesitates: "Spectacular? After all, there is no one on the beach?" God begins to tease: "Maybe you’re also afraid of the cold water?" J.C. takes heart, stands up in the boat and carefully puts one foot on the surface of the water. He does not sink! J.C. ventures a further step… and dives from. Peter and Simon in the boat look perplexed and a gleeful laugh rings out. God fooled his son and is having a great time.

Satire and Religion

God, gloating? The humor of the French-Swiss satirical series "La vie de J.C.", the RTS from the 18. September 2021 on Saturdays at 20:10 may take some getting used to for some viewers. In addition to a mischievous God, dimwitted apostles, a nagging Mother Mary and a somewhat unworldly J.C. the biblical scene. The characters were penned by comic artist Zep and adapted by filmmaker Gary Grenier.

It is the purpose of satire to provoke and to ask the audience to reflect on norms and conventions. Religion as an important social norming authority is an ideal target. But history – even recent history – has taught us that taking a satirical look at religious figures and narratives can be tricky. What is "holy" is not questioned, ambiguity has no place – at least in ideologized circles.

Now, if you watch the 20 episodes of the first season of "La vie de J.C."one understands why the series has not provoked a storm of public indignation, but only some lukewarm air. The three- to four-minute episodes are sometimes more, sometimes less funny and never really evil. Still, some indignant voices find the series blasphemous. Is it?

Blasphemy or matter of taste?

The Swiss Penal Code Article 261 states: "Whoever publicly and in a vile manner insults or ridicules the conviction of others in matters of faith – in particular the belief in God – or defiles objects of religious worship, shall be sentenced to a fine." This is still true today, despite the fact that in December 2018 a motion had been submitted calling for the abolition of the so-called "blasphemy" article. In February 2019, the Federal Council came to the conclusion that, in the spirit of good coexistence, this article in the penal code was still needed.

On close examination, one comes to the conclusion that the series does not fulfill the above-mentioned offense of blasphemy. In the individual episodes, neither God nor Jesus nor the Christian faith are mocked or insulted. Certain jokes may be childish or banal, but humor is a matter of taste. J.C.s is "all man. Accordingly, he is confronted with primal human everyday problems. The comedy comes from the absurdity of each situation. When Mary, J.C.s mother, is upset that her son would rather proclaim God’s kingdom with his colleagues than make her a grandmother, is J.C.s helplessness not only sympathetic, but absolutely understandable.

An approachable Jesus

J.C. takes its mission very seriously. Thus, with the apostles, he considers techniques for presenting the parables convincingly to the audience (with song or dance?). And Mary Magdalene points out to him that he can use inclusive language to increase his broadcast reach.

Of course, his efforts are not always equally well received, often they are even misunderstood. For example, when Simon J.C. in which 1. Episode asks to beautify his wife. J.C. tries in vain to explain that he’s not a "miracle worker," but finally buckles. This has unintended consequences…

Good-naturedness distinguishes this Jesus and makes him approachable. One suffers with him when he, as a "miracle doctor", suddenly has to perform cosmetic surgery miracles. One understands his eye-rolling when the apostles, like adolescents, make ambiguous jokes about his parables. And when J.C. trying in vain to escape Mary Magdalene’s intrusive tenderness, has something touching about it.

In its naivety, J.C. to Monty Python’s famous parallel Jesus Brian from the year 1979. At the time, believers around the world protested the film’s release, making blasphemy accusations against the cult satire. But as with "La vie de J.C." they were also unsupportable in the case of "Monty Python’s Life of Brian".

Parallel Jesus Brian (Graham Chapman) in 'Monty Python's Life of Brian' (1979). Screenshot

Outrage from conservative circles

Accordingly, the small group that gathered on the evening of 29. October 2021 in Geneva to demonstrate against the series and its broadcast. According to “24 Heures,” it consisted of some representatives of Civitas, an ultra-conservative Catholic community originally close to the Pius brothers and now close to the Capuchins of Morgon. In the fall of 2021, outrage over the show is heard only from right-wing Catholic and free-church circles. Although the series does not poke fun at the Christian faith, the RTS audience council felt compelled to conduct an evaluation of the series. In its statement published on 17. January 2022, the Council notes that the reactions of both Reformed and Catholic theologians would make it clear that humor and Christian faith are quite compatible.

Jesus – a media icon

Even more interesting is the Audience Council”s observation that “La vie de J.C.”Bringing Jesus back into the public perception and thus into the social discussion. In fact, Jesus and the stories surrounding his life have always been present in the media. That”s why we all know exactly what Jesus looks like. Just like in the medieval altarpieces or in the historical dramas from the still young Hollywood.

Jesus (Robert Powell) in Franco Zeffirelli's 'Jesus of Nazareth' (1977). Screenshot (01:51:57)

Like any medium, film reflects the society of its time with its problems, fears and hopes. This also affects the Bible films. Thus, in 1964, Pasolini’s "The 1. Gospel – Matthew" the socially critical aspect of Jesus’ proclamation in the center. And the figure of Jesus becomes a revolutionary. 2021 Milo Rau’s "The New Gospel" is about dignity and equality. Jesus here is a political activist from Cameroon who advocates for illegal agricultural workers in Italy.

Jesus and his biblical stories remain in the conversation with each further media implementation. The biblical stories are still relevant. They negotiate fundamental issues and convey values and norms. Of course, movies or TV series don’t fuel new evangelism, but they can be used to good effect in religious education classes to pick up digital natives and discuss the Bible and its characters with them.


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