Monday, March 24, 2008

My Own Personal Jesus: Victor Garber

I know what you're thinking: Just how do I plan on writing a post about Jesus for Erotica with Soul?

Remember, you can experience erotic influences when sex is the further thing from your mind. This will be my case in point: my personal experience with the 1973 film "Godspell," which I just watched again on Easter night.

I was 16 when I first saw this movie. I fell in love with the spirit of this film: the childlike joy of camaraderie and celebration. The whole cast was wonderful: their antics, their clothes, their love for each other, their happiness at the simple pleasures of friends and fun. The songs were wonderful, of course: I listened to this album more often than any other in my life (including even Les Stroud's CDs!).

And I went head over heels for Victor Garber as Jesus. I think I can articulate better now how that happened than I might have in 1973.

I was raised agnostic and up until that point, had very little experience with churchgoing or Christianity. I became a Christian due more to "Godspell" than anything else, really, and eventually found myself a Lutheran pastor's wife, then an Anglican, and briefly a Roman Catholic, before evolving into what I am today...with which I won't bore you. My point is, this movie had an intense and long-lasting impact on my life, and while you can give credit for that to many things (like the gospel for example), you must give some to Victor.

I see now, particularly in view of the man as he appears today, still handsome, but a grayed, mature figure of some dignity, that Victor played Jesus as about as young as a man can be. He was so fresh-faced, so pure, so innocent, and so beautiful in face and voice, he is truly a paragon of youth. In the context of the rock opera, which in classic 70s style is symbolic and stylized, he plays Jesus not at all as the man he was historically, but as an archetype of one aspect of the Messiah: the child of God.

He is the leader of the ten 20-something children in this sweet, careless playground (which in the film is ironically New York City), and he engages himself with teaching them the simplest, yet deepest, lessons: how to play well with others and how to be good children of God. There is no complex theology here, and no Passion-of-the-Christ-style atonement scene either: even the suffering is a kind of play.

But that is the charm of it all, and the charm of Victor Garber's Jesus. Don't forget, I grew up in the world of Vietnam war footage on the evening news, race riots, campus unrest, LSD and Charles Manson. New York City was no playground in 1973. And yet here was a guy in rainbow pants and a Superman shirt, who was gentle, and funny, and tender, and loving. He had a perfect face, an angelic smile, eyes full of light and warmth. He had a voice that would melt your heart. You just wanted him to find you in some dreary urban setting, and take you to a park, and paint something whimsical on your cheek with his slender fingers.

Are you following me now? Yes, it did work because he was a lovely young man, and I was a 16 year old girl. I never had sex fantasies of him--heaven forefend--but I did think of him in ways I would not have done had he been an old man or a woman. It was an erotic pull that bound me to him, that intensified the delight I felt for his music and the humor I drew from his jokes...and the love I felt from him and for him.

And to this day I think that while this is not the most well-rounded portrait of Jesus on film, it does capture with amazing clarity certain aspects of Him, whether you consider Him a historical figure or an archetype. Grown men, in real life, do not exhibit this kind of innocence, this childlike exuberance, this joyful and potent tenderness...but the Son of God surely would.

Victor Garber brought the role to life in a way that truly touched mine...and he will always be my personal cinematic Jesus.


Miss Organizized said...

I couldn't have put this more perfectly myself!! When I was in high school, I really got into the whole 'Jesus Rocks' thing...I wasn't in the Christian crowd, listening to Christian Rock, and taking part in summer camps...but I just felt this connection to JC, I guess as an archetype. And the reason was undoubtedly because I really loved the idea of this young guy who just wanted to be good to people, have fun, and change the world, however small those changes may be. Very Godspell Jesus :)

And interestingly enough, while it isn't sexual, I do feel a specific pull towards that archetype and always have. I guess Jesus may just be my animus?! I think it would be so cool to hang out with the guy, help him do good things, but not in a--forgive the pun--holier than thou sort of way :) If I think about the ACTUAL man really existing at one point, it really boggles my mind. Like if I had lived back then, and somehow knew Him, what would it be like? That's almost too much for my little brain to handle I think!

Diana Laurence said...

I sure do remember you and your Jesus thing, Katesi...but I never put it together with MY Jesus thing for some reason! Very cool...

Dating Consultant said...

I have a fun side note about Victor Garber (who I've always loved as well). Once I wrote an essay and won a trip to New York. Very cool for me because I'd never been anywhere! (And still have never been back.)

At the time, I'd just seen the made for TV movie about Liberace (who was from Wisconsin) and really found myself feeling very sorry for him. I think it was due to Victor Garber's portrayal. He of course was over the top (he WAS Liberace after all!) but Victor also played it with vulnerability and sadness. I was actually moved by the performance. (Of Liberace! It boggles the mind.)

But back to NY... when I won that trip I sat at an outdoor cafe late one night and saw him walk past. I shouted "Victor! I just saw you on TV!" (Being the brilliant writer I am I'm never at a loss for words obviously. CHOKE.)

And he smiled and said, "Thank you! Have a very nice evening."

He was very gracious with this ridiculous fan who couldn't express herself. :)