Monday, July 24, 2017

god, i'm so tired

Time for some Christ-Figuring.

(If you're new, check Days 93 and 94) regarding Phil Connors or the inaugural Kozlovic-Black Scale--when I Christ-Figured Rambo. You're welcome.)

Now, I can barely imagine Tommy Wiseau being clever enough to deliberately make Johnny a Christ-Figure, but so much of it is deliberate that it had to at least be a subconscious thing... Or rather, sacrificial characters, betrayed within their circle of friends is such a trope that it's the sheer amount of fitting details that separate our the wheat from the chaff, as it were. As I've said before, the scale is scored out of 25 but there are more than 25 items on the list. It's a thing.

1 tangible This is always the easy one. (1/1)

2 central Tommy Wiseau makes himself (or rather, his character) central to everything he makes, so yeah. (2/2) In fact , Johnny is so central here, and his and Lisa's apartment such the hub of activity for their circle of friends, he fails to get the point for 3 outsider (2/3)

Johnny is not 4 divinely sourced, nor is there reason to think he had a 4.5 miraculous birth. However, supposedly, there were plans in earlier versions of what would become The Room in which Johnny had a flying car and would turn out to be a vampire. Alas, we're scoring this version of the film, not that one. He also has no 5 alter ego nor is there a clear divide in his character about being special while seeming normal (6 special/normal). If only he were a vampire. (2/6)

For the record, the actual number for 7 twelve associates is not the point. Having a clear set of friends or followers, each with distinct personalities (or distinct lack of personalities here), is what matters. Denny, Peter, Steven, Mike, Mark, even Claudette, Michelle, and Lisa--I'm giving him this one. (3/7)

I am actually not going to look up how old Tommy Wiseau was in this movie, and will not give him the point for 8 holy age, because that man seems to be both young and old at the same time, both fit and haggard. (3/8)

(Note to self: this Kozlovic-Black Scale needs to be reordered a bit to make more sense. Having the age one in between the associates and the specific people who might be part of those associates is odd. Of course, that order came from Kozlovic, not from me.)

These should be easy:


9 judas figure - Mark. He even kisses Johnny's forehead after Johnny shoots himself. (4/9)
10 mary magdalene-figure - Lisa (5/10)
10.5 virgin mary-figure - Claudette, or maybe even Mike (6/10)
11 john the baptist-figure - Denny (7/11)

(But, Johnny is really the john the baptist figure here for everyone else, with his need to say hi, hey, or hello to everyone.)

12 death and resurrection Not quite. (7/12)

13 triumphalism Hard to get without at least a metaphorical resurrection. This is a tragedy, not a triumph. (7/13)

His urge to adopt Denny (and paying for Denny's tuition and apartment), and his and Lisa's apartment being Grand Central Station for all their friends makes the 14 service to lessers point easy. But, it's hard to argue for 15 willing sacrifice; unless we're feeling generous and the bank "using" him without giving him the promotion he deserves counts... Which it totally does. I mean, we're supposed to see Johnny as this put upon man, him against the world, and all he's got going for him is Lisa (and all his friends, but still). (9/15)

This next two items are on the scale so that deliberate metaphorical Christ-Figures like, say, Gibson Rickebacker in Cyborg, and obvious, rather literal Christ-Figures like Jericho Cane in End of Days, get a boost of points. More down-to-earth characters like Johnny don't do so well. No points for 15.25 torture, even if Lisa is tearing him apart, but the way Lisa’s red dress foreshadows the blood as Johnny lies on the floor at the end of the film... 15.5 stigmata. (10/15)

Here, the scale goes deep. Per Larsen (2013), 15.75 atonement is vital for the Christ-Figure. Larsen actually argues that a movie character cannot get this point (well, he would, if he knew about taking his piece and adding to the scale because of it, anyway). But, take the film as it is. Or, come back to Cyborg, for example. Gibson is traipsing around the post-apocalyptic landscape to get the cyborg with the cure to a plague to a bunch of scientists. This level of import matters. Taking The Room as the sexist and tragic male melodrama it is, Johnny is sacrificed because of the confusion that all women cause. It's a bullshit argument in reality, but the film seems to believe in it. Johnny, Mark, Peter, Steven, Claudette, even Michelle--they all question Lisa's actions and motives. The film comes down squarely against Lisa (even as one could position Lisa as a feminist role model of a sort). Johnny is paying the price for centuries of society-built norms that force women like Lisa into corners they don't want to be in, which in turn positions Mark and Johnny into their competing corners (and Denny into his creepy little corner as well). Johnny is sacrificed an atoning for the sins of all men and women, for everyone who has every been in a romantic, or just sexual, relationship. (11/15)

(Actually, I should come up with a value number for items on this scale, as well. Atonement should be worth more than just one point.)

16 innocence This is a major plot point. Lisa gets Johnny drunk some she can lie about him hitting her. His famous line--"I did not hit her. It's not true. It's bullshit. I did not hit her. I did not"--is him protesting against her accusal. And we know he is innocent. (12/16)


17 cruciform pose (13/17)

18 cross associations Roses and spoons, or footballs, maybe. But, no, not crosses. (13/18)

19 miracles and signs While the film makes no point of celebrating the miraculous, Johnny's ability to manifest a tape recorder out of thin air, to magically have a cassette tape in his shirt pocket just when he needs one, and to rather impressively hook that recorder to the phone with the ease of a master spy, is miraculous. (14/19)

20 simplicity "Do you understand life? Do you?" Johnny is clearly very simple in the head. Yet, he has his profound moments, like when he talks to Denny about love. (15/20)

21 poverty Again, the bank won't give him that promotion. He never seems to buy anything for himself, only for Lisa. And Denny. And maybe Claudette’s friend. (16/21)

22 jesus garb While Johnny is defined by his clothes--his loose suits and unbuttoned top buttons--there is nothing of the plainness of Jesus in his garb... Actually, no, that isn't true either. If Jesus were alive today, and favored black over his usual beige and cream, Johnny's loose suits would be perfect. (17/22)

23 blue eyes Despite his greasy black hair, Tommy Wiseau seems to have blue eyes. And, the length of his hair, the simple hairstyle--imagine his hair a light brown and it's very Jesus-like. (18/23)

24 holy exclamations This one hinges on coincidence of timing and audience. Mark, speaking only to Johnny says, "God, I'm so tired of girls' games." (19/24) 25. j.c. initials His name is Johnny. (20/25)

So, Johnny is not the best of Christ-Figures based on the scale, but he is good. And, he hits so many of the most important items. The circle of associates, cruciform pose, innocence in the face of accusation, atonement... And he dies for Lisa's sins, for Mark's sins, for all of our sins. As long as men and women keep getting together and breaking up again, as long as there are midnight screenings of The Room, Johnny will keep dying for us all. We owe him a great debt.

SOURCES

Kozlovic, A. K. (2004). The Structural Characteristics of the Cinematic Christ-figure. Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, 8. Retrieved from https://dspace.flinders.edu.au/jspui/bitstream/2328/14295/1/2004054629.pdf

Kozlovic, A.K. (2009). How to create a Hollywood Christ-figure: Sacred storytelling as applied theology. Australian eJournal of Theology, 13:1, pp. 1-16. Retrieved from http://aejt.com.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/158538/Kozlovik_Film.pdf

Larsen, J. (2013, June 18). Man of Steel and the tiredness of Christ figures. think Christian: no such thing as secular. Retrieved from http://thinkchristian.reframemedia.com/man-of-steel-and-the-tiredness-of-christ-figures

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