Last night I got to see a local church’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar. I bumped into some acquaintances there, and they wanted to know what brought me out to see the show, if I happened to attend that church. “Nope,” I cheerily replied, “I’m friends with Judas.” That’s probably the only time in my life that I’d be able to say that. In a church, no less. Awesome.
I am indeed friends with the actor who played Judas, he was in my 2005 production of Zig Zagged Ostrich, and while I didn’t know he could sing, he’s a talented enough guy that it did not surprise me at all that he rocked the house as Judas. He was easily the best thing about the production, which was typical church produced fare, complete with little Sunday School kids waving palm fronds during “Hosanna,” a gazillion extras on stage, and a staged tableau of the Last Supper.
What was striking about this show was that the actor playing Jesus was so….. bland. Vanilla. Quite possibly the most Vanilla Jesus I had ever seen anywhere in TV, movies, art, stage, books, anywhere. No facial hair, no chest hair, nerdy looking and the most trim haircut this side of a military barrack. He frankly looked androgynous, if not neutered.
And not compelling. Right towards the end, Jesus is receiving his 40 lashes, and around lash 17, I leaned over to my friends and said, “Wow, Jesus is taking this awfully well.” Because there was literally no reaction from Vanilla Jesus onstage. It’s not shock, it’s Failure To Emote.
In any good story, your villain has to be as compelling as your hero, every good writer knows that. But that implies that your hero IS compelling.
Jesus is not supposed to be Vanilla. He’s not Buddy Jesus. Sure, everyone know about Jesus wrecking the moneychanger’s tables in the temple, but Jesus cursing the fig tree also cracks me up.
So much of what we see about Jesus in culture presents him as beatified, beautiful, holy, cleaned up, eyes focused on heaven, blah blah blah. These presentations of Jesus are frankly, kinda boring to me.
I wouldn’t choose this kind of Jesus, this kind of Jesus doesn’t look like he has a thing in common with me, there’s no way he’d be able to know my struggles, he doesn’t look like he EVER struggled. Like dirt doesn’t stick to him.
I prefer Non-Vanilla Jesus. Jesus wasn’t white, everybody knows this, right?
There’s a well-known Popular Mechanics article theorizing what he might have looked like and they came up with this:
However close to the truth it is or isn’t, this guy looks waaaaaaay more interesting. This guy looks like he’s got ISSUES. This guy looks like he’s struggled. I totally wanna hear what this guy has to say. This guy could totally kick Vanilla Jesus’ ass.
Says me. ☺