Thursday, 16 June 2011

I don't watch much TV... fact I don't watch a lot that isn't pure text. But in the last week I've watched three things that have made me nearly cry.

The first is predictable...I watched Agora for the first time, and given how long I have been in love with Hypatia and her is unsurprising that the film was effective. Of course it wasn't her overly romanticised death that made me want to weep. It was the burning of Library of Alexandria. Did the Christians really burn all the knowledge of the Classical world; in one huge conflagration? The 4th Century sources are not clear on the matter. But their lack of passion as they describe the various sackings should not be any great indicator of how large or small the disaster was - the deaths of Luxembourg and Liebknecht takes only a few lines in the German sections report to the Comintern - and in its time it was an event of similar significance...

Burning books makes me want to cry. Monotheistic bigotry makes me want to cry. The horror of the loss of all that wisdom and poetry; the plays, the poems, the astronomy, the mathematics..that makes me want to cry. What the film's director failed in was making me want to cry for Hypatia and the dreadful human pain of her death. Hypatia; pagan, philosopher, mathematician, teacher; was intransigent. Pursued by a suitor, the story goes, she threw him rags stained with her menstrual blood and told him that this was woman, if he loved this then he loved corruption. Harsh but direct. Needless to say, she never married. But she was brilliant and she was torn to pieces by the Christians, on the steps of their church for not being the passive vessel they thought woman should be. That makes me want to weep. Agora's soft, romantic cop-out does not.

And that's because real, human pain is not pretty.

The second thing this week, that made me want to cry was Chris Lilley's Angry Boys. And its not the moment you expect. Its Daniel, distraught, face-down on his bed, weeping because his mother is going to re-marry. Chris Lilley has been able to make me feel empathy with an aggressive, homophobic, racist little boy; whose heart I felt breaking.

The third time...ah...predictable. Shane Mcgowan was singing Rainy Night in Soho. I looked at his 1988 face and thought "By God Shane, but you were the the most magnetic, absorbing, exciting man alive right then." And neither you nor I will ever be that young again.

Real. Human. Pain. Nothing like it to remind you you're alive.


  1. I don't get Angry Boys. I don't understand what I am supposed to find funny about any of the scenarios or any of the characters. It's definitely not Summer Heights High and certainly not on the same planet as things like Curb Your Enthusiasm. I don't know - I just don't have the time or energy to work out what he's trying to say and not sure I even care.


  2. I think the point is that you're not actually supposed to find it very funny...its dark, dark humour...I think that's why I like it. And I suspect its where he's planned to take it all along but needed to do the lighter stuff first so he could get the funding. Interesting...

  3. I think it's interesting that as great empire-builders, the Romans were usually very tolerant of local religions in subjugated areas. I think they may have feared that local gods could potentially be more powerful than their own, so they tried to appropriate them and add them in syncretic form to the Roman pantheon--after getting rid of British human sacrifice, and a few other things they didn't go for. I once read an article that argued that the sects that tended to be presecuted by various Roman emperors were the once that vocally and overtly rejected the state religion and insisted their god was the only one...And onto the burning of the library.