The Bible as Western

Actually, a lot of people have had enough with the History Channel and its miniseries “The Bible”.  Pick a topic, any topic, and it seems that the miniseries represents it badly.  Doctrine, race, politics, gender – there are a dime-a-dozen bloggers upset about the show’s portrayal of these issues.  But what I want to know is this: How did the creation of this miniseries, broadcast on a major TV channel, get off the ground? And why do people love it so much?  Because love it plenty of them do.  Judging from Facebook posts, even some of my peers are (to all appearances, unironically) held in The Bible’s thrall.   Oddly enough, I stumbled upon part of the answer in a History class.

“Did you know,” my Consciousness of History professor asked us, “that Bill Clinton claims to have seen High Noon twelve times?  That religious zeal marks a true Western fan.  And remember: Westerns are an American phenomenon.  I want you to think about this as we watch the film.”  I idly jotted down the statistic in the margin of my notebook and willed myself to stay awake through what was surely going to be a boring hour and a half.  I don’t like Westerns.  But despite the individualist-cowboy-macho aesthetics, I was interested.  The film was good, objectively speaking (the editing was even better).  It also reminded me of something.  As we were all hurrying out of the door at the end of class, our professor shouted at us, “The Western film has no room for ambiguity.  Think about what that means for our next class.”  I stopped, one arm through my jacket.  Of course, I thought.  The Bible is a Western.

But what did I mean by that?

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