Friday, November 21, 2014

NYT oped columnist David Brooks gets 'Interstellar' into a religious pickle


I am sure New York Times columnist David Brooks meant well when he wrote his "Love and Gravity" column the other day about the faith aspects of Christopher Nolan's new "Interstellar" movie

Brooks is a very good writer, a bit on the rightwing side of things and with a big following among readers on the right, and he often makes very good sense. Even if you don't agree with his politics. He's balanced and fair and really more of a mid-center guy than right or left.

But boy, did he get himself into a big pickle in his recent oped column about "Interstellar." It was a think piece, not a movie review, and it was well written and thoughtful. The Times has him on board for a reason: David Brooks can write like a pro and a pro he is.

But when he tried to paint "Interstellar" as a religious allegory, taking reddit and blogger posts that were never fact-chcked or vetted, Brooks went overboard and ended up in a pickle. Will he apologize for the inaccuracy or will his editors issue a correction? I am waiting.

Here is what Brooks wrote, in part:

"In the movie, 12 apostles go out alone into space to look for habitable planets. They are sacrificing their lives so that canisters of frozen embryos can be born again in some place far away.'' 

He added: ''Bloggers have noticed the religious symbols in the movie. There are those 12 apostles,and there’s a Noah’s ark. There is a fallen angel named Dr. Mann who turns satanic in an inverse Garden of Eden. The space project is named Lazarus. The heroine saves the world at age 33. There’s an infinitely greater and incorporeal intelligence offering merciful salvation."

It's all very nice and cheerful except for one thing: The crew of the Endeavor in "Interstellar" had just four people, not twelve. There were no 12 apostles in the movie. 

Cooper is not Jesus, and there was no Noah's Ark. 

And while Brooks did not go down this road, some religious bloggers are now elsewhere that Dr Mann was ''Judas'' -- that old antisemitic canard from the New Testament that created an imaginary, perfidious, betraying Jew named, well, we all know his name by now.

But look, Matt Damon's character was not Judas. Cooper's initials in the movie were not JC, as some are now saying. Come on, it's just a movie!

David Brooks wrote a very good column except for those two paragraphs above. He never fact-checked the items he picked up from blogs and other online posts. He just put them in and got himself into a pickle.

It's just a movie, David. What's next, you're going to say that Nolan's first name has the word ''Christ'' in it and therefore...

When does this nonsense stop? Twelve apostles, my eye; 12 astronauts in the crew, my eye! Doesn't the New York Times employ fact-checkers anymore?

Interstellar, Interschtellar! I loved the movie -- without the God stuff! That's pushing it.



One Response

Tim says:

November 21, 2014

''Dan, It is just a movie, but one that you must not have watched very closely. There were 12 Lazarus astronauts launched ahead of Cooper to search out habitable planets. Cooper’s name is Joseph Cooper. The Endurance had the ability to repopulate a planet through the fertilized embryos stored on-board. And one of the most well-loved of the Lazarus astronauts, turns and seeks only his own well-being. Now, you may or may not read religious symbolism into these details… but these details, in fact, occurred in the film. I tend to think that Nolan is a skilled enough story teller to know that others would read religious themes into these details but it is also possible that those who do are overreaching.''

Dan Bloom replise to MR Tim, .....''Tim, thanks for good comment and heads up. Yes, there were 12 astronauts who went out earlier in the backstory to the movie, but they were never called apostles in the movie and in the NYT oped by David Brooks, he referred to these 12 astronauts as "12 apostles" in his first reference, without telling readers why he was calling them apostles or where he got the idea from. Turns out, as yu say so well, he was over-reaching and later in his oped he revealed that he got the idea of the astronauts as Christian apostles from the New Testament story from online blogs and forums such as reddit. So yes, there is a very nice religious and spiritual element to the movie, I felt it also, but it was not specific to any one religion and certainly not to Christianity or Judaism. So yes, Brooks, who is Jewish himself, i might add, was over-reaching in his oped. But to report the news of the way some online forums were reacting to the movie, that is legit, and sure it's good to know how some religious people are seeing the movie. But Brooks should have not called the astronauts as "apostles' at the top of his column, that made it sound to readers as if HE was calling them really as apostles. He needed to be more clear and also to factcheck the reddit forums and others online now. They aer spreading like wildfire. All over-reaching to serve a propaganda recruitment purpose. Better not to over-reach and stay grounded, no? That is all i was saying. But thanks Tim, for your good response here.''

Anonymous said...

Scott Thill ‏replies

dear dan

David Brooks is a propagandist paid to preach #clifi as religious allegory.

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