Robocop is Jesus

Last updated 11:03 11/07/2012

As an aside in a blog this week I mentioned that Robocop is about Jesus. This sparked a fantastic debate in the comments section about subtext in movies and whether a director's intended meaning for a film is at all relevant to how it is enjoyed and interpreted by the audience. It was a great debate.

First, I want to just lay out that director Paul Verhoeven intentionally drew parallels between Robocop and Jesus. The analogy is quite clear. Robocop is killed and then born again to save us all from evil. Verhoeven deliberately made Murphy's torture and death as gruesome as possible in reference to the passion of Christ. He refers to the scene in the DVD director's commentary as "part of the passion and crucifixion story of Jesus''.

In a documentary on the DVD, Verhoeven says: "The figure of Jesus has always fascinated me and the mythological narrative in the gospel fascinates me too. When I got the script I started to realise that Robocop had something to do, for me at least, with Jesus.

''These themes of crucifixion, resurrection, even at the end when Murphy is walking on the water.

''He is an American Jesus saying: 'OK at a certain moment we will use the guns'. At the end of the movie he is an American Jesus, an American Jesus that uses his gun.''

Verhoeven goes on to compare the moment when Robocop says to the bad guy, "I'm not arresting you anymore,'' to the moment at the last supper when Jesus said, "If you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.''

Just to seal the deal. Here is a still of Robocop walking on water:


So, clearly, the director was drawing parallels with Jesus, but the question is: "Does this matter?"

One person commented on the blog this week:

"Just like a song or any other form of art, I can interpret it differently from the artist. I don't care what Paul thought he was making."

Spot on. That person is right. It is irrelevant what Verhoeven intended. We, the audience, have the power. We can interpret and enjoy our movies in any way we want.

This is what French theorist Roland Barthes described in the 1960s as the "death of the author''. The meaning of a text lies with the audience, not the author.

So, that means I can further stir the pot by claiming that Coen brothers gangster movie Miller's Crossing is actually about the power of repressed gay love. Seriously, I'm not kidding, but I think that is a story for another day...

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Leon   #1   11:33 am Jul 11 2012

Another fun one, is to pretend that in Lord of the Rings, there is a secret forbidden love between Aragorn and Legolas. It's great for giving you the giggles every time the two characters "share a look". Works surprisingly well.

Rob   #2   11:45 am Jul 11 2012

Nightmare on Elm street 2 is a kinda blatant example:

stuling   #3   11:50 am Jul 11 2012

Another that works is actually the Matrix. Not all that subtle at times... look at the judas character and how the prongs on his headset stick up like two little horns.

There's a ton of stuff in it. Messiah like figure. Sacrifice so others may live. Rising from the dead...

Silarnon   #4   12:00 pm Jul 11 2012

stuling #3 - I think it's fair to say that The Matrix was very un-subtle in its use of mythology.

When Smith is interrogating Morpheus, he mentions that there are previous versions of the Matrix. In the sequels, the Architect reveals that this is version 6.0.

There's lots of hints (and a fair few slaps upside the head) that these previous versions are the source of things like vampires and werewolves, and that the mythology of today's world is really remembered remnants of previous versions of the Matrix.

The big suggestion being that Jesus himself was a "The One" like Neo, and that his actions in fighting the machines are what give us batteries the Christian mythology.

Movie Guy   #5   12:11 pm Jul 11 2012

There is a new viral marketing campaign for the Robocop reboot online

bOb   #6   01:25 pm Jul 11 2012

Whoa... quoted in your blog... I'm touched. Will have to watch robocop again and look for the whole Jesus thing... though I expect I will always just see it as a cheesy actioner.

sharktooth   #7   01:53 pm Jul 11 2012

It's great to see articles/opinion pieces like this as opposed to who will get what in a celebrity divorce.

Once a piece of art is offered up for public consumption then it is indeed up to the person looking to interpret it for themselves. No one can take that away from you, and they have no right to tell you your wrong. However, if the author of a piece of art has an intended message it should not simply be dismissed as irrelevant.

I agree that what you take from a piece of art, or how you react, is important, but it is bound to not be the only interpretation. Without at least considering other's then such a debate would be near impossible to have. At least by considering Verhooven's opinion it provides something to debate against.

I appreciate the Robocop as Jesus metaphor, and can see it in the film. But the film is also a product of it's time and place, and says a lot about Detroit's criminal underworld and policing issues. Two interpretation's, both valid and both as interesting as each other. And this opens up for a dialectical debate.

If Robocop is to be re-made, I hope Fincher takes it on. Or Spielberg (joke).

j.stringer   #8   03:38 pm Jul 11 2012

Yes, The Matrix openly borrowed from the Bible, as the Wacowzki bro.s have acknowledged. Allusions I can think of, off top of my head... 1. Morpheus' ship is The Nebuchadnessar (the mad Babylonian king of Daniel) 2. Neo (Thomas Anderson) is an anagram for The One and Doubting Thomas Son of Man 3. The One is in a love relationship with Trinity 4. Human sanctuary town is Zion 5. Neo strikes a crucifixion pose in the climax with his fusion with the machines 6. Ante-diluvian world destroyed by violence 7. Concept that people are asleep and need to awake 8. Debates about what is Truth (red pill/green pill) 9. an Oracle 10. A Messiah (an ultimate Man) who must die to save humanity (almost every Sci Fi film) 11. Demonic Agents who oppress humanity

Joe the Boxer   #9   06:46 pm Jul 11 2012

I think "Revolutionary Road" is a sequel to "titanic", set in a lynch-like parallel universe where characters have multiple personalities and Leo didn't drown. There are the Leo and Kate characters, who start "RR" as idealistic and dreaming of escape, but get caught up in something larger - just like "titanic". Parralels don't end there - there is the Kathy Bates character as well. Even though its adapted from a novel, I think the casting choices show this is what the film was going for.

Sarah   #10   02:10 am Jul 12 2012

I think Paul must of been smoking something, because Robocop is so far removed from Jesus and crucifixion.

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