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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