The Hollywood Gospel and its Scholars
Lessons from Stigmata
Keywords:Stigmata, Gospel of Thomas, American mythology, individualism
Stigmata, a 1999 film, dramatizes the recovery of a lost Jesus gospel by placing it within the story of the possession of an atheist beautician, who is also a stigmatic. The discovery of the reason for her possession and her exorcism leads ultimately to the publication of the lost, now found gospel. Stigmata cadges selections from the Gospel of Thomas together to create this gospel, which is a version of the Hollywood gospel hallowing the heroic individual above all things and empowering the fantasy of the subjective, expressive individual. This Hollywood gospel—unlike the Gospel of Thomas—is also scientific (or, at least, empirical and pragmatic), materialist, and democratic. It is, in short, a belated, peculiarly American form of gnosticism. Intriguingly, Stigmata’s drama also sheds some light on scholarship, revealing among other things the cultural embeddedness of scholarship and its interaction with popular fiction, particularly at the points of lost gospels and the notion of heroic individuals struggling against corrupt institutions.
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