Sunday, June 25, 2006

Madonna & Swee' Pea


Not long ago I had been flipping channels on the tube and came across a classic cartoon that I had not seen in some time... It was Fleischer’s ‘Popeye’. As a child I found it amusing and entertaining, but had not really explored the depths of some of the messages and symbolism inherent in the work. This time around I began to notice things that I had not grasped previously and came to some possible conclusions about this fascinating cartoon. As a child it hadn’t really struck me that Olive Oyl was a single mother caring for her child Swee’ Pea. Perhaps part of the reason being, is that I grew up in the home of a single mother, and therefore didn’t recognize it as anything other than ordinary... but for the time period in which this cartoon initially debuted [1930's] such a notion to be presented in a mass media form, to children nonetheless, seems a bit ahead of its time.

So that was one cultural issue being addressed in a rather bold manner... but then I dug further and realized some other interesting parallels between some of the premises of 'Popeye' and Christian theology. Now if we look at the term “Christos” we realize that it is the Greek word [Χριστός] for Moshiach [מָשִׁיחַ]. Moshiach literally means annointed (obviously for a particular role, which the Jesus figure does not qualify for)... Annointed specifically with the Shemen Mishchat [שֶׁמֶן מִשְׁחַת-קֹדֶשׁ] (Shemos 30:22-25). One of the main components of the Shemen Mishchat is olive oil. Now lets look at the character Olive Oyl, who has a child that appears to have been immaculately conceived [speculative - because who Swee’ Pea’s father in fact is, is never stated] much like the alleged Jesus figure idolized by much of Christendom. Realizing that Olive Oyl is Mary - a conduit through which Swee’ Pea as Jesus is immaculately anointed/conceived blew my mind. When I realized this possible connection I attempted to explore the idea further - and so in such a theoretical circumstance, the other characters would have their parallels as well. Popeye would have to be Joseph. In the New Testament Joseph is often presented as the adoptive father of Jesus, in the cartoon Popeye sometimes plays this role for Swee’ Pea [lacking a carpenter - sailor connection... suggestions anyone?].

Now... why the name Swee’ Pea ? Well after looking into it apparently the Sweet Pea [Lathyrus odoratus] plant has beautifully colored flowers and a pleasant sweet fragrance however its seeds unlike most peas should not be consumed as they are poisonous. We know that in Midrash Tanhuma, Vayikra and Rashi on Toldos 26:34 that Edom [Rome/Christianity/Western Civilization] is compared to a pig. The pig is one the most repulsive non-kosher animals because outwardly it presents itself with split hooves but internally it does not chew its cud. Outwardly displaying and proclaiming “look I’m kosher!” but in reality fully treif veiled in the aesthetic trappings of something wholesome, a very deep hypocrisy. The Midrash is an attempt at a criticism of a culture in which primacy is placed upon seductive presentation rather than virtue and deed.

Were the animators and creators of ‘Popeye’ trying to subversively convince the youth via Swee’ Pea that indeed the trappings of Western Civilization often lead to the adoption of a theology in which an entity that outwardly appears pleasing is in fact harmful to the soul ? In other words - were they condemning Christian doctrines much in the same manner that our ChaZaL were ? Well... this all does sound a bit like a conspiracy theory - whilst still maintaining a degree of plausibility to me. It is always fun to speculate, maybe this will lead to the next ‘Davinci Code’, heheh... If anyone can think of any further connections, rationales and motivations for some of the other characters, I would truly enjoy hearing your thoughts on the matter.

4 comments:

michelle said...

can i post this on myspace? you get the credit ofcourse

Brooklyn Habiru said...

absolutely!

Anonymous said...

isn't all religion a myth? all religions evolve from half truths or legends... that includes judaism... i find this "sweet pea madonna" as offensive as the so called "piss christ". jews have thrived in western civilization, and have endured great persecution too... but no western nation has given the jews more freedom and security than the usa.. a nation founded by white anglo saxon protestant christians...the great art and architecture and music and literature and the ethics of western christian civilization can't be trashed by anyone... especially in the 21st century when jews count on the christian west for their very survival in the face of militant islam.. if this "popeye madonna' and it's "explanation" was hown on TV to the public it would insult the christian majority and that would not be a good thing in these dangerous times...

Brooklyn Habiru said...

The word 'religion' if I recall correctly comes from the Latin 're' [a prefix meaning return] and 'ligare' [meaning 'to bind']. So to say that when one returns to what he/she is bound to (a covenant perhaps, or an oath?) is somehow mythological seems absurd to me. To imply that Judaism is a set of mythos belies your ignorance of what it has given by way of ethics and morals to the Western Civilization you so clearly idolize. Your assertion that there is such an entity known as a "half truth" is your open proclamation that there is no universal objective truth to which all of humanity should adhere and thus each is free to act in an anarchic manner - another notion I fundamentally reject. Frankly - you are a hypocrite. You condemn artistic representation (such as that of Andres Serrano) and thus freedom of expression and thought, but then in the next sentiment hail the freedoms that have been afforded in the USA [not by “Protestant Christians” as you assert, but actually primarily by the Founding Fathers most of whom were Deists (Franklin, Washington, Jefferson, Paine..any ring a bell?)]. The notion that somehow world Jewry’s existence and survival is dependant upon the Christian majority of the United States is preposterous. The existence of the Jewish people is dependant on God, and God alone... the sooner we all realize this, the better off we will all be. The barbaric militant face of Islam that you allude to is a foe that the US consistently displays a willingness to sacrifice Israel to with the promotion of suicidal “peace” initiatives (such as the expulsion of thousands of Jews from their own homes). Personally I feel that it is very sad that you find my “Madonna & Swee’ Pea” so insulting. For one thing, it proves that Christianity or the Christian culture you embody, defend and are presumably a member of truly does care more about aesthetics and imagery than about substance and as such have lent credibility to my thesis. The other part I am saddened by is that one can be offended when idolatrous imagery is “desecrated” [ I say that in quotations for it is impossible to desecrate the profane], justly I should be the one offended as the faith of my Fathers (Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov) has been corrupted and mangled into a Judeo-Pagan syncretic cult that has warped many ideals and defiantly chooses to worship the image of a man. Your entire conviction was predicated on the idea that somehow Jews should be in fear of Christians and Muslim majorities and thus play the role of the “suffering servant”... but we as the Jewish people are bound in servitude to God, and God alone - it is Him who we owe our awe to and none other.

PS - in the future try not to be an anonymous coward, use a name... even a pen name or pseudonym will do.