Apr 112009

Continuing the Easter theme, MuchMoreMusic is playing the 1973 version of Jesus Christ Superstar, which naturally includes the 39 lashes. In this example, Christ’s back is exposed, and the whipping is a relatively mild affair.

There is a sexual element to this, particularly when the whipping is administered by a guy in a purple tank top and a chrome helmet.

Then there’s the 2000 version, which is considerably less discrete.

Pontius Pilate’s costume is pretty much a leatherman’s outfit, black leather, boots, officer’s cap and all. He even has the beard. In this case, he is traumatized by the punishment he inflicts on Christ, and tenderly cradles the younger, fair haired, nearly naked man, like a top giving aftercare.

Black leather and paramilitary gear is pretty much a universal shorthand for evil and decadent authority, so it isn’t surprising that the 2000 production would borrow from that particular trope. Both the Romans and the Pharisees work the kink look.

Here’s the 2005 production.

In this case, the beating of Christ is deemphasized, his body partially obscured by a screen of dancers, while the focus of the scene is on Pilate. His costume, in turn, is classical Roman, while the Pharisees are in the black leather and genderfuck outfits.

In the many Youtube clips of this particular scene, both on film and on stage, there’s a wide variety in the degree of nudity Christ shows, the explicitness of the whipping, and the amount of blood and gore as a result. Whether the focus of the direction is on Christ or on Pilate also varies.

Then there’s this production, in which Christ is coded as a hippie/biker and the Romans are kinksters.

Whereas the 1973 film of Godspell glosses over the flogging and crucifixion. Christ is just tied to a chain link fence and dies. No blood, nothing. This is perhaps the most abstract way of dealing with this material, which in the original gospels was not described in any great detail.

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