Wednesday, April 22, 2009

On The Plastic Jesus Scene From Cool Hand Luke

There was a period when the two middle brothers in my family would sing this around the house a lot. Then my dad would sing it to himself while doing dishes. The Newman performance that inspired this fad in my immediate family is pretty cathartic and suitably ambiguous.

I, for one, can't tell if Newman's weepy banjo playing is actually meant to transform the Jesus statue's glow-in-the-dark plasticity and the Madonna's rhinestones from the mild parody songwriters Ed Rush and George Cromarty had intended into a poignant contemporary analog for the cheap poverty and humility Christianity is notorious for.

Ultimately, I know I'll have to rewatch the whole movie (which I haven't done maybe since high school) to know for sure. However, what I want to think is that this is just a perfect encapsulation of how useful even empty rituals and religious trinkets can be when you are down in the dumps.

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