Saturday, August 10, 2013

Pope Francis And New Jack City

I'm willing to bet that most of my readers probably aren't familiar with New Jack City. It's a drama from the early 90s about a drug lord and the cops trying to take him down. I know that's a very superficial description, but it's a show well worth watching. While it did have certain drawbacks, like unleashing Ice-T's acting career upon an unsuspecting world, it actually has a lot of depth to it and is unique in its genre.

Did I mention that Christ Rock (yes, THAT Chris Rock) should have won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for portrayal of a struggling crack addict? I'm not exaggerating. He is phenomenal in this movie.

Anyways, I've determined that New Jack City actually has a lot of content that carries a good illustration of Pope Francis's messages to this point.

For example, Nino Brown (played by Wesley Snipes) is the perfect example of the "savage capitalism" condemned by the Holy Father. Sure, Nino was doing illegal stuff, but if modernity has taught us anything, it's that what's sinful isn't necessarily illegal and vice-versa. What with the love of money (and cash and hos) being at the root of all evil, the corrupting influences of what's legal in capitalism can be analogized to the crack trade of the film without a lot of effort.

Second, the movie contains an overt accusation of greed being a form of idolatry. Pope Francis has made much the same point since his election. He's echoing Pope Benedict in saying so.

Third, Pope Francis has made a big deal out of asking people to look around at who their brothers are. When the question comes up of "Am I my brother's keeper?", the Holy Father expects people to understand that, yes, they are. Cain's question, "Am I my brother's keeper?", is the major catch-phrase in New Jack City. Basically, Nino's drug dealing crew, the Cash Money Brothers, has members who are family in both the literal and figurative senses. They maintain that they will treat each other like family no matter what and that nothing will break up that relationship. Of course, the aforementioned idolatry does exactly that.

I'm not sure why all this has come to mind recently. Just something that popped into my head whilst considering some of the Pope's comments. He'd probably be a huge fan of the show if it wasn't for all the sex, profanity, and violence (of which there is a lot of all three). It's still a somewhat unknown, and consequently highly underrated, flick that might be useful in illustrating some of the lessons of Catholic social doctrine in light of the current Pontiff's rhetoric.

"Am I my brother's keeper?"

"Yes, I am."

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