Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Omen: The antifeminist fathers the Antichrist

With what passes for benevolent husbanding Gregory Peck (Ambassador Robert Thorn) decides in the beginning of The Omen to hide the truth (as he knows it) from Lee Remick (Ambassador's Wife, Katherine Thorn). Their son didn't survive childbirth. The baby handed to her isn't hers.

Granted, without deception and bad decisions, horror movies don't get off the ground. Still the idea that father knows best, that (the former) Atticus Finch, for godsakes, is willing to fake out his wife because he believes it's for her own good (that phrase), is business-as-usual in this movie classic, as if Lee Remick were being served rice pudding instead of jello, well, it sticks in my girlish gaw.

The movie came out in 1976 when feminism (whichever wave) as a concept was no longer novel, though the struggle was still raw.

Peck's decision to lie may seem less strange because they are in Italy, not America. I wonder if that's why director Richard Donner or screenwriter David Seltzer chose Rome, because of its direct link to "mysteries." Obviously near the Vatican is a good place for the Antichrist to hang out.

I stray. And while I'm here let me commend Jerry Goldsmith for an Oscar-worthy score. That chanting: Sanguis bibimus, corpus edimus, tolle corpus Satani (We drink the blood, we eat the flesh, raise the body of Satan) [tra la] and Ave Satani! Ave Versus Christus (Hail, Satan! Hail, Antichrist!) [yo ho].

Back my point. Peck didn't believe his wife could handle the truth, when in fact she couldn't handle the lie. Nor could he; a photographer; at least one priest; the "this is for you, Damien" nanny; and a few assorted others (not to mention prospective victims, to wit, everyone in Christendom and onward).

It's a sweet idea, that women are innately sensitive in various degrees. That our lives best be determined by the men. (Hey, I just turned my head and there on a shelf is: On Lies, Secrets, and Silence by Adrienne Rich.)

The conflict that male caretakers like the Gregory Peck character have is within: They are as afraid of the truth as the women they purport to protect. I wonder what the construct would be today. Would Peck and Remick be replaced by a Santa Barbara couple who adopt an infant they think is a Romanian orphan born in an Italian refugee camp (plausible). I don't see why the far right doesn't finance a version in which the Antichrist is raised by a lesbian or gay couple using surrogates. Or maybe the Antichrist could be Chinese and adopted by a single mom.

While it makes sense that the living opponent to "love thy neighbor" manipulates, it doesn't make sense when husbands do the same, easy breezy, in a plot premise.

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