"More Human than Human": PBS Documentary "How Art Made the World" meets John Paul II's "Theology of the Body"

What a fascinating documentary screened on the ABC tonight! It was, of course, completely overlooked by the Green Guide (which preferred to review “Dance with a Serial Killer” on SBS in the documentary category) and didn’t rate a mention in the Age TV Guide either. I am speaking of “More Human than Human”, the first episode in the series “How Art Changed the World” produced in Britain by the Public Broadcasting Service.

If you missed it, you get a pretty good outline at the link given above, but I was glued to my TV set for the whole hour. Like William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” (see blog below), here again was another bit of cultural introspection which seemed to reinforce Catholic teaching about human nature–this time, that our image of our bodies and of the bodies of others are seriously warped.

The documentary concludes, on the basis of the 25000 year old “Venus of Willendorf”, the stable and enduring way of depicting human beings in Egyptian art, and the development of Greek sculpture, that our perception of the human body and the way we represent it for the sake of attractiveness arises from a complex interplay between the rigid dictates of culture and the more primitive “hard-wiring” of the brain which responds postively to certain exaggerated features in the human form. The presenter concludes that we never (in fact), ever (in fact), represent the human body “true to life” but that we ALWAYS distort it.

Now that is something to think about when we confess that the human being is created in the image of God…

But I can never stay serious for very long without seeing the funny side…

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