ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Mary Magdalene: The Gospels Vs Cinema

Updated on November 12, 2019

Hollywood and the entertainment industry have always taken liberties when representing on the big screen historical stories; inaccuracies such as the dramatization of an actual event, the removing of an important character or even anachronisms. Of course, filmmakers do not have the obligation to be accurate, but when fiction becomes more known then reality the truth gets lost in the stories. Multiple characters and events have been dramatized, but one biblical female character has had her story torn around; Mary Magdalene. To understand how Hollywood has misrepresented her, we must understand how Mary Magdalene is illustrated in the Gospels, how she is shown in movies and how it is inaccurate to the previous statement, and why she is characterized as she is.

Mary Magdalene was, as described in the Gospels, a woman from a small Galilean town named Magdala in the north of the present territory of Israel. She was known as a disciple and follower of Jesus who, with many other women and men, traveled with the Christ and his apostles to spread his spirituality. It is understood that Mary Magdalene followed Jesus after he saved her, exorcising her from the seven demons latch to her body and is described in the Gospel of Luke as part of ‘’some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities” (Luke 8:1–3). The Gospels do not depict her life before her encounter with Jesus, but she has been defined as an important disciple of her savior and the Gospel of Luke also recites Mary Magdalene’s involvement in Jesus’s life. Many women and men followed Jesus, but she has been immortalized in the Gospels as a result of the many events she participated in; she was the first witness of the resurrection then bared the news Jesus gave her to his apostles.

Throughout the years, the portrayal of Mary Magdalene in cinema has changed dramatically, illustrating her as the few passages of the Gospels depict her or completely different and distant from her original form. Many feature films have portrayed Mary Magdalene as a wealthy concubine courting Jesus and many historic paintings show her self-confidence and exoticness. This isn’t different from Mary Magdalene’s portrayal in modern cinema; her use in Christian biopics was predominantly for a romantic interest towards Jesus , and her sexual immorality could be used as an ethical lesson for the viewers. In certain passion plays in cinema she is a modest and self-confident prostitute surrounded by luxury and lust. In the 1960’s movies, Mary Magdalene’s character is seen as a poor courtesan, shamed with prostitution and adultery who transforms herself after she meets Jesus, the savior who banished her demons, sometimes seen as mental illnesses. In other cinematographic representation in the 1980’s she is still a sinful woman who needs redemption, but her past is not acknowledged as the prior films. Even in some of the more respectful and historically accurate biopic, Mary Magdalene’s devotion towards Jesus is mainly used or interpreted as romantic or sexual for the viewers’ entertainment.

The legend of Mary Magdalene has been changed so many times in stories and cinematic passion plays that her name sometimes brings confusion in the entertainment industry. Mainly represented as a prostitute in films, we could think the soiling of her name came from directors who wanted romantic action in their movies, but the contamination of her reputation came more than five hundred years before the invention of the moving pictures. Her perverted story is the result of the Church when Pope Gregory I confused the ‘’sinful unnamed woman’’ to many other Mary’s in the Gospels and finally labeled the woman as one of Jesus’ follower; Mary Magdalene. His error, which might have been voluntary to keep women from being leaders in the Church by therefore labeling them as unfaithful and sinners, kept Mary Magdalene’s reputation as a prostitute for multiple centuries. Cinematographers and screenwriters used throughout the years Mary Magdalene’s misconception as an important tool for storytelling and educative purposes, keeping the myth of her immoral status alive contrarily to what the Gospels tell.

In summary, the entertainment industry might take historical facts for granted when making box office movies and introduce inaccuracies into our cultural knowledge, but Mary Magdalene’s perverted reputation, while it might have been spread with feature films, started with the Church’s misogynistic approach to control women and a confusion of Marys from Pope George I. The Gospels’ version of Mary Magdalene illustrates her as a faithful follower and friend to Jesus, contrary to popular belief and cinematic presentation as a sinner and prostitute. Although many feature films have characterized Mary Magdalene with historical inaccuracies, it would be interesting to see how many movies accurately represents her well, if any.

© 2019 Heloise Koszegi


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)