Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Daniel J. Summers
V for Vendetta, the latest film from the brothers who brought The Matrix to the big screen, hit theatres this past Friday. The movie has generated hyper-hype from both the left and the right. I had the occasion to view this film on Friday, and I'll have to say that the film did not live up to the hype on either side. This is a good thing - because of this, I found it to be a very entertaining film.
The plot can be spun to sound like the most rabid anti-Bush conspiracy theory out there. The scene is 20 years after 9/11, where the U. S. has collapsed, and Britain has been overtaken by a Christian government whose iron fist looks similar to that of the former U. S. S. R. The state-run television station spins the news the way the government wants, and their city-wide surveillance and announcement system makes Britain's current CCTV setup look amateur. The government has imposed a militant Christian law, in the mold of some of today's current militant Islamic countries. Of course, though, the entire government is corrupt - their Christian beliefs are only used to keep the people in fear. (I'll stop there so as not to give up the plot for those of you who may wish to see it.)
Enter “V”. He is inspired by Guy Fawkes, a 16th-century man who was arrested while trying to blow up Parliament. Throughout the film, we come to understand V's motivation for planning to do what Guy Fawkes could not. The government consistently refers to V as a “terrorist,” which is a term he embraces as well. This does not deter him from his goal, however; it only emboldens him as he goes on not only the populist “vendetta” of blowing up Parliament, but a personal vendetta against those who are responsible for his motivation.
Given what I've laid out above, it's not a stretch to think that it's a commentary on the Bush administration. (As a matter of fact, the original book could not have been - it was written in the late 70's about Margaret Thatcher's administration in Britain.) But, as a Republican and a fan of the Bush administration, I wasn't offended by the plot line. Apart from the “conservative” label of the oppressive government, there was no resemblance to the Bush administration (or the Clinton, Bush, or Reagan administrations). Maybe, if you believe every one of the paranoid conspiracy theories, and if you assume that anyone with an (R) beside their name hates everyone except heterosexual white people - just maybe you might be able to see some of our country's leadership in the fictitious British government. Personally, I don't think that our country would ever get to this point - the people would rise up long before that and squash the totalitarian regime.
Again, if you haven't seen this film yet, be careful about following these links - some contain spoilers…
On the left, the commentary has been just atrocious. In particular, I saw an MTV News special called “Unmasked” (link is near the top of the first page), in which Gideon Yago and Natalie Portman interviewed some young people about the film. These kids had swallowed the liberal ideology hook, line, and sinker; and Hugo Weaving's (Agent Smith from The Matrix and Elrond in the Lord of the Rings trilogy) views were even worse. In Natalie Portman's defense, she said that she didn't think the film, even with it's updated screenplay, was necessarily a commentary on any particular administration; rather, it was an illustration that unscrupulous people on either side of the political aisle could create problems. On the right, we've got lots of hyperbole as well. I remember hearing about this movie over 3 months ago, as a “here they go again, glorifying terrorists” type of report. More recently, Townhall.com's Megan Basham (who, by the way, I normally agree with - and, I love the fact that she's a movie critic whose last name sounds like “bash 'em”) has a scathing review of the film, where she decries the glorification of a “terrorist”.
One review I've read that pretty much gets it right is the one from Focus on the Family's Plugged In online magazine. Their review of V for Vendetta gives a plot synopsis, and lists both positive elements (which he does pick up on) and content that parents may find objectionable (this being a somewhat intense R-rated movie, there is some of that for them to chroincle.) The reviewer also brings up some good points about both the implications in the film, and the questions that it raises. My kudos to Adam Holz for a great open-minded review of this film.
For me, what I took away from the film was… well, ... nothing new. The story was interesting, the movie was well-done, and the special effects were pretty cool. But, as I said, the government was such a caricature of any conservative government that I would support that I didn't identify myself (or my political beliefs) as being part of the villainous government. This government really looked like the U. S. S. R. to me; and who wouldn't support someone who was fighting for the overthrow of that type of oppressive government? Yes, V (the character) has some issues, especially with his personal vendetta against those people who had abused him. Their murders were little more than vengeance killings, and aren't right at all.
To say something along the lines of “One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter” is flat-out wrong. You're only a freedom fighter if you're on the side freedom. The terrorists that attacked our country on 9/11 were not fighting for their freedom - they were attempting to instill terror in us. The colonists in this country who threw the Boston Tea Party were considered terrorists by the British empire - were they wrong to stage this demonstration of their belief that taxation without representation is wrong? V certainly doesn't have all the answers - but the questions it raises are important ones, and ones that we all should ponder - especially in our current world. Do we have the fortitude to stand up against a government like that? Should we?
ABC did not “sneak” that onto the airwaves - they warned their affiliates in advance, and some chose not to carry the network's programming that evening. When the movie came back from commercials, there was a warning each time that the program contained strong violence and language. It was rated “TV-MA (LV)” which indicated that it was not suitable for children (and so that V-chip programmed TVs would not let the program through). And, this was not the first time ABC has aired that movie it its original uncut format - I know it has aired at least twice before (usually surrounding Memorial Day), and I believe the first time, it was aired commercial-free. Why this showing seems to have generated such controversy, I'm not quite sure.
I would venture to say that the men that this film portrays are not the ones offended. True, the film has coarse language, but so did many of the folks in the Greatest Generation. And, while the language in the film was quite strong, I can't remember a single instance that was sexually oriented. This is also not the first time a network has aired an “uncensored” program - I remember when I was growing up, CBS aired the program “Scared Straight”, which was filled with rather strong language.
The AFA usually does some great work, but in this case, they're missing the point. More than that, rather than allowing ABC's honoring of our veterans to receive the focus, they are going to get the focus instead, and most of it is going to be something along the lines of “These Christians are at it again, trying to tell us what to do.” It's always wise, in most things, to “pick your battles” - only choose the ones that matter, and I don't think that this was a wise choice, especially given the fact that we have folks making similar sacrifices today.
Thursday, August 26, 2004
Daniel J. Summers
And so little time to say it!
John Kerry - I can't believe that we have an anti-war activist running for President who is actually being taken seriously. I also can't believe that the self-same anti-war activist is running for President on his war record. I guess now that the military is back in vogue, the Democrats like it.
Gov. Jim McGreevey - At least he has more respect for the state of New Jersey that Bill Clinton had for the nation. Although it's now coming out (no pun intended) that the cause is corruption more than his penchant for those of like gender, his stepping down is the right decision. (He is muddying the issue with his “I am a gay American” schtick - that link has a very interesting take on that part of the situation.) I think he should step down immediately, though, rather than his political ploy of not stepping down until after the election.
Swift Boat Veterans for Truth - Keep on keepin' on. McCain-Feingold is unconstitutional, and will be ruled as such by the time the next election rolls around. It's amazing that no one was upset when these 527 groups accused President Bush of poisoning pregnant women (a charge that is repeated on the Democrats' own web site [scroll to the bottom]), but let them use facts to challenge something a Senator says, and now they need to shut up. (Still no call for moveon.org to stop their ads…)
President Bush vs. Catwoman - Sharon Stone recently said that because of President Bush, there wasn't a lesbian kiss between she and Halle Berry in the movie Catwoman. I'm not quite sure I buy that - why would arch-enemies be kissing in the first place? And, if our President could control Hollywood, wouldn't he be using that control to silence the hateful drivel from Michael Moore and his ilk? Sharon Stone has had plenty of opportunities to play oversexed bisexual characters (in fact, wasn't that her first big role, in Basic Instinct?).
Thursday, February 26, 2004
Daniel J. Summers
Recently, there have been quite a few “groups” getting offended about things that other people do. Let me say up front that I have no problems with any individual person; however, I do not like the whole “group” concept, where a couple of loud-mouthed members of said group purport to speak for every member. That being said…
Some American Indians are upset about OutKast's performance at the Grammys - here's an article from CNN about it. OutKast has made their career being off-centre - a creative show like the one they put on at the Grammys shouldn't be that unexpected. I saw the show, and there was nothing offensive in it to me (other than the fact that I've heard “Hey Ya” so many times I'm sick of it).
Some Jews are upset about The Passion of the Christ - they feel that it will incite hate for Jews. First of all, the movie is historical. If the Jews didn't want this stuff being shown, they should've been nicer to Jesus 2,000 years ago. Secondly, the events portrayed in this film occurred 2,000 years ago - no one in their right mind would hold someone of Jewish descent responsible for something their ancestors did 2,000 years prior.
Some blacks are upset about a whites-only scholarship at a Rhode Island university - here's an article from CNN about that. I love this story. These kids set up a scholarship which is merit-based; you've really got to be sharp to be the recipient of this $250 grant. Then, they add one final caveat - you have to be white. This is a very creative way to show the lunacy of race-based preferences - although I fear the lesson will be lost in the hysteria of many.
The bottom line is this… In a free country such as this, you do not have the right to not be offended. Matters of morality are one thing, but none of these incidents are moral situations. These are a symptom of our group-minded, victim-mentality culture, where people aren't individuals, they're members of a group. These loud-mouths have complacent amplifiers in today's media, who broadcast their claims as fact, while often not applying common sense to the situation. I'm of Irish descent - am I offended when people make jokes about Irish people? Of course not. Thick skin is a wonderful thing - I wish these folks would grow some, and let the individuals decide for themselves whether they're going to be offended by something.
On a slightly different note… Thomas Sowell, a great columnist, occasionally writes a column he calls “Random Thoughts on the Passing Scene”. That title is a link to his latest one, but I've just got to share a couple of them here. (These are quoted verbatim from him.)
Activism is a way for useless people to feel important, even if the consequences of their activism are counterproductive for those they claim to be helping and damaging to the fabric of society as a whole.
It is amazing that people who think we cannot afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, and medication somehow think that we can afford to pay for doctors, hospitals, medication and a government bureaucracy to administer “universal health care.”