Hollywood hypocrisy and the quest for meaningful films
In Lisa Schwarzbaum's review of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (by the way, I give it a solid B - stupid story but wonderful characters that I was thrilled to see on screen again), she laments that:
Indy represents the wisecracking capitalist West, and he's battling Irina (the humorless totalitarian East) for possession of what looks, after all, like a Plexiglas football with oversized eye sockets. Any faint, interestingly acrid whiff of commentary on 1950s political conservatism — and its application to our own era — is forcibly stamped out.
So basically Schwarzbaum is bitching because an Indiana Jones movie isn't sufficiently liberal. Ah yes, if only Indy had reached the cinematic heights of "Revenge of the Sith" which the New York Times (among others) rapturously embraced due to its perceived "anti-Bush" message:
More than that, the trajectory of the narrative cuts sharply against the optimistic grain of blockbuster Hollywood, in that we are witnessing a flawed hero devolving into a cruel and terrifying villain. It is a measure of the film's accomplishment that this process is genuinely upsetting, even if we are reminded that a measure of redemption lies over the horizon in "Return of the Jedi." And while Mr. Christensen's acting falls short of portraying the full psychological texture of this transformation, Mr. Lucas nonetheless grounds it in a cogent and (for the first time) comprehensible political context.
"This is how liberty dies - to thunderous applause," Padmé observes as senators, their fears and dreams of glory deftly manipulated by Palpatine, vote to give him sweeping new powers. "Revenge of the Sith" is about how a republic dismantles its own democratic principles, about how politics becomes militarized, about how a Manichaean ideology undermines the rational exercise of power. Mr. Lucas is clearly jabbing his light saber in the direction of some real-world political leaders. At one point, Darth Vader, already deep in the thrall of the dark side and echoing the words of George W. Bush, hisses at Obi-Wan, "If you're not with me, you're my enemy." Obi-Wan's response is likely to surface as a bumper sticker during the next election campaign: "Only a Sith thinks in absolutes." You may applaud this editorializing, or you may find it overwrought, but give Mr. Lucas his due. For decades he has been blamed (unjustly) for helping to lead American movies away from their early-70's engagement with political matters, and he deserves credit for trying to bring them back.
Just for the record, "Revenge of the Sith" was awful. Laughably awful. Making it anti-Bush doesn't make it good. Likewise, the alleged political content is laughable. Is the message that only Republicans think in absolutes (and not just that, but in evil absolutes)? Yes, because clearly the progressive wing of the Democratic party is equally embracing of those who don't tow the party line. Just ask Joe Lieberman!
In any case, my point isn't to argue the politics of Star Wars, but rather to point out the boorishness and hypocrisy of a the "typical" Hollywood elite. Do people like Schwarzbaum have any idea how annoying they are? They insist on injecting politics and their precious political viewpoints into nearly every discussion. I think they think they're trying to show that they somehow smarter, more caring and frankly just better than the average sot because of it. What they're really doing is showing that they have no manners. There's a time and place for controversial political discussions: political conventions and debates, talk radio, political blogs, hell, maybe even the family dinner table. However, in polite society we keep politics out of the workplace, Top Chef forums, and summer adventure movies. Please.
There's also an element of tremendous hypocrisy in this whole mess. Critics and filmmakers are grasping for a return to the almost mythical political movies of the 70's. They want to be seen as rebellious, risk-taking provocateurs. In fact, Hollywood routinely celebrates artists who've generated even a whiff of controversy for their liberal political beliefs (see Fonda, Jane or Chicks, Dixie). These people are lauded for their "courage". At the same time, the "typical" Hollywood liberal elite ignores the actual risk-taking and actual persecution of artists like Ayaan Hirsi Ali. It's as if it's not really important to make compelling political statements. It's only important to make the "right" kind of political statements.
Argh. The real question is why any of this actually surprises me.
Posted by at May 28, 2008 10:35 AM
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|# May 28th, 2008 10:42 AM kris|
|Confession: at least 60% of the reason I wrote this post was so I could link to that clip of Darth Vader's "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!". |
|# May 28th, 2008 9:40 PM themandownthehall|
|Now, he could be telling a lie, but I saw an interview with Lucas where he denied any anti-Bush intent saying that the with me or against me line and death of freedom lines were written over 2 decades ago. Maybe he was trying to cover to keep his profit but he did say that.