Saturday, December 11, 2004

(pop) Culture (a)War(d)s

Odd that Michael Moore’s appeal for the people’s choice is being discussed everywhere, but this grassroots campaign is much more under the radar, at least the left-wing Hollywood news radar I usually monitor.

I also find it interesting that a group calling itself the American Family Association, whose motto is “Promoting Traditional Family Values” is getting behind an R-rated, graphically violent film that says very little about actual “moral values” [which isn’t to say that, no matter what/if your faith, Jesus Christ himself didn’t have some good values to impart – he just doesn’t get a chance to do so in Mel Gibson’s film, probably because it was too hard to get the words out past his mouthfuls of blood]. Especially when The Passion of The Christ is competing in the Favorite Movie Drama category with a much more “family-friendly” film like Finding Neverland. Isn’t that the sort of movie their organization should be getting behind? In fact, the website’s movie reviewer gave it a glowing review, giving it the same four-star rating they gave The Passion.

So if they’re so desperate to send a message to Hollywood through the People’s Choice Awards (which I’m sure Hollywood cares a lot about – but that’s neither here nor there), why not chose a message that Hollywood should hear, like: Make more PG-rated live-action movies suitable for the whole family that don’t condescend, don’t bore, don’t star talking animals and don’t sneak in uncomfortable-for-adults sexual innuendo? Granted, after the success of National Treasure and Christmas with the Kranks, PG is finally making a comeback after years of being considered box-office poison. Still, Neverland isn’t doing quite as well in its limited release as it should be doing, and could use the publicity of the People’s Choice Awards a lot more than some $370 million-grossing movies.

Now, I didn’t love Neverland, but it was the only movie I could think of to take three generations of my family to the day after Thanksgiving and as rare as it is to please all of them, Neverland did. Isn’t that the sort of thing an organization called "American Family Association" should be promoting?

Unless of course by “American” they mean “Christian” (which I think they take as a given), in which case they should just come right out and say that promoting the “Christian Agenda” is more important to them than promoting the “Family Agenda” (to borrow their own terminology), which their pushing of The Passion over Neverland obliquely makes clear.

But maybe I’m being too hard on the AFA and presuming too much. Maybe they have no problem with “explicit violence” that’s “stunningly realistic” as long as it’s used in “a powerful movie with a powerful message.”

Oh, but wait.

And that was in 2002, when there were almost no complaints made by anybody.

However, surrounding the most recent airing, when everyone else (including certain pop culture bloggers) was decrying ABC’s decision to air Saving Private Ryan: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, the AFA’s rationale for outrage changed slightly.

In 2002, they had this to say about the unacceptability of the violence:

November was a big month for breaking barriers at Disney's ABC television network, beginning with a movie containing graphic violence and numerous uses of the f-word…

…ABC had crushed violence and language standards on network television…

…if ABC wanted to air the movie, the network should have edited out some of the most graphic violence and the profanity.

The explicit violence in Saving Private Ryan was also stunningly realistic: men cut in half or literally blown into pieces, intestines hanging out, faces blown off, arms ripped from bodies and extremely bloody scenes in which medics attempted to repair wounded bodies.

All in all, the criticism was pretty evenly balanced between concerns about uncensored violence and uncensored language. Fair enough.

Now here’s what they had to say in 2004 about the unacceptability of the violence:

We believeSaving Private Ryan accurately depicted what happens during fierce battles between two armies. The graphic depictions of atrocious injuries, mental stress, profane language, and brutality are likely common occurrences in war. But ABC crossed the line by airing at least 20 "f" words and 12 "s" words during prime time viewing hours!

We realize it is important for families, especially our children, recognize the sacrifices made by our loved ones during wartime. However, airing excessively profane language during prime-time television hours is not necessary to convey that sacrifice.

That’s it. Two years later, they suddenly have no problem with the violence – it’s all about the four-letter words.

Was this because of Janet and Bono? The “Values” election? Iraq? Or because some day they hope to protest some network airing a “cut” Passion of the Christ where’s He’s less cut up?

Don’t forget to cast your ballots for the People’s Choice Awards by December 13th. It doesn’t matter who you vote for (I didn’t vote for either Fahrenheit 9/11 or The Passion of the Christ – does that make me purple?)… just remember: Vote of Die!


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