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July 02, 2004

Partial Retraction on Hollywood Outrage Story

Or, How I Allowed Myself to Become a Screaming Ninny Over Decidedly Incomplete Information

I think I've already spent too much time on this subject. And if you're already bored by it, I suggest you skip this whole post, although you might want to take note of the main point: I think I was at least mostly wrong about this story.

I'm not writing this because I want to write it; I'm writing it because I think I'm obligated to write it. I don't like having to say "I think I was wrong," especially in the first post that got linked by Instapundit. But I can't see any other alternative (and believe me, I've looked!).

As they say in the media (or so Mickey Kaus tells me), one instance is just happenstance, hardly worth writing about. But three instances constitute a trend, something you can write a whole article about. And writers are always determined to find trends, even when none exist.

I think Tim Noah fell prey to this, and so did I, following him.

Kteemac has already pointed out to me that Noah's claim, and my claim as well, that Hollywood had "no" interest in these subjects before 9-11 was pretty much wrong. But that's not the real reason for this retraction. I still think greenlighting is the major step in a film's creation. I'd stand behind my original outrage if I could convince myself that there is something unambiguosly wrong about the Alexander the Great pictures.

But I can't.

I still think the Crusader picture is noxious; more on that later. But a big part of my outrage (again, borrowed from Noah) was that we had three 9-11 Apology flicks on our hands; a trend! But I'm no longer very sure we can count the Alexander pictures as likely to incite terrorist passions, and so I don't think we have a trend at all. I think we have one objectionable plotline in the Crusader picture, and a couple of Alexander the Great films tossed in to create a "trend."

When I read Noah's piece, I was pretty angry. So angry, in fact, that I quickly linked and added my own fuel to the fire without much thinking twice about it either way. Add "blogging while angry" as one of the deadly sins of blogging.

But what, exactly, did I find objectionable about the Alexander films? I didn't really know at the time I was so indignantly condemning them; and, upon reflection, I still don't know.

Was I objecting that the films portrayed Westerners beating Muslims at war (well, proto-Muslims; not Muslims, but the peoples of Arabia and Asia and Africa who would one day become Islamicized), fearing that showing such a humiliation would incite terrorists?

If so, why was I not also objecting to Spielberg's planned film about the raid on Entebbe? That film will certainly show Western (Israel counts as "Western" for these purposes) soundly defeating Muslim extremists. Obviously, that film too would have the capacity to incite Muslim extremists.

And yet I have no objection to that movie. Indeed, I'm eagerly anticipating it. Perhaps just because I think the politics of it are, on the whole, positive: showing that we can win against terrorists when we have the courage to confront outweighs the baleful consequence of further stoking Islamist rage.

I suppose my main objection, to the Stone film in particular, is that I believe that the film will dwell excessively on the suffering of the peoples conquered by Western imperialists; Stone will, I'm pretty certain, endeavor mightilly to make the parallel between then and now as ham-fistedly obvious as his Judas/Jesus imagery in Platoon.

But I don't know that with absolute certainty. Furthermore, I'm not sure that Islamist-types will even much want to watch a film featuring a queer European conquering their entire swath of worldspace. Even if Stone injects lots of anti-Western, pro-"peasant rebellion" subtext (or text!) into the film, will terrorist-sympathsizers really sit through two and a half hours of changrining defeat in order to wallow in the ten minutes of Marxist terrorist-porn Stone has injected along the way?

I don't know. Stone might have bad intentions, but his choice of subject material might prevent him from actually having a bad effect.

As to the Baz Luhrman pic-- even less needs to be said about this. Baz Luhrman, whatever his sexuality might be (no idea), makes campy, hyperironic, gleefully meta confections infused with a flagrantly queer sensibility. I don't know what the hell his Alexander the Great picture might look like; I suspect there might be some tap-dancing involved. However he chooses to play it, I somehow doubt that it'll be packing them in in Khartoum.

At any rate, I realize now that I began screaming like the most knee-jerk partisan ninny over these two movies without figuring out why I was against them. I think it's fair to be suspicious about the Stone picture, but mere suspicions shouldn't have engendered the unthinking white-hot scorn I heaped upon this project. The film's capacity to incite terrorists is far too attenuated and speculative to justify that level of hysterical shrieking.

So, there's the retraction. I wish I could put this off on Tim Noah -- how much I wish I'd applied my usual skepticism to his articles -- but I can't. Tim Noah wrote his article hoping for some attention; I linked it, without fact-checking or even thinking much about it, for the exact same reason.

Which brings me to the Crusader pic, a movie whose plotline I still find objectionable, given the current world situation.

I've always sort of liked Ridley Scott (although his less-regarded brother Tony in fact is a better director, if by "better director" you mean "making more reliably enjoyable movies"), and I even think I read he's somewhat conservative. So I'm not in any hurry to condemn him.

But I am still repulsed by his decision to make a film about the seminal "humiliation" or "injustice" inflicted on the world's Muslims in which the Western Crusaders are depicted as the villains and the Muslim "resistance" as the good guys. I don't see the pressing need to boost our enemies' morale like that.

Only with respect to that film am I reaffirming my original criticism.

For anyone who's still reading this overly-long mea culpa, thanks for sticking it out, and I'm sorry that I wasn't a bit more careful about getting my actual thoughts in order before I began pecking at the keyboard in frothy rage.

Thinking... before writing. Jeepers, there's an idea.

On the plus side, the next time I write about the follow-the-herd tendency of the media, I'll be writing from a position of authority, because, hey, I just followed-the-herd with the worst of them.

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posted by Ace at 01:45 PM

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