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March 15, 2006

This Just In: Richard Roeper Is A Blantatly Dishonest Leftist Apologist

There are different sorts of dishonesty. The obvious case is simply misrepresenting facts in a way you know to be untrue.

A less obvious case is advancing an argument you know to be invalid and therefore, effectively, a lie. Your only defense is abject stupidity; you can claim, after the blatant dishonesty of the claim is exposed, that you didn't realize how idiotic you were being in advancing it.

Usually people say this is being "disingenuous," not "dishonest." But let's not split hairs. "Disingenuous" is just another word for "dishonest."

Richard Roeper is either a liar or an idiot. He's a smug, self-satisfied prick, so he'll never admit to being and idiot, so, this possibility excluded, we'll have to just content ourselves with callling him a liar.

Here's how Roeper defends the sick pro-terrorist politics of V For Vendetta:

Although the time frame is in the not-too-distant future, the London depicted in the movie bears only a structural resemblance to today's reality.


In "V," Big Brother has taken over Britain. The fascist leader of the country (played by John Hurt) is a Hitlerian tyrant who spews invective on giant monitors placed everywhere. Free speech, homosexuality and artistic expression have been outlawed; citizens must abide by a curfew; and the streets are controlled by secret police. The government has conducted gruesome medical experiments on innocent citizens, with tragic and horrific results.

In short, the London in "V for Vendetta" looks like the world if Germany had won World War II.

There's no mistaking the Nazi imagery throughout the film, from Hurt's performance to the uniforms worn by the police to the flags adorning the city. The Wachowski brothers stopped just short of having Hurt sporting a Hitler mustache.


Like the anti-heroes in "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Beauty and the Beast," the masked creature known as V is a conflicted, tortured soul who falls for an innocent beauty and brings her into his hidden world.

Is V a terrorist? The oppressive government labels him as such. He tells Natalie Portman's Evey, "Blowing up a building can change the world." At one point she calls him a monster. He's also borderline insane, as Evey learns the hard way.

Still: Is he a terrorist? Of course, the real-life criminals that bombed subway trains and a bus in London last summer are terrorists, thugs, monsters. But that doesn't mean every act of blowing up a building is an act of terrorism. If we knew Osama bin Laden was alone in a building right now, would blowing up that building be an act of terrorism?

The villains in V are many. There's the Hitler-like dictator. His ruthless henchmen. A pedophile bishop. A hate-filled commentator who worked in a torture camp.

These are the power elite that V wants to destroy. The London in "V for Vendetta" is not the real London. In the London of "V," taking down the government would be an act of heroism, not terrorism.

Anyone see the idiocy of that argument?

Roeper is claiming that, if a film creates a fictive world where the moral choice in that world is to do what would be unthinkable in real life, it's not irresponsible, and it's not suggesting that doing the unthinkable in real life may, in fact, be thinkable.

But this is childish. Every film creates its own moral universe of good and evil. In the Godfather series, of course, Michael and the Don were relatively "good" because the film created a false moral universe in which everyone else -- movie executives, cops, politicians -- were worse. They are heroes, because in the "reality" the film conjures, everyone else is a villain.

The question is hardly "Are the actions taken by heroes in a film morally justified given that film's moral universe?" Of course they're justified in that film's moral universe; the hero's actions always are justified. That's what makes him a hero. The universe he inhabits has been carefully crafted to make his actions not only justifiable, but necessary. James Bond is an assassin and saboteur, but in the moral universe he inhabits, his cold-blooded killings (including, occasionally, of security guards and soldiers who really aren't "evil" so much as just drawing a meager paycheck from an employer) are justified. Because he's got to stop an atomic bomb from blowing up, or whatever.

But James Bond films are romps with almost no connection to any "serious" issues or even actual politics. Hell, the films themselves discarded the whole Soviet threat in the sixties, instead blaming all the evil and chaos in the world on a fantasy terrorist organization called SPECTRE. (Alas, SPECTRE has become quite real, in the form of Muslim extremist terrorism. But it was just a silly fantasy at the time it was offered up as a villain.)

V For Vendetta, on the other hand, quite deliberately suggests parallels with today's real-world politics and issues; everyone associated with the film admits the film "raises important questions about terrorism and violence." No James Bond film has ever, ever even pretended to be anything more than Mallory-era Knightly Quest To Slay A Dragon, updated with modern dress.

Don't believe me? Goldfinger is just a retelling of Wagner's Ring Cycle; in the book, Auric Goldfinger is a dwarf who coveted gold, just as in the Ring Cycle the dwarves coveted gold and hoarded it in the rivers; Pussy Galore, the leader of the all-female flying team "The Flying Circus" is of course just a Valkyrie leader-- a leader of flying warrior-women of the skies. Other Bond boks have similar echoes of medieval knight-errant stories; Moonraker features a villain named "Drax," or dragon, for example.

The point is, it's permissible to portray all sorts of otherwise reprhensible actions committed by a hero in a film that is clearly a silly fantasy (Batman hardly "raises questions about the justifications for vigilantism;" Swamp-Thing does not "raise questions about the justifications for eco-terrorism") and quite a different thing indeed to portray such reprehensible actions in a film which, by design, deliberately mimics and echoes real-world politics and issues.

It is not difficult to disprove Roeper's silly thesis -- that just because terrorism might be justified by the fictive politics of a film, it is not irresponsible to make such a film, or dangerous to do so, in that such a depiction might be taken by some to justify terrorism in the real world.

Imagine: I've just written a script. In my script, the hero is a vigilante-terrorist hunter. Like the Punisher, I guess, with real-world weapons and only slightly superhuman abilities, except he hunts not organized crime figures but... Muslim terrorists in America, hiding as "sleepers," that is, pretending to be normal law-abiding American Muslims. But my hero knows better; he has "sources" and finds "clues" proving that each one of these suburban Muslims is actually a sleeper agent for Al Qaeda.

Now, in this script, the Muslim terrorists he hunts really are vicious terrorists. They are not innocent Muslims he is murdering out of insanity or xenophobia; they really are terrorists which the government "can't touch" for some reason, either because the government is incompetent, overly restricted by Evil Liberals, or has been cowed into dhimmitude by outside Muslim extremist violence.

So, in the moral universe this hypothetical script establishes, it is pefectly justified that the hero should stalk and kill Muslim terrorists by his own authority. He must kill them, because no one else will, and they're planning some truly spectacular violence -- say, the full destruction of New York City by five or six small nuclear bombs carefully placed in the city to insure its full and complete destruction, and the deaths of six or seven million souls.

Would Richard Roeper defend me were I to produce this as a movie? Would he offer he same defense as he offers for V -- that in the moral universe I have created, the acts of vigilante violence perpetrated against Muslims are wholly justified?

No, he would not. He would call it a viciously irresponsible film, a film glorifying the murders of Muslims in the real world by giving people the idea that what the hero does in the fantasy-universe is justified as well in the real one. By suggesting that the moral universe of the movie is actually pretty similar to the real world's moral universe, the movie would be suggesting, to the dangerously suggestible, it's okay to go hang a Muslim if you suspect "he's up to something."

He would excoriate such a movie as racist, dangerous, xenophobic, and likely to incite murder.

So, why the difference in defending V? V similarly constructs a fake universe in which horrific violence is in fact morally justified, and also suggests strong similarities between that fictive universe and our own world. People who think that we now live in a fascist nation -- and there are many such folks; just read the Daily Kos' commenters -- will receive the intended message that, if the situation is dire enough, it's quite justified to blow up a building filled with innocent civlillans.

And so will foreign Mulsim extremists, who hardly need Hollywood adding to their rage and determination to vindicate Islam through murder.

If the question about a film's irresponsibility or propensity to cause real-world violence is, as Roeper dishonestly claims, answered simply by whether a hero's actions are justified in the context of the movie's moral universe, then Death Wish is quite responsible too, as Paul Keasy was justified (in the movie) in just about every goddamned thing he did.

And a hypothetical script about a Bernie Goetz-like putz, constantly harrassed and mugged by black thugs, who then goes on a shooting rampage killing all "black muggers" he finds, is also quite responsible and justifiable. After all, in the fantasy morality of the film world he inhabits, he too is justified in his actions. And of course Richard Roeper would scream "dangerously irresponsible racist murder-bait," because he would comprehend that there may be some who take the film's universe to be sufficiently similar to the real one to justify going on a similar real-world "black mugger" hunt.

But Richard Roeper knows all this. He is not very smart, but he is hardly retarded. He recognizes that some films are irresponsible because they suggest that certain actions are justified, not just in the made-up world of the film, but in the actual real world we all live in.

He has advanced an argument he knows to be false to justify a film whose politics he admires.

The only way to defend V for Vendetta is to claim that sometimes terrorism -- the murder of innocent civilians -- really is justified on occasion, and that V is therefore "guilty" of only revealing the truth.

So either Roeper believes this, or he's just willing to countenance a deeply irresponsible and terrorist-promoting film if he simply admires the filmmaker's left-wing politics enough.

Fuck you, Richard Roeper, you dishonest, smug, terrorist-apologist hack.

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posted by Ace at 02:34 PM

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