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January 15, 2014

Mollie Hemmingway: Hey, How Come Film Critics Savaged "The Passion of the Christ" for Its Brutal Depiction of Violence, But Praise "12 Years a Slave" for the Same Sort of Brutality?

Via Hot Air, Mollie Hemmingway remembered what critics had said about Mel Gibson's 2004 film about the suffering of Jesus on the day of his crucifixion -- left-leaning critics widely condemned it as "torture porn."

The left-leaning critics, however, don't seem to remember what they once wrote. For example, here's the same Detroit News critic discussing the violence of Passion, and then, nine years later, that of Slave:

Detroit News (same critic) Passion: A filmed bloodletting like no other on record, essentially a terribly graphic two-hour torture sequence.

Slave: “12 Years a Slave” lays out an institution so twisted and wrong that its honest portrayal has been avoided for centuries. Yes, it’s dark and brutal. It needs to be.

Gee, what could possibly account for his dramatic shift in position as to whether "dark and brutal" violence was justified? I have no idea whatsoever, apart from the obvious which is of course the answer: Because he approves of the propagandistic value of one film's depiction of brutality and disapproves of the other's.


Los Angeles Times (same critic)

Passion: A film so narrowly focused as to be inaccessible for all but the devout.

Slave: When a director who never ever blinks takes on a horrific subject, a nightmare in broad daylight is the inevitable result. Welcome, if that is the right word, to the world of “12 Years a Slave.”

He warns away the general public from Passion, but invites them to 12 Years.

David Edelstein

Passion (at Slate): This is a two-hour-and- six-minute snuff movie — The Jesus Chainsaw Massacre — that thinks it’s an act of faith.

Slave (at New York Magazine): Twelve Years a Slave, published in 1853, is an even-toned but acid account of unimaginable horror.

And on, and on, and on and on and on.

It is difficult to divorce oneself from one's political sympathies and allegiances when critiquing a work of art with a political component. But it is clear these reviewers didn't even bother to attempt such a thing. Their reviews flow predictably and inexorably from their political beliefs. They might as well have simply reviewed "The Republican Party" and "The Democratic Party," rather than pretending they were reviewing an artistic work with a separate identity and mission from partisan politics.

David French similarly notes the left-wing critics seem to believe they are reviewing something called "George W. Bush's War on Terror" when they pretend to review the Afghanistan war film Lone Survivor.

As the war in Afghanistan winds down, and as the American public is increasingly “war weary” (a phrase I find fascinating since at any given time only 0.6 percent of Americans are in uniform, and the vast majority of Americans have endured not one single second of sacrifice for the war effort since 9/11), anti-military and anti-American sentiment may be rediscovering its Vietnam-era voice. The vehicle for the latest two minutes’ hate is a bit curious, however. Lone Survivor tells the story of a SEAL mission gone wrong and the resulting firefight where a small band of SEALs displayed remarkable courage under fire. But they showed more than courage. An act of humanity sealed their fate — the decision to free Afghan civilians that stumbled into their path. With their own lives on the line, they obeyed American rules of engagement, obeyed the laws of war, and conducted themselves with honor (with one SEAL posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor).

So how do some in the left-wing press write about this movie? Here’s L.A. Weekly:

These four men were heroes. But these heroes were also men. As the film portrays them, their attitudes to the incredibly complex War on Terror, fought hillside by bloody hillside in the Afghan frontier with both U.S. and Taliban forces contributing to an unconscionably high civilian body count, were simple: Brown people bad, American people good.

Really? You say that after the film shows how Americans actually gave their lives rather than kill an innocent “brown” person? Make no mistake, this is an accusation of the most vile racism, and it slanders these SEALs. Indeed, it slanders more than the SEALs involved in that firefight. Friends of mine died in Iraq — including, and this will be a news flash to L.A. Weekly (which apparently views our forces as all-white), “brown” friends — because of their concern for and respect for the lives of local citizens. We erred on the side of saving local lives, to the point where people very dear to me paid the ultimate price.

He documents this primitive tribalism of other critics' reviews in other places, including (oh, this is far too easy) the crude-minded student newspaper Salon.

To play Mollie Hemmingway's game with Lone Survivor: You know there was another film that depicted a very simple Us Vs. Them code of morality on the advisability of killing one deemed, in primitive manner, "bad." That film was Django, and for some reason, the left-wing critics weren't all that upset at the film's literally black-and-white view on shooting Evil Doers.

Here's the LA Weekly reviewer on Django:

Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained Is Both Seriously Thoughtful and Seriously Entertaining

Watching Django Unchained, it's easy to imagine that Quentin Tarantino had such a blast making his last picture, the ebullient Holocaust fantasia Inglourious Basterds, that he decided to take his whole blood-spattered historical tent show on the road, this time putting down stakes in antebellum Dixieland....

Is it mere coincidence that Django Unchained arrives in the same season as Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, the second of two Spielberg films about slavery (after 1997's Amistad) that never expose audiences to the harsh realities of plantation life?

I myself found the various head-shots very thoughtful.

Not the same reviewer, incidentally.

We keep seeing that: Praise for the depiction of the "harsh realities" of the subject matter under consideration... at least when it appears in a film which the left perceives as advancing its own ball.

When Lone Survivor depicts a jihadist decapitation of an innocent -- also a "harsh reality" of jihadism, as a search on Ogrish.com can confirm for you, as could Daniel Pearl, if he hadn't been beheaded -- it's derided as racial jingoism and "war propaganda."

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posted by Ace at 04:41 PM

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