Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wednesday 7/10

It's Wednesday - Time to start planning for the weekend!

I wish they'd name tropical storms and hurricanes after character stereotypes, it'd make for better headlines. "Drunken Angry Father Looks to Wreak Havoc Along Coast" or "Clingy Ex Girlfriend Looks To Ruin Weekend." It really would spice up the weather reports and offer a bit of context for the severity of the situation. "Abusive Sibling Swats Midwest" really communicates the damage better than a simple name like Dwight, Helga, or Sebastian. Just an idea.

Now For Something A Little Different...

Normally right about now you would be getting my random recap of movie or toy news and what nots that have occurred within the last couple days, but today is going to be a bit different. Since this is my chosen soap box, it's time I do a little ranting and raving to justify this blog of mine. Every now and again I'll be climbing up to this stage and letting off a little bit of steam. Don't worry, it won't be anything political necessarily, but at least topical and interesting. I'll do my best to maintain my usual level of sarcasm and wit to keep the tone light but still on topic. Today's rant: Freedom of Speech

Ouch... I know I said this wasn't going to be too politically topical but there has been a growing trend in the media world that is getting to a point where one can't help but commentate on it. In this case I am referring to the growing call for boycotting the film adaptation of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game. 

Let me get started by saying that I just finished reading the book just a couple of days ago. It is a fantastic literary work. The story is thrilling and hard to put down and the writing is engrossing. It's a book that once you start it you want to finish it as fast as possible. The central story is about a young child that is recruited into an elite military academy with the goal to train the next generation of military geniuses that will save the Earth and all of humanity from an alien invasion. With that, if/when/already have read the book, it should be recognized that it is a daunting task to adapt a work that spans the better part of 10 years and covers a swath of political and social themes into a single film, but Writer and Director Gavin Hood is giving it his best shot. Where is the controversy you might ask? Well the short answer to that is the novel's author Orson Scott Card.

Orson Scott Card is a seminal science fiction writer with dozens of award winning and respected works to his credit. He also happens to be a strong opponent to any and all LGBT rights movements from marriage to child adoption. Where one could excuse the random musing and verbal rumblings(which he made many and most of them quite horrible about gays and lesbians which you can read here if you're inclined to make yourself angry.) of one author about a political issue,  but as a longtime member of the board of the National Organization for Marriage, he's made it a mission to seemingly topple any and all gay rights causes. The National Organization for Marriage in a nut shell does everything it can to stop or roadblock any and all efforts for marriage and rights equality for gays and lesbians. They're extremely vocal and politically active with a strong following. In recent months, weeks and with the latest Supreme Court ruling over turning the Defense Of Marriage Act - his mutterings have garnered a great deal of attention. 

I'll say it flat out up front that I do not agree with the dude. He may be a fantastic writer but when it comes to the real world, his table is missing a few legs. Because of his spoken and written statements on the matter, the film adaptation for Ender's Game has come under fire. Not because of the content of his book - children being trained to kill - but his spoken and written words away from the book. There seems to be some kind of post hoc ergo propter hoc scenario at play that if you pay for a ticket to see the movie(which I plan to do) you therefor support Orson Scott Card's views(which I don't). You can read The Mary Sue's musings as well as a blog post from Alyssa Rosenberg on Think Progress about the ethical guide to consuming controversial media. They all make very lucid and interesting points, even going so far as to use Card's own words against him to highlight the errors of his arguments. However, there is just one problem with all this. Well more than one but to start, the man has a constitutional right to express himself no matter how wrong we might think he is. In this instance he and many others think he's right. When everyone thinks they're right how can anyone be wrong? The truth of it is everyone is right and everyone is wrong because everyone is a collective hypocrite.

That may be a bit judgmental but it is very, very true. All of us state final judgments on certain issues but then find excuses and rationalizations for other problematic topics. This is bad, That is good; and these certain things should be avoided at all costs - plastic, religions, politics, music, Monsanto, movies, books, fracking, the environment - pick your issue, find your stance, and live in the murky grey area. To be fair and honest, lets use me as the main example. To get the ball rolling; Mel Gibson. Here is someone I think is a brilliant filmmaker, but a deeply flawed individual. Do I like his views about certain people and religions? No. But I will defend Apocalypto and his other works as exceptional examples of story structure and film making prowess. I don't like his views on certain issues, nor do I defend his rumored violence towards women, but there is a part of me that hopes he can get his head back on straight, put all that behind him and get back to doing what he does best.

That brings me to Victor Salva. Who is he you might ask? Well he is the writer and director behind such films as Jeepers Creepers, Powder, and the adaptation of Peaceful Warrior. He also happens to be a convicted child molester too. Yup. He was convicted of 5 felony counts of having sexual relations with a 12 year old boy which he also video taped in 1988. Since then his career has trudged forth and has numerous writing and directing credits to his name. In fairness I didn't learn about his past until after seeing the second Jeepers Creepers movie, at which point I was thoroughly disgusted. You watch Powder - a movie about an outsider who is mentally and physically tormented, or Jeepers Creepers - a creature that hunts for various parts of teen boys to rebuild its own body and I get pretty sickened out when you put those films in the context of Salva's past. As such, I steadfastly refuse to watch any of his movies, ever. But on the other side of the same hand I defend Roman Polanski - not so much his terrible past deeds, but the subsequent series of films he's created since. I admit that I find rationalizations; he survived the German occupation of Poland, his pregnant wife being murdered by the Manson Family, he was on drugs at the time, he's been married almost 25 years to one woman and they have 2 kids; et cetera, et cetera. From The Tenant to Rosemary's Baby to The Pianist - I actively work to separate the man from the artist so I can continue to enjoy the art. Would I want to be in the same room with the guy? The film nerd in me says yes, while the man in me would want to break his legs. I am a hypocrite - I would never give the same consideration of separating the art from the man towards Victor Salva. 

This brings us back to Orson Scott Card. I could bring up numerous other writers and artists such as Isaac Asimov had a penchant for non-consensual butt-pinching, Hemingway was an alcoholic womanizer, Leni Riefenstahl has her numerous issues, and I'm sure if we had a time machine we could discover more than a few peccadilloes to judge Shakespeare for and give reason to ban his works or deem him irrelevant today; but that would miss the point. The point is, here is an excellent opportunity for us all to rise above it and end the hypocrisy if even just once. There are a lot of careers attached to the success of the Ender's Game film, the cast of child actors, writer director Gavin Hood, the digital effects crews, I won't include Harrison Ford - he's pretty successful already - but boycotting this film is more than just boycotting Card. It isn't known to me and I can't find any information as to whether or not Card gets any back end cash from the film so I can't directly say that if you support the movie you support Card. But that seems to be the main argument of the boycott regardless. Which I think is missing the greater opportunity. 

In light of the recent legal progresses for the LGBT community(whom I fully support) in several states and in the Supreme Court, I see a fantastic chance for them to become greater than they already are. Rather than boycott Card, why not invite him? If tolerance is the ultimate goal, it has to be two-fold. While his response to the boycott: "With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot.  The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state. Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute." - is more than a little dickheaded, he does have a point. If you want to break it down in archetypes of hero's and enemies - the enemy is down, they've lost big and with this kind of momentum, they're going to keep loosing. However, I will advocate the old adage "don't kick a man when he's down." If you're really for tolerance and civil debate - THIS is the perfect time to extend a hand, help the guy back up onto his feet so you both can look each other in the eyes as equals. Here is a chance to invite the guy to a rally. Take him to a screening of a gay/lesbian themed movie or play, send him great works of literature, but the ultimate goal should to wake the man up, not stomp on him. I'm a firm believer that change and understanding occurs through education. Show him that the fears he's supported and spouted are completely wrong by not adding fuel to the fire. We all fear the unknown until we get to know it. Here is the perfect chance to not be a hypocrite(as we all tend to be). I'm not advocating going to see the movie if you don't want to and if you really feel that strongly about the guy, good on you, but this is could well be the inroad needed to turn a great "enemy" into one of your greatest allies. It may not work; I'm a realist, some people are incapable of change no matter how much evidence contrary to their position they're given. But if there is a chance you could win the war - why not take it and travel the high road? With a stringent and vocal boycott campaign you run the greater risk of looking as bad and emboldening the cause you're working to enlighten. Food for thought, I've said my bit. Leave comments if you've got them.

Don't worry - tomorrow I'll be back to being my usual sarcastically funny self. Enjoy the day!  

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