SF Signal asks several SF authors If you ran Hollywood, what changes would you make? What would stay the same?
John C. Wright has an excellent response which centers around his complaint of "philosophical product placement" a term I find perfect in describing how so many films are ruined.
…Bollywood, movies from India, are more wholesome, more family-friendly, have better song and dance numbers, and notably more attractive actresses. The weft of the Culture of Death hangs over our Hollywood films, which I do not scent from these overseas films. It has been many a year since I have seen a Hollywood film that does not use "philosophical product placement" to thrust one or another particularly annoying little ad for their materialistic, mildly pinko, morally relative, or anti-American world view in my face. We see such things as would make Cicero or Marcus Aurelius blush with anger, not to mention John Adams and Tom Jefferson.
I am not talking about deliberately politicized films whose anti-American bias is bold and clear, like V for Vendetta or Starship Troopers. I am talking about a universal atmosphere. Even lighthearted kiddie fare like Happy Feet or space opera like Revenge of the Sith or epics like Beowulf cannot be told in a straightforward and honest fashion, a story for the sake of a story, but some little message has to be inserted either mocking religion, or sneering at George Bush, or belittling Christianity. I call it "product placement" because it is the intrusion, never where needed, of one extraneous line or extra quip that allows the film-maker to display his political correctness. And we all know that moral relativism and multiculturalism are good right? Because only a Sith would speak in absolutes.
His comments are not all negatives and lists that almost all of the top 20 films are science fiction and fantasy extravaganzas and that the quality of Babylon 5 and the new Battlestar Gallatica match anything else quality wise. He follows up his interview with a post on his blog answering a complaint.
…The first comment in the comments box chides me for not admiring the healthy dissent and vibrancy created by the willingness of mainstream cinema to call into question the core values of the society. Myself, I would retort that this is exactly my complaint: the core values of society are countercultural, and they are expressed with a lockstep uniformity I find both non-vibrant to the point of boring and non-healthy to the point of morbid.
In the past, the values of the culture and the counterculture were at odds, but were not necessarily enemies. The culture prized things like modesty, fidelity, sobriety, and thrift; the counterculture was kept in check until holidays or late nights after work was done, and it was permitted to express itself. The counterculture prizes things like bragging, sexual nonchalance, wild fun, and immediate self-gratification: it is the culture of Just Do It and of Fa-La-La Live For Today. The counterculture expressed itself in off-duty hours and drinking songs in much the same way the culture expressed itself in hymns and austere public monuments. The speeches made at graduation ceremonies are solemn (and forgettable) precisely because they are the most pure expression of the culture: graduation speeches are the last opportunity for the elders of the tribe to impart their wisdom to the next generation, to transmit the values of the culture. The ribald lyrics, mocking altar and crown, that workingmen sing over their mugs of beer at the public house after the children are abed, were an expression of the counterculture.
In terms of religion, the culture believed in things like the Holy Ghost, and the counterculture believed in things like ghost stories. No one wants to hear about saints when they are drinking a pint; but they don’t mind hearing about some eerie Oriental spiritualism. It is no coincidence that rock stars and film stars go in for Zen Zoroastrianism or the study of Wiccan Cabalism rather than Rotary Club Episcopalianism.
Mea Culpa Father.
David B, Into great silence was amazing and I see where you’re going with the painting broadly line,
however I would recommend his livejournal and reading the whole article along with the comments (assuming you haven’t already)
Because only a Sith would speak in absolutes.
Certainly a candidate for stupidest line in a Star Wars movie. Up there with:
“See you in Hell!”
“Good! Our first catch of the day.”
“The day we stop believing in democracy is the day we lose it!”
“So this is how democracy dies; to thunderous applause.”
The line is also stupid because it had been established earlier, during Palpatine’s discussion with Anakin, that the Dark Side is superior because it is willing to look at shades of grey. So Lucas is contradicting something he wrote just an hour earlier, all because he needed to bash Bush.
Ha! Good point Paul. I always roll my eyes at the selective relativism from certain quarters. Imagine Gandalf saying, “Oh, the Goblins have valid cultural aspirations. Let’s pull our forces off the Anduin, submit our differences to a multilateral peace committee chaired by Saruman and start an Orc studies program at MTU.” [Minas Tirith University]
The culture of death meme will probably go down in history as one of the most effective religious recruitment plans ever. It satisfies the need for a religion to be the driving engine of conflict while at the same time, through demonization and cultural distance grants its followers an unearned sense of superiority regarding societies that experiences far less death by warfare, rioting, and murder per capita and often in absolute terms as well, than their more religious ancestors.
You mean like communist China?
I guess John C. Wright didn’t see Into Great Silence, Spider-man 3, Bella (three movies which weren’t morally relative, etc.) along with a good number of other movies. He must’ve seen some stinkers.
Don’t paint too broadly, or you will harm the good while as well as the bad.
I think the Revenge of the Sith lines are somewhat ambiguous. One subtext has them referring to Bush, while another seems to refer to the events leading to Hitler’s ascendancy. I believe there’s a parallel to the Reichstag fire, which furnished a pretext for AH’s assumption of absolute power.
Of course, I could be wrong.
I see Hoodlum’s being Hoodlum again…without any development of his anti-religious screeds. Now don’t mention Red China, or our dear Soviet brethern, nor Pol Pot, nor Robispierre…because athiestic governments have always been so much fairer and much less bloodier (not to mention a better champion of civil liberties, human dignity, and rights) than their religious counterparts. We know better than allowing facts and stats get in the way of bias, hate, belligerence, and prejudice. Better to split hairs, redefine ( at a level even Bill Clinton would find remarkable), and obfuscate than to deal with the reality that athiestic governments have the track record they do. If only we all could be so enlightened.
The question John was addressing was what he would do to change Hollywood. As far as I know, “Into Great Silence” and “Bella” are not Hollywood productions. Spiderman 3 of course would be. I think his broad critique of Hollywood as fair allowing for exceptions.
I would argue that apart from the profoundly silly “only the Sith speak in absolutes” line, Revenge of the Sith movie contains more authentically Catholic themes than the Lord of the Rings movies (not the books, they had plenty of Catholic ideals that Jackson never picked up on).
Most dominant is the seduction of Anakin Skywalker. Although he expresses remorse when he kills, he does not repent and so he moves from hot-blooded murder to cold-blooded murder to gratuitous murder. Anakin keeps his marriage secret thus betraying his Jedi vows but becomes so attached to Padme that the fear of losing her makes him vulnerable to the false promises of Palpatine – she shall not surely die. The Jedi flagrantly violate their own code of conduct because they sense danger – they act out of fear and fail to live up to their own principles of allowing providence to act when they reach the limits of morally acceptable behavior. As a result, they lose the moral high ground and Anaking is unable to see the Jedi as better than the Sith. And so without a moral compass he opts for the side with the glitzier promises.
This brilliantly shows the value of moral precepts such as needing repentance beyond remorse and never doing evil that good may result with by showing the consequences of violating these precepts. It is a rare movie that shows problems with the “ends justifies the means” approach.
As for the political commentary on the fall of democracy, his intention was to show historically how democracies have yielded quickly to totalitarian leaders. Namely committee being too slow and ineffective at dealing with a perceived external threat that a strong leader was invited to take over.
If Cold-War USA could see today’s USA they would think it was a police state from behind the Iron Curtain. We should be thanking Lucas for the timely cautionary tale.
I recently had the odd experience in a video store of picking up films, recognizing in each case which aspect of liberalism it was advertising, and putting it back on its shelf. My teen-aged daughter was with me, scanning the shelves from the opposite direction, and she had the same experience! We used to be film fans.
Stranger yet, a month later, a sib, after having watched “Bella” reported to me that she “hadn’t realized it was a movie with an agenda.” As if…
Foreign filmmakers still seem free to make movies that are not obvious advertisements. If you don’t mind subtitles, the foreign film is the way to watch!
This anime fan agrees with Joanne, and recommends “Deathnote” to all present.
What age group is the targeted audience for “Deathnote”, Melody? My daughter likes Anime, too.
“Revenge of the Sith movie contains more authentically Catholic themes than the Lord of the Rings movies “
Your statements about “Revenge of the Sith” are interesting and, I think, correct.
However, those themes are not exclusive the Catholicism. Tolkien said that “Rings” was unconsciously Cathoic in it’s original writing, but consciously Catholic in it’s revision. The themes of Priest, Prophet, and King, the roles of Jesus Christ, and reflected in the Characters of Gandalf, Frodo, and Aragorn.
In the “FOTR” movie, Ian Mckellen’s characters falls into the pit with his body in cruciform, which the filmmakers were aware of. Howard shore, who wrote the score, has said that musical traditions of Tolkien’s faith, such as Gregorian chant, influenced his work on the film. I would taking a gander at the article on “LOTR” at:
(Steven does a very good job of examining the films), If you haven’t read it already.
…The Star Wars myth is also based upon a gnostic ‘Force,’ which despires “this crude matter” (Yoda, meaning our bodies.) Tolkien’s mythology on the other hand, speaks about “The ONE,” and life after death.
Here’s a quote from http://www.decentfilms.com:
“speaking to a group of Christian journalists at a The Return of the King press junket, Jackson acknowledged the storys religious underpinnings, commenting, “Im not a Catholic, so I didnt put any of that personally into the film on my behalf, but I certainly am aware that there were certain [religious] things that Tolkien was thinking of We made a real decision at the beginning that we werent going to introduce any new themes of our own into The Lord of the Rings. We were just going to make a film based upon what clearly Tolkien was passionate about.”
“Going a step further, Fran Walsh expressed appreciation for the imaginative appeal of Tolkiens ideals, at the same time admitting that she wasnt sure they applied in the real world. “I think [these] stories do offer us comfort that we live in a moral universe, whether or not that is [true] who can say The values in them, they give you a sense of hope, that it isnt chaos, that it isnt arbitrary, that it isnt without a point. I love storytelling for those reasons. So many things fall away as we kind of charge forward into this new century. Theres so much cynicism and such a lack of ritual and a belief system to govern anything. I like stories for that because they still offer it.”
“As an example of the films honoring Tolkiens religious themes, Jackson and others specifically pointed to Gandalfs stirringly poetic affirmation of life after death: “No, the journey doesnt end here. Theres another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back and it will change to silver glass. And then you see it white shores, and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.” The language is Tolkiens, taken from The Return of the King, and reflects the authors use of the language of myth and poetry to resonate with truths of faith without becoming explicitly allegorical.”
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