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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

‘Redacted’ and ‘The Golden Compass’ reap the fruits of bad publicity

I’m outraged! Outraged, I tell ya! I’m so steaming mad at how, um, Joel and Ethan Coen have, er, tried to fool us into thinking that actress Kelly Macdonald is actually from West Texas — she’s Scottish!!! — in No Country for Old Men that I demand all proud Americans immediately boycott this movie! Yes! Spread the word to each and every person you know — right now! — that this is a vile excuse for “entertainment” and just another example of Liberal Hollywood trying to force its disgusting anti-Americanism down the throats of decent people!
Ooo! And we must immediately set up picket lines outside any and all theaters where Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is playing. This despicable movie tries to fool God-fearing folk into thinking it’s religious — just look at that title!! — and then, once you’ve paid your money, you see what it really is: a repulsive demonstration of Hollywood’s contempt for The Family. Director Sidney Lumet would, um, have us believe that, er, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke are brothers! Yeah, that’s it. This, ahem, piece of trash spits on the concept of family, and it is the duty of all moral Americans to stand up to this attack on our values!

And don’t even get me started on Lars and the Real Girl.

I’m kidding, of course. You get it. These are intelligent, compelling, complicated movies that have no chance — no matter how high to the, ahem, heavens we critics praise them — of seeing the kind of box office numbers an Enchanted or a Beowulf can get just by virtue of their high concepts. Unless we arrange to “boycott” them, vociferously and obnoxiously. Because there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

Not everyone seems to understand that, of course. Bill O’Reilly, the Fox News blowhard, is up in arms over Brian De Palma’s new film, Redacted, which tells a fictionalized version of the true story of American soldiers in Iraq who raped an Iraqi teenager and then murdered her and her entire family in an attempt to cover up their crime. There’s no question that the events happened, and there’s no question that De Palma has in any way glorified this horror or suggested that the behavior of these soldiers is typical of the conduct of the American army in Iraq. Still, O’Reilly has been ranting about the film for months, like this:

There is no excuse for “Redacted.” The incident is based on a true story, but those who committed the crimes are in prison for life. You don’t celebrate this kind of aberration with a movie — you don’t brand the U.S. military with this stigma.

Unless, of course, the truth is shameful, and deserves to be stigmatized. Because the film does suggest that the overall wrongheadedness of the occupation of Iraq, of throwing military personnel into a policing situation in an alien culture for which they are untrained and unprepared for, is contributing to the kind of frustration and powerlessness that fuels crimes like this one. And thanks to Bill-O, who could be the poster boy for bad publicity, more people will hear about — and see — Redacted that ever would have before. Google “boycott redacted” and you’ll find how the rightwing blogosphere has heeded O’Reilly’s call to arms (one that we can hope will remain figurative). All the sputtering commentary about how De Palma and billionaire Mark Cuban, who financed the film (it debuted on his HDNet before coming to theaters) are somehow “unpatriotic,” “slanderous” of the troops, even “treasonous” for merely telling a truth is hilarious for how counterproductive it it. Cuban himself has said of the boycott: “Bill O’Reilly is my new best friend.”

And then there’s The Golden Compass, based on the fantasy novel by Philip Pullman, which is giving The Catholic League vapors over its supposedly atheistic agenda — Pullman is a vocal atheist, and his trilogy condemns the abuse of religious authority, so it must be out to kill God. The League is urging a boycott — persumably only by Catholics or Christians, though one never knows with these folks — of the film “over fears children seeing the movie will give up on God.” (Because, you know, kids just naturally believe in the God of the New Testament without any prompting or brainwashing on the part of already indoctrinated grownups.) Associated Content contributor Melissa Carole explains that “parents” are concerned about the film and how Hollywood will seduce our unsuspecting childers into a life of godlessness thusly: “The worst parts of the first installment will be played down to keep from making Christian parents angery [sic].” And you can trust her, because she has a deep understanding of the work in the first place: “The trilogy is said to get darker and darker as the story progresses…” (emphasis mine) Just because she hasn’t read the books — never mind hasn’t seen a movie that hasn’t even opened — doesn’t mean you should read the books either.

In any event, Compass director Chris Weitz isn’t bothered. The Catholic League also boycotted The Da Vinci Code, and that ended up one of last year’s biggest moneymakers. This boycott “will make more people see the film,” he has said. Maybe the Catholic Church’s own recent encounters with bad publicity — which, to be fair, don’t seem to have had an upside — have misled it about the usually positive value of bad publicity.

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