December 8, 2004

Against PC Left and Right

Bridgett Johnson is a conservative screenwriter in Hollywood who isn’t happy with the Politically Correct orthodoxy that rules over the film industry. She wrote a guest column about it a few weeks ago for the Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Journal where she makes the following point:

One would think that in the name of artistic freedom, the creative community would take a stand against filmmakers being sent into hiding à la Salman Rushdie, or left bleeding in the street. Yet we've heard nary a peep from Hollywood about the van Gogh slaying. Indeed Hollywood has long walked on eggshells regarding the topic of Islamic fundamentalism. The film version of Tom Clancy's “The Sum of All Fears” changed Palestinian terrorists to neo-Nazis out of a desire to avoid offending Arabs or Muslims. The war on terror is a Tinsel Town taboo, even though a Hollywood Reporter poll showed that roughly two-thirds of filmgoers surveyed would pay to see a film on the topic.

In a recent conversation with a struggling liberal screenwriter, I brought up the Clancy film as an example of Hollywood shying away from what really affects filmgoers—namely, the al Qaeda threat vs. the neo-Nazi threat. He vehemently defended the script switch. “It's an easy target,” he said of Arab terrorism, repeating this like a parrot, then adding, “It's a cheap shot.” How many American moviegoers would think that scripting Arab terrorists as the enemy in a fiction film is a “cheap shot”? In fact, it's realism; it's what touches lives world-wide. It's this disconnect with filmgoers that has left the Hollywood box office bleeding by the side of the road.

I don’t know about the Hollywood box office “bleeding by the side of the road.” If there’s any evidence for it, she doesn’t cite any. And if she’s right I imagine (although I admit I’m only guessing) that political correctness has precious little to do with it.

She’s on solid ground, though, about movies themselves. Plenty of movies were made with Communist villains during the Cold War. I don’t recall any hand-wringing about how Hollywood hurt the self-esteem of the Russians.

If fictional Muslim terrorists offend certain people, the real ones on the news must give them a heart attack. But that’s not CNN’s fault.

Johnson hopes to see movies in Hollywood made by conservatives.
A liberal friend asked me what conservative filmmaking was, envisioning staid, G-rated pictures. The movement is better described as rebellion from the Hollywood status quo, the dream of being able to make a feature film whose political content won't be altered to make the Republicans evil, in which politically incorrect yet pertinent material won't end up on the cutting-room floor. It's about having faith in filmgoers that they'll eagerly support pictures to which they can relate.
Sounds great. But I’m not holding my breath. This article appeared yesterday at the BBC:
The director and screenwriter of the film adaptation of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials is to remove references to God and the church in the movie.

Chris Weitz, director of About a Boy, said the changes were being made after film studio New Line expressed concern.

The books tell of a battle against the church and a fight to overthrow God.

“They have expressed worry about the possibility of perceived anti-religiosity,” Weitz told a His Dark Materials fans' website.
How on Earth can you make a movie about a revolt against God without mentioning God? (Okay, Blade Runner told that story in an extremely roundabout way, but that’s, well, another story.) Replacing Palestinian terrorists with neo-Nazis was silly enough, but this is even more gutless.

Here is the author’s agent from the same article:

Of course New Line want to make money, but Mr Weitz is a wonderful director and Philip is very supportive…You have to recognise that it is a challenge in the climate of Bush's America.
This is not Bush’s America. This is everybody’s America.

Boo hoo, some movies offend people. And those very same movies are often box office smashes. Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Team America: World Police is only the latest example. The very fact that Team America was as raucously anti-PC as it was hilarious was a major part of the draw.

If you’re afraid of the content of the script in your hands that’s a pretty good indication that you need to be making a different movie. Find someone who isn’t a coward and who won’t take a meat-axe to the plot and let them shoot it instead.

Political Correctness is juvenile and asinine. It irritates more people than the number whose precious feelings it saves. I applaud Bridgett Johnson’s stance against left-wing PC. But let’s not forget about the right-wing variety (which is really quite rich if you think about it) at the same time.

PS - Don't forget to vote often for me in the Wizbang blog awards. I'm losing my margin here because Patterico posts a “vote for me!” at the bottom of every single one of his posts. At this moment I'm only ahead of him by 0.1 percent, so you need to go here and make it all better for me. Thanks!

Posted by Michael J. Totten at December 8, 2004 8:49 PM
Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Pajamas Media BlogRoll Member



Testimonials

"I'm flattered such an excellent writer links to my stuff"
Johann Hari
Author of God Save the Queen?

"Terrific"
Andrew Sullivan
Author of Virtually Normal

"Brisk, bracing, sharp and thoughtful"
James Lileks
Author of The Gallery of Regrettable Food

"A hard-headed liberal who thinks and writes superbly"
Roger L. Simon
Author of Director's Cut

"Lively, vivid, and smart"
James Howard Kunstler
Author of The Geography of Nowhere


Contact Me

Send email to michaeltotten001 at gmail dot com


News Feeds




toysforiraq.gif



Link to Michael J. Totten with the logo button

totten_button.jpg


Tip Jar





Essays

Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

The Men Who Would Be Orwell
Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Looking the World in the Eye
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

In the Eigth Circle of Thieves
E.L. Doctorow, The Nation

Against Rationalization
Christopher Hitchens, The Nation

The Wall
Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic

Jihad Versus McWorld
Benjamin Barber, The Atlantic Monthly

The Sunshine Warrior
Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine

Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn