We’ve already had this discussion – that everything is political, even in the most mundane and inane of movies.
Still, what’s always amazing to me is how hard some people work at reading political meaning into works that had no such ideas in mind. Just because you can make a case for a metaphorical reading of a movie doesn’t mean that you should.
Consider the recent hoo-haw over “Toy Story 3.” No, not the mudfight over the fact that a couple of contrarian critics stood between that film and a 100-percent-positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That argument is too silly for words. There’s always going to be someone who hates a terrific movie for whatever reason – just as there will always be someone willing to offer a positive review (and a glowing quote) for a total stinker. That’s just human nature.
No, I’m talking about the guy who wrote a whole piece discussing his perception that, in fact, “Toy Story 3” was really a metaphor for the Holocaust. A segregated population, who wind up imprisoned and would rather be in the attic than wind up in the incinerator – get it?
I mean, yes, you can draw a parallel if you work at it. But do you need to? Do you want to? Really – doesn’t it trivialize the Holocaust to think that “Toy Story 3” is secretly retelling its story?
But some people aren’t happy unless they’ve got a reason to be upset. Recently, for example, a right-wing blogger got up in arms because several reviews of “Sex and the City 2” suggested that the film – with its flip depiction of Islamic conservative attitudes toward women and sexuality – would only serve to inflame passions against the West. I believe some critics referred to it as “a jihadist recruiting tool,” in what was obviously a jab that was meant facetiously.
After all, fundamentalists of all stripes – and not just Islam – don’t have much of a sense of irony, or humor. So radical Islamists don’t need the “SATC” gals to suddenly focus them on the perfidies of the West. We’re all infidel dogs in their eyes, no matter how liberal or conservative our politics. The only good American is a dead American – it’s not a matter of degree.
But the humorless right-wing bloggers, who really struggle with the notion of sarcasm, conflated these remarks as yet another example of political correctness run amok. Not only weren’t the comments taken as humor – they were lumped in with the perpetual left-wing cabal in Hollywood which exists solely to push an agenda of gay rights, widespread abortion and, of course, the curtailment of free speech for the right wing.
OK, some of the critics may have been serious in saying that the film was offensive to Islam – perhaps because it was. But I have to assume that the same critics would have pointed it out if the film had been offensive to Jews or Native Americans or Buddhists or, yes, Christians, which the right wing is convinced is the most put-upon and abused of ruling majorities.
Yet this particular blogger made the leap from an accusation of an attack motivated by political correctness to the fact that “SATC2” stiffed at the box office – then connected the dots to reach the conclusion that politically correct critics purposely killed “SATC2” with bad reviews because it presented an unflattering portrait of Islam. This, he argued, was why the movie was a bomb: It was a left-wing conspiracy.
Never mind that the audience could tell from the commercials that the movie was terrible and, as Samuel Goldwyn once said, they stayed away in droves. The critics weren’t all that much kinder to the first “SATC” film but the audience turned up for that one. Really – if critical blasts that included offended sensibilities made any difference to the paying public, “Transformers 2” would have imploded on the launching pad, too.
There simply isn’t much connection anymore between what critics say and what audiences pay to see. And the audience that pays attention to mainstream critics doesn’t take its political cues from print critics, in particular, who are a vanishing breed. If anything, print critics are even more timid about expressing political opinions in movie reviews – because right-wing readers tend to overreact to perceived slights and insults, then complain to the newspaper, which leads nervous newspaper editors to second-guess the critics).
So, to summarize: Sometimes, as the saying goes, a cigar is just a cigar. But never to a right-winger, who needs scant provocation to accuse Hollywood and its critics of liberal bias.