Thursday, July 16, 2015

Ban The Green Inferno?

Attempts to ban material of objectionable nature have been happening ever since human beings discovered how satisfying it is to be outraged about anything that doesn't fit neatly into their individual, myopic world views. These days, outrage is so in vogue — thanks primarily to social media — that if you're not pissed off about something and laboring with religious fervor to rid the world of the source of the outrage, not just for yourself but for others, you're not being a good little tool (or, in the current vernacular, a social justice warrior). Don't get me wrong; clearly, social injustices exist, as do noble causes worth pursuing, and anyone who takes the initiative to set obvious wrongs to rights ought to be applauded. That's not at issue here. What's at issue is the burning need for the morality police to to dictate what you may see or experience, by way of boycotts, petitions, legislation, or any means that will further their own agendas, which may have even had roots in some honorable sentiment. But there's nothing honorable about "protecting" others by attempting to dictate terms you have no right to dictate. Such attempts are especially egregious when the subject in question is a work of fiction. The specific case I'm addressing involves Eli Roth's movie, The Green Inferno, due for release in September. There's at least one petition going to get its release canceled, which — at least at the moment — does not appear to have garnered much support.

It's here: Petition to Cancel the Launch of Eli Roth's Dehumanizing Film The Green Inferno. The accompanying article is written by an individual whose sentiments, in and of themselves, may have some validity. Working to save the Amazon rain forest and ascribe dignity to its indigenous people is an honorable — indeed, much needed — endeavor. Where things get foolish, however, is the point at which the organizers(s) go beyond communicating their own statement and attempt to stifle an artist using his medium to make his. Just because they don't like what it says.

I'm no great fan of Eli Roth. Every one of his movies that I've seen has been, for me, an abject failure. Except for a few amusing moments, I detested Cabin Fever; Hostel started out on a promising, disturbing note but devolved into ridiculousness; Hostel II went much the same way. At one time, when a friend who knew my feelings about Roth's movies asked whether I'd sell the rights to Blue Devil Island for a million bucks — on the condition that Roth was the director — I said it was doubtful. (Of course I was joking, or at least half-joking; I'd probably take a million bucks for Blue Devil Island without giving the first flip who made it.) But I've got to tell you, the premise of The Green Inferno appears intriguing enough (in a nutshell, it's about some characters who go to the Peruvian rain forest for humanitarian reasons, only to face becoming chow for the indigenous cannibals), the trailer looks fair, and I'll almost certainly want to check it out. Who knows — Roth may have finally hit on all cylinders. Maybe.

But that's irrelevant. The Green Inferno is fiction. It's a story clearly not based in reality. Now the movie may feature stereotyped, dehumanized characters, and it may be quite vile. Or it may be an insightful commentary about stereotyped, dehumanized characters. (Given Roth's typical displays of depth, I'm doubting the latter). But I would like to go see the movie and make up my own mind about it. Roth himself had this to say, and I respect it: "I want to make a story about kids who don’t really know what they’re getting into. They get in way over their heads... and then the irony is, on their way home, their plane crashes, and the very people they saved think that they’re invaders, and just dart them and eat them. And make them the food supply of the village."

Entertainment Weekly featured a somewhat overwrought article in response to the call to boycott, but it features a very salient line: "...the public in general often can’t differentiate the nuances between commentary on a stereotype and just perpetuating the stereotype." Just because the story is about some nasty cannibals in the Peruvian rain forest, it hardly insinuates that the population of the Peruvian rain forest consists entirely of cannibals. That's a wrong-headed assumption, just as wrong as the assumption on the part of certain reviewers that I am anti-semitic because, in my story, "Orchestra," a deranged killer targets Jewish people.

That whole Entertainment Weekly article is here, and worth a read: The Green Inferno Boycott.

Me, I plan to watch The Green Inferno. I half-suspect it will follow along the lines of his previous films. But I'm willing to give it a try to experience it for what it is, not what some misguided boneheads tell me what it is. If you want to see a movie such as this go away, I'll tell you the most effective means to reach me: write a solid, well-reasoned review of the movie, pointing out exactly where and why it goes wrong. I take intellectually honest reviews seriously, and because of this, I've kept my hard-earned money in my pocket on countless occasions when I feel that a movie, book, program, or what have you is not suited to my interest. But tell me, sight unseen on your part, that I don't have the right to watch the product of another creator's vision — however either of us might appraise its validity — and I'll tell you to fuck off, thank you very much.
A perfectly representative sample of the inhabitants of the Peruvian rain forest.

1 comment:

James Robert Smith said...

I don't like to censor any art and I wouldn't dream of censoring a film like this. But this stuff is what is popularly termed "torture-porn". It's not for me. If it floats yer boat--fine. (I might think you're sick for liking it, but that's your right.) However, I saw the trailer for it, and I saw enough to know that I would in no way want to see this movie.

That's as far as I will take censorship of art and literature. Via the old wallet and not one step more.