Thursday, August 17, 2006

We can too handle the truth!

So there!

Let me start at the beginning - or, at least, this morning when I started watching the three-hour black and white epic that is D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation.

I missed the day in third-year film class where we watched this one, but did the readings on it which basically state that everyone, including the director himself, were of the opinion that this film is waaaay too offensive to be considered for public viewing, and really should only ever be shown to film students and academics (not because they are smarter or anything, but because they will likely be interested enough in the technical aspects of the film to tolerate the mind-blowing repulsiveness of white actors in blackface portraying "renegade negroes" (not my term!  From the film!)).

So anyway, this film made it to my Ziplist almost a year ago, and arrived in the mailbox last month, and I just didn't have the heart, stomach or patience to watch a 80-year-old racist civil war epic (call me crazy!) until  this morning. 

Having already seen Griffith's Intolerance (widely considered the greatest black and white film ever made) (yes, I lead an exciting life) I was semi-prepared for this film.  Intolerance lacks the blatant racial discrimination, but does get in a couple of good jabs at the suffragettes (notably the title card that reads "When women cease to attract men, they often turn to sufferage as a second choice" which is, I guess, the 1916 version of "Feminists are just ugly jealous hags!  They wouldn't want rights and equality and shit if random men shouted obscene "compliments" about their bodies at them!").

So, just how bad is Birth of a Nation?  [Spoiler alert - like anybody is going to watch this movie anyway]. Well, let me put it this way - I'm currently at the scene where the good-hearted Southern girl is being chased by said "white actor in blackface portraying a renegade negro" who wants to marry her.  But don't worry!  She'll soon jump to her death rather than risk bring dishonour to herself and her family by being contaminated by a filthy coloured man!  I only wish I was kidding - I also only wish that I didn't know that the KKK will soon make an appearance as the noble protectors of the "civilized white culture of the South". 

Watching this film reminds me of watching Leni Riefenstahl's Triump of the Will (yes, same film class).  Strip them both of their political, social and historical context, and they are technically masterful - flawless, innovative examples of filmmaking.  But you can't really do that - strip them of all context, that is.  Riefenstahl's gorgeous cloud montage set against Wagner's The Ride of the Valkyries is breathtaking - but not enough to make you forget that that is fuckin' HITLER'S plane.

So it's an odd feeling watching these films, because academically, it's like "ooh, check out that cut - wow, the lighting is incredible - omg, that wide angle shot!" but intellectually and emotionally it's like, "WTF, the blacks are evil because they want to be equal?" or "Those thousands of people are cheering for fuckin' HITLER!"

And that, my friends, is why these films, and other works like them, cannot be censored.  Do they glorify tyranny, racism, xenophobia?  Yes.  (Am I currently watching a crowd of men in white robes dispense "justice" to that same white actor in blackface?  Yes.  Is it disturbing beyond words?  Yes.) 

These types of works are important not for the messages they seek to transmit, but for the message their mere existence denotes: that there were times and places where the notion of human rights was unheard of, where ignorance and hatred formed the root cause of most opinions, where blatant discrimination was not only tolerated, but openly celebrated. 

And that is why censorship is more dangerous than lack thereof - because it is too easy to forget these lessons.  When you take books off of library shelves, films out of public display, ideas of of public discourse, you hide a very real, very troubling part of humanity's history.  Are there people out there who would watch one fo these films and suddenly be filled with a desire to make their own white robes, or don the backwards swastika?  Maybe.  But there are far more who will learn the very valuable lesson: "Never again."

Let's all give ourselves a little credit - it might not be pretty, it might be unpleasant, and it might be downright disgusting at times -  but we can too handle the truth.   

Friday, August 04, 2006

It's too darn hot

Oh, wow - what a week.  Tuesday was the SINGLE HOTTEST DAY OF MY LIFE.  It went past 50 celsius (that's 122 farenheit) during the day.  Also, the air conditioner broke at my work, meaning it was the first day that I didn't freeze my ass off in the office because I'm in a building with two hockey rinks that is kept below room temperature at all time.  So that was good.  But then the ice rinks almost completely melted, so that was bad.  I guess.

And then the other night we had severe thunderstorms - and a tornado warning.  As this flashed across the bottom of the screen during Rockstar Supernova, I was all "whuh?  Wuh wuh?"  Because it never occurred to me that I lived in the part of the world where such things happenend.  So I looked at DD all, "So?  Do we bring in the container garden?  Tie down the patio furniture?  Sleep in the basement?  Tape the rest of the show?"

Fortunately, however, the warning was lifted, and I could enjoy my cheesy reality TV in peace, as nature intended.

Random old guys, second only to God in terms of moral judgement

A friend of mine recently went back to work after a year off battling breast cancer, just in time for to hear all about this wonderful example of humanity spout off about how women aren't capable about making their own decisions regarding their bodies.  At a "welcome back" lunch, we got into a discussion about abortion regulation, and the random old guys who wander around with signs just across the street, and who the hell they think they are to tell women about the morality of her decision. 

See, said friend is pretty young for a breast cancer survivor - 27 - and one of the main issues she's dealing with now is sex and reproduction, post-cancer.   To help prevent a reoccurence, she a) cannot take any hormonal forms of birth control, and b) is on a series of drugs that ARE NOT compatible with healthy fetal development.  She asked her doctor point blank what that would mean if she got pregnant - to which her doctor replied that it was her decision, but he would advise her to have an abortion.

Now sure - random old guys on the street, because they  are "Christian" men and therefore possessing far superior moral judgement to a young woman (or a medical doctor) as far as the issue of pregnancy is concerned - would simply tell her that she shouldn't be having sex anyway, because there's nothing in this world more EVIL than non-married adults engaging in consensual sexual behavior.

BUT!  Here's the sticky point - she IS getting married.  And, seeing as this story is taking place in Canada, I should clarify that she is getting married to a man. 

So it's a very real possibility that some day in the next five years, she might have to walk past random old guys to get to the clinic, and they will wish they lived in a society where, sinless as they are, they could cast all sorts of stones at her (magic stones that hurt the murdering whore without touching the precious angel growing inside her).

Now, some may say that, to be fair, I should accept the possibility that the random old guys would probably understand if she explained her situation to them.  They would probably accept her decision, and feel compassion that she was faced with so many challenges and such a young age.

But to anyone who says that, I say: SO FREAKIN' WHAT?    Oh, would they understand?  Would they be compassionate?  Would they tell her she's not making Jesus cry - this time?  Wow, what a couple of saints!  What truly phenomenal human beings they are - a woman made a personal decision affecting her body and her body alone - and after a detailed explanation, they considered it justified!  STOP THE PRESSES - here are the wisest, most noble of men!  Yes, there!  Hiding behind the "I'm a child, not a choice" signs!


Here's the thing about being pro-choice - it means that no woman, ever, anywhere, under any circumstances, needs to justify her decision to ANYONE BUT HERSELF.   Not to her friends, not to her family, and certainly not to complete strangers who spend their whole day protesting abortions while thousands of children in this city alone go hungry. 

It is her body, it is her business, and I am so goddamn TIRED of people who think that they should have the right to decide what are "good" and "bad" reasons for abortions.  There is only one good reason for an abortion - that she wants one.  There is only one bad reason for abortion - that someone else is forcing her to get one. 

That is why it's "pro-choice", NOT "pro-abortion", and if people are so thick-skulled they can't understand that, then they have no place making moral decisions for THEMSELVES, let alone anyone else. 

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Saved from summer reruns Rockstar: Supernova.  My love affair with reality TV pretty much ended this year, but that doesn't mean I can't have one last fling with this totally terrific show.  Okay, Dave Navarro is pretty irritating (maybe it's the impending divorce) (but still, telling a female contestant to "eat a sandwich" is pretty rude) (especially when you're lounging around bare-chested, and said chest is more Twiggy than barrel), and Tommy Lee needs to stop his "I am a big ol' horndog who must talk to women in blatantly sexual innuendo only", but the show itself is pretty awesome.  The singers are very talented, and there's a lot of rocking out, and not too much filler, and I'm actually pretty excited to see who will win (My hope?  Dilana.  My guess?  Toby.)

Anyway - if you're not doing anything Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday nights, check it out.