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Hollywood's PC perversion stifles storytelling

Old 11-27-05, 10:18 AM
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Hollywood's PC perversion stifles storytelling

http://www.suntimes.com/output/steyn...t-steyn27.html

November 27, 2005

BY MARK STEYN SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST

To judge from the way the weekend's box office is breathlessly reported in the news bulletins on Monday morning, more people seem to be interested in movie grosses than in the movies. Evidently, Hollywood's now recovered from this summer's all-time record "box office slump." Or at any rate news stories about the box office slump have themselves slumped. In a breathless dispatch on the opening weekend of ''Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,'' the Associated Press reported that ''the latest Potter movie led a lineup that helped reverse the Hollywood box-office slump."

I wouldn't say the boy wizard and his Hogwarts chums exactly "led a lineup" of slump-reversers. When you look at the weekend numbers, ''Harry Potter's'' $101.4 million is more than the gross of the rest of the top five movies combined and doubled. Indeed, the rest of the top 10 between them managed $66 million. ''Harry Potter'' is an industry apart, and tells us nothing about Hollywood's general malaise, or alleged recovery therefrom.

I chipped in my own 20 bucks or so of that hundred mil. Went to see it opening weekend. Had a miserable time. Nothing to do with the movie. Everything to do with the theater I saw it in. It was a multiplex operated by a New England chain called Entertainment Cinemas of South Easton, Mass., and they really should make critics see the films in these kinds of joints. It was a small screen at the end of a dingy room with unraked seating and, instead of letting you lose yourself in the dark to the magic of the silver screen, they keep half the lights up for the movie. I e-mailed "customer service" at Entertainment Cinemas to inquire why, but received no response.

Small multiplexes apparently save money by hiring one projectionist to run several screens. The drawback is that one or other of the semi-unmonitored machines will jam, leading the projection lamp to burn a hole in the print. To lessen the risk of this, the projectionist expands the space between the gate and the lamp -- i.e., he shows the film slightly out of focus. I don't know whether that's why the Harry Potter I saw was so dark and blurry, but, after reading about all the lavish effects-laden set-pieces Mike Newell had put in the movie, I did rather feel that I was seeing the cinematic equivalent of a digitally remastered symphony concert played back through a 1950s transistor radio.

The average multiplex is surely not long for this world. Already, 85 percent of Hollywood's business comes from home entertainment -- DVDs and the like. Suits me. Or so I thought until, on the way home from the hell of Harry Potter, I stopped to buy the third boxed set in the ''Looney Tunes Golden Collection.'' Loved the first two: Daffy, Bugs, Porky, beautifully restored, tons of special features. But, for some reason, this new set begins with a special announcement by Whoopi Goldberg explaining what it is we're not meant to find funny: ''Unfortunately at that time racial and ethnic differences were caricatured in ways that may have embarrassed and even hurt people of color, women and ethnic groups,'' she tells us sternly. ''These jokes were wrong then and they're wrong today'' -- unlike, say, Whoopi Goldberg's most memorable joke of recent years, the one at that 2004 all-star Democratic Party gala in New York where she compared President Bush to her, um, private parts. There's a gag for the ages.

I don't know what Whoopi's making such a meal about. It's true you don't see many positive images of people of color on ''Looney Tunes,'' but then the images of people of non-color aren't terribly positive either (Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam). Instead, you see positive images of ducks of color, roadrunners of color and tweety birds of color. How weirdly reductive to be so obsessed about something so peripheral to these cartoons that you stick the same damn Whoopi Goldberg health warning on all four DVDs in the box. And don't think about hitting the "Next" button and skipping to the cartoons: You can't; you gotta sit through it.

A Hollywood that's ashamed of one of its few universally acknowledged genuine artistic achievements is hardly likely to come up with any new artistic achievements. As the instant deflation of that Whoopi cushion reminds us, the movies are now so constrained by political correctness the very act of storytelling is itself endangered. That's something slightly more ominous than the feeble limousine liberalism many conservatives blame for the alleged box-office slump. Say what you like about those Hollywood writers of the '30s and '40s, but they were serious lefties. Their successors are mostly poseurs loudly trumpeting their courageous ''dissent'' while paralyzed into inanity. This year's Sean Penn thriller, ''The Interpreter,'' was originally about Muslim terrorists blowing up a bus in New York. So, naturally, Hollywood called rewrite. And instead the bus got blown up by African terrorists from the little-known republic of Matobo. ''We didn't want to encumber the film in politics in any way,'' said Kevin Misher, the producer.

But being so perversely ''non-political'' is itself a political act. If there were a dozen movies in which Tom Cruise kicked al-Qaida butt across the Hindu Kush, it would be reasonable to say, ''Hey, we'd rather deal with Matoban terrorism for a change.'' But, when every movie goes out of its way to avoid being ''encumbered,'' it starts to look like a pathology. And by the time Hollywood released this summer's ''Stealth,'' some studio exec must have panicked that, what with all this Bono/Live8 debt-relief business, it might look a bit Afrophobic to have any more Matoban terrorists. So ''Stealth'' was a high-tech action thriller about USAF pilots zapping about the skies in which the bad guy is the plane.


That's right: An unmanned computer-flown plane goes rogue and starts attacking things. The money shot is -- stop me if this rings a vague bell -- a big downtown skyscraper with a jet heading toward it. Only there are no terrorists aboard the jet. The jet itself is the terrorist.

This is the pitiful state Hollywood's been reduced to. Safer not to have any bad guys. Let's make the plane the bad guy. No wonder it's 20th century Britlit -- ''Harry Potter,'' ''Lord of the Rings,'' ''Narnia'' -- keeping those Monday morning numbers up. It's Hollywood's yarn-spinning that's really out of focus, and in the end even home entertainment revenue won't save a storytelling business that no longer knows how to tell anyp
I agree with him that PC has gone too far when they change the nationality of villians when making a book into a movie.
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Old 11-27-05, 10:42 AM
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When Whoopie fucks with Loony Toons, she has gone too far.
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Old 11-27-05, 10:43 AM
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Somewhere in the middle of the article, I went from "regular white guy" to "median non-ethnic homosapian"
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Old 11-27-05, 10:47 AM
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Right, the reason Stealth sucked was because it was "too PC'' .
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Old 11-27-05, 11:01 AM
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Originally Posted by bhk
I agree with him that PC has gone too far when they change the nationality of villians when making a book into a movie.
I agree with that too. But The Interpreter was not based on a book. They just changed the original screenplay.

I think if they had kept the original Muslim villains it wouldn't have changed the movie concept at all. It would have been a little more realistic and relatable to the real world than a fictional country with little character but I don't think the film was hurt by that. It had many other problems which sunk it.

As far as the Stealth tirade, I think that makes no sense. This was about "technology gone wild" from the beginning AFAIK. Why should this movie be about Muslim terrorists or any other "realistic" terrorists when that was never its intention? Humans creating some technology that comes back to bite them in the butts has been a theme throughout literature and film. It's totally different than the terrorist plot and has absolutely nothing to do with political correctness. And again, Stealth wasn't bad because it was about a "terrorist plane" but because it was a bad movie.

While there is certainly some political correctness that sometimes harms films, Steyn chose very poor examples. (The Contender, The American President and Dave would be much better examples, IMHO.)

Last edited by movielib; 11-27-05 at 04:22 PM.
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Old 11-27-05, 11:03 AM
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In 2001, I believe HAL was originally a Muslim terrorist.
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Old 11-27-05, 11:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Groucho
In 2001, I believe HAL was originally a Muslim terrorist.
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Old 11-27-05, 11:20 AM
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I agree with that too. But The Interpreter was not based on a book. They just changed the original screenplay.
Sorry, I was talking about The Sum of All Fears. I should have posted that.
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Old 11-27-05, 11:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Goldblum
When Whoopie fucks with Loony Toons, she has gone too far.
She didn't. She just has some boring disclaimer at the begining of the DVD. Not sure if you read the bolded part...

Who cares if they have some stupid disclaimer, as long as the original Looney Toons are there uncut? Pretty stupid reason to fault them on. I believe Leonard Maltin does something similar for the Disney Treasures in some cases.
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Old 11-27-05, 11:40 AM
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I hope they put the same commentary on the old Batman or Superman cartoons. They were outright stereotyping against Japanese.
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Old 11-27-05, 01:11 PM
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I have a friend whose theory is that Warner Brothers was afraid they would sell too many copies of the Looney Tunes collection, so they added the Whoopi Goldberg intro to depress sales to a more manageable level.
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Old 11-27-05, 02:51 PM
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Whoopi does realize Harry Potter is a fictional character. Right? For some reason, Bill Williams and the Goblet of Fire just doesn't sound right. But hey, that's just me.
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Old 11-27-05, 02:53 PM
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Originally Posted by DVD Polizei
Whoopi does realize Harry Potter is a fictional character. Right? For some reason, Bill Williams and the Goblet of Fire just doesn't sound right. But hey, that's just me.
What are you talking about? Did you even read the article?
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Old 11-27-05, 03:42 PM
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I just watched my first Looney Tunes V3 disc today and to the Whoopi intro. So ridiculous that this PC crap is now necessary.
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Old 11-27-05, 03:53 PM
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I don't see what the big deal is in regards to Whoopi intro on the Looney Tunes Vol 3 set. Just use the FF button on your remote.

This type of disclaimer has been used on the Disney Treasures releases with Leonard Maltin for their "controversial" sets in order to present the shorts uncut as indicated by Gallant Pig.

As long as they keep their shorts uncut, is all good to me.
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Old 11-27-05, 03:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Groucho
What are you talking about? Did you even read the article?
Actually, I only read the bolded part.
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Old 11-27-05, 04:02 PM
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Originally Posted by LorenzoL
I don't see what the big deal is in regards to Whoopi intro on the Looney Tunes Vol 3 set. Just use the FF button on your remote.

This type of disclaimer has been used on the Disney Treasures releases with Leonard Maltin for their "controversial" sets in order to present the shorts uncut as indicated by Gallant Pig.

As long as they keep their shorts uncut, is all good to me.

It isn't a big deal but that doesn't mean it isn't ridiculous that it is necessary.
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Old 11-27-05, 04:44 PM
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The PC Nazis have conqured the world. Heil PC Nazis!

I say it is about time we got rid of the PC crap and put out some good old fashion movies that will offend a group. I want to see a cool action movies about Islamic terrorists and not see some disclaimer that all Muslims are not terrorists. I want to see a movie about LA gangs made of of black people. Let's see a western where the Indians ride into town and kill everyone by scalping.

You know when they get around to making September 11 movies, the planes will be hijacked by White Supremists since we all know that white guys are the only viable bad-guys during the reign of the PC Nazis. Maybe the white supremist people complain making them off-limits as well so every movie will have giant androids from Pluto (since we are pretty sure they don't exist to complain)
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Old 11-27-05, 04:50 PM
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The article was so poorly written it's hard to really understand the point. However, There's no way that any 'PC perversion' in Hollywood could possibly stifle storytelling to a fraction of the amount that McCarthyism stifled storytelling in the 1950s, when it pretty much destroyed <i>film noir</i> as a genre.
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Old 11-27-05, 10:26 PM
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But, for some reason, this new set begins with a special announcement by Whoopi Goldberg explaining what it is we're not meant to find funny: ''Unfortunately at that time racial and ethnic differences were caricatured in ways that may have embarrassed and even hurt people of color, women and ethnic groups,'' she tells us sternly. ''These jokes were wrong then and they're wrong today'' --

Anyone remember when she was dating Ted Danson and he showed up in black face at an event (it was Whoopi's idea).

Or Hillary Clinton refering to a gas attendant as Ghandi? Or Bill Clinton saying that Rush was only defending Janet Reno because she was being attaced by a black guy?

But, it is generally okay for those who preach PC the loudest to actually make racial jokes. They care more than the rest of us, and they know they are just kidding, but they know that everyone else who has a different ideology is a bigot.
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Old 11-27-05, 10:28 PM
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Originally Posted by darkessenz
There are plenty of PC things to be pissed about, but none of them were mentioned in this article.
Agreed. I think it was posted because a Google search for "Whoopi" "Bush" "Democratic Party" and "private parts" turned it up.

I didn't see it, but I'm fairly certain that Stealth shouldn't be a turning point for the anti-PC revolution.
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Old 11-28-05, 08:12 AM
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Originally Posted by kvrdave
But, for some reason, this new set begins with a special announcement by Whoopi Goldberg explaining what it is we're not meant to find funny: ''Unfortunately at that time racial and ethnic differences were caricatured in ways that may have embarrassed and even hurt people of color, women and ethnic groups,'' she tells us sternly. ''These jokes were wrong then and they're wrong today'' --

Anyone remember when she was dating Ted Danson and he showed up in black face at an event (it was Whoopi's idea).

Or Hillary Clinton refering to a gas attendant as Ghandi? Or Bill Clinton saying that Rush was only defending Janet Reno because she was being attaced by a black guy?

But, it is generally okay for those who preach PC the loudest to actually make racial jokes. They care more than the rest of us, and they know they are just kidding, but they know that everyone else who has a different ideology is a bigot.
Well, actually, yes. It's the same reason one black man can call another the n-word and it's OK. There's quite a difference between kidding your black buddy by calling him an ethnic term and calling a stranger on the street the same thing just because you don't like black people.
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Old 11-28-05, 08:24 AM
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Originally Posted by wendersfan
The article was so poorly written it's hard to really understand the point. However, There's no way that any 'PC perversion' in Hollywood could possibly stifle storytelling to a fraction of the amount that McCarthyism stifled storytelling in the 1950s, when it pretty much destroyed <i>film noir</i> as a genre.
I don't generally favor revisionist history. But for the period you mention, I favor it.
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Old 11-28-05, 08:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Numanoid
Well, actually, yes. It's the same reason one black man can call another the n-word and it's OK. There's quite a difference between kidding your black buddy by calling him an ethnic term and calling a stranger on the street the same thing just because you don't like black people.
I don't think that's what dave is saying. He means that they believe it's okay to use a derogatory word themselves because their intention is "in jest". But if they hear someone else (not of the same group) use such term, such person is automatically deemed a racist, even if the intent was similarly in jest.
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Old 11-28-05, 10:42 AM
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Okay. I just watched the original King Kong and was shocked (shocked, I tell you!) at the degrading views of women expressed by the characters, especially Bruce Cabot's character who trivializes all women continually. Why wasn't there a celebrity public service announcement before the movie to warn me of such offensive dialogue? I mean, come on! Women were really degraded in this movie! Where's the outrage?! Where's Whoopi now??
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