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Stupid Movie Protests 
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Post Stupid Movie Protests
Every so often movies are protested or objected too strenuously for various reasons that I just find absurd. To wit:

Basic Instinct drew lots of ire for its depiction of a bisexual villain. This strikes me as particularly dumb because every of how many evil heterosexual villains there are. I mean, look at Fatal Attraction a few years before. I don't think Glenn Close's character in the latter is any more nuanced or shaded than Sharon Stone's in the former. In fairness, though, the original script was apparently worse in its homophobia.

The Coen Brothers and Alexander Payne, in movies like Fargo and Nebraska, are often accused of mocking mid-Westerners. First of all, the idea that it is the role of the film critic to protect noble Middle-Americans from the barbs of Hollywood seems far more condescending than Fargo or Nebraska. Secondly, there are literally dozens of movies that make fun of New Yorkers and Los Angelenos. No one says "Oh God that Woody Allen is so mean to Manhattan yuppies!" Both Payne and the Coens are from the Midwest, and they have as much right to lampoon it as This is the End does for L.A.

Cloud Atlas took flak for having Caucasian actors play Asian characters. Apparently the protestors didn't seem to notice the film also made Asian actors play Caucasian characters, had Halle Berry playing a Jewish woman, etc. Rather stupid criticism there, Media Action Network for Asian Americans!

I get that religion is controversial and all, but the sheer amount of controversy that The Last Temptation of Christ got simply for imagining Jesus consummating a marriage with Mary Magdalene (speculatively) baffles me. I guess Christianity and sex are just never going to be friends, but come on, people: married people have sex. Your religion doesn't even find that problematic!

There are probably others that I'm missing, but that's all I can think of for now. People sure like to protest things and anger up the blood.

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Thu Jan 30, 2014 10:05 am
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Post Re: Stupid Movie Protests
The Impossible. I mean it's nice of people to raise concern about if it's marginalizing Thai people, but when some just keep insisting the film is racist to us, it is starting to smell like something else. I registered as a member of The AV Club to briefly state my stance once in the film's review page when the comment section was becoming all like the above.


Thu Jan 30, 2014 10:15 am
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Post Re: Stupid Movie Protests
peng wrote:
The Impossible. I mean it's nice of people to raise concern about if it's marginalizing Thai people, but when some just keep insisting the film is racist to us, it is starting to smell like something else. I registered as a member of The AV Club to briefly state my stance once in the film's review page when the comment section was becoming all like the above.


Great call. Did you like the movie btw?

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Thu Jan 30, 2014 10:26 am
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Post Re: Stupid Movie Protests
The Wolf of Wall Street:

Some people don't like the movie's message of living like a total bauce.


Thu Jan 30, 2014 10:31 am
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Post Re: Stupid Movie Protests
The Passion of the Christ caught a lot of crap from the religious lobby, and most of it seemed to be for having the consummate gall to exist in the first place.

There's a story about how Mel Gibson was filming The Passion in (I think) Morocco, where Paul Schrader was filming his Exorcist prequel. The two directors ran into each other one night. Gibson was complaining about the beating that he was getting from religious conservatives, and Schrader started to share some of the similar experiences he'd had during the production of The Last Temptation of Christ--then promptly clammed up when he realized that Gibson had been one of the highest-profile protestors.

The funny thing about The Last Temptation of Christ is that there is an element of the film that is technically blasphemous: the suggestion that Judas was acting on orders and therefore not culpable for betraying Jesus. Of course, nobody complained about that.

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The great Billy Wilder film Ace In The Hole was a subject of controversy in its day. It bombed both critically and commercially. Most of the criticisms against it were about how far-fetched it was that a journalist could be so opportunistic and that a mob of tourists could be so callous and self-unaware. One review even called the film "absurd" and "naive". Oops.

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Thu Jan 30, 2014 10:37 am
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Post Re: Stupid Movie Protests
JamesKunz wrote:
Great call. Did you like the movie btw?


Really liked it. Overwhelmed by that sequence, especially in theater, and impressed by the performances of Watt and the big son. That I have met someone who survived exactly this (same general area depicted in the film) adds to the context and eerie emotional effects.

The survival films in recent years have been pretty strong in general.


Thu Jan 30, 2014 10:40 am
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Post Re: Stupid Movie Protests
Thought of another one: Zero Dark Thirty, particularly all the handwringing over whether or not it suggests that torture is a useful solution for extracting information from a prisoner. This, I found, was particularly baffling. As near as I can figure, the moral problem with torture does not have anything to do with whether or not it works. The corollary suggestion is frightening--that the only thing it would take for these people to approve of torture is to find out that it's useful. Fortunately, I don't think any of them thought their remarks that far through.

Some people also seemed angry with the film for depicting torture at all, which is also bizarre. There is a subgenre of muckraking fiction that I believe Zero Dark Thirty to be a part of--fiction that is not necessarily true to the facts in their every dot and comma, but which uses the facts to create fictionalized scenarios that accurately reflect the real-world circumstances. In this regard, I'd compare Zero Dark Thirty to The Jungle or Uncle Tom's Cabin--not that ZDT stakes out a political position, but in the way it uses the fiction to capture the reality. By this reckoning, it would have been dishonest of Zero Dark Thirty to not include torture, because torture happened. And why shouldn't the movie show it? To make people more comfortable in their ignorance? That people thought the torture was intended as positive propaganda was yet another layer of absurdity.

And similarly with The Wolf Of Wall Street. I won't deny that there is a legitimate argument to be had about what films do or don't do to influence our sympathies. (I myself tried to steer it in a productive direction with my thread about admiring wrong characters). But the gist of some of the complaints seem to be that the movie is wrong for suggesting that the life of a billionaire playboy is in any way appealing, exciting, or fun. Not only is that completely childish and condescending, but the deeper layer of the argument is this: "How dare this movie make me think about things that I feel better not thinking about?"

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Thu Jan 30, 2014 11:07 am
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Post Re: Stupid Movie Protests
Ken wrote:
The Passion of the Christ caught a lot of crap from the religious lobby, and most of it seemed to be for having the consummate gall to exist in the first place.


I thought the main criticism of 'The Passion of the Christ' was a charge of anti-semitism (which, to be fair, might have originated with a religuous - Jewish - lobby group). The Vatican endorsed the movie, quite unsurprisingly as it is based on the visions of some nun, which has been beatified.


Thu Jan 30, 2014 11:09 am
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Post Re: Stupid Movie Protests
The antisemitism thing was a big part of the protests, but there was a controversy within the Catholic church about parts of the film that were adapted from non-canon sources. It was a tempest in a teapot to be sure.

I also remember there being some controversy over whether or not the Vatican actually endorsed the movie. The moment it was reported that the Pope had seen it, the press quickly extrapolated that he approved of it. Hellfire didn't rain down, so perhaps they were right to assume.

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Thu Jan 30, 2014 11:28 am
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Post Re: Stupid Movie Protests
Ken wrote:
Thought of another one: Zero Dark Thirty, particularly all the handwringing over whether or not it suggests that torture is a useful solution for extracting information from a prisoner. This, I found, was particularly baffling. As near as I can figure, the moral problem with torture does not have anything to do with whether or not it works. The corollary suggestion is frightening--that the only thing it would take for these people to approve of torture is to find out that it's useful. Fortunately, I don't think any of them thought their remarks that far through.

Some people also seemed angry with the film for depicting torture at all, which is also bizarre. There is a subgenre of muckraking fiction that I believe Zero Dark Thirty to be a part of--fiction that is not necessarily true to the facts in their every dot and comma, but which uses the facts to create fictionalized scenarios that accurately reflect the real-world circumstances. In this regard, I'd compare Zero Dark Thirty to The Jungle or Uncle Tom's Cabin--not that ZDT stakes out a political position, but in the way it uses the fiction to capture the reality. By this reckoning, it would have been dishonest of Zero Dark Thirty to not include torture, because torture happened. And why shouldn't the movie show it? To make people more comfortable in their ignorance? That people thought the torture was intended as positive propaganda was yet another layer of absurdity.

And similarly with The Wolf Of Wall Street. I won't deny that there is a legitimate argument to be had about what films do or don't do to influence our sympathies. (I myself tried to steer it in a productive direction with my thread about admiring wrong characters). But the gist of some of the complaints seem to be that the movie is wrong for suggesting that the life of a billionaire playboy is in any way appealing, exciting, or fun. Not only is that completely childish and condescending, but the deeper layer of the argument is this: "How dare this movie make me think about things that I feel better not thinking about?"


The Zero Dark Thirty one was particularly galling to me because if you actually watch the movie, you'll see that the filmmakers clearly have a very ambivalent, nuanced view of torture and its use. If you came out of it thinking that the movie wholeheartedly endorsed torture, I think you watched it wrong.

As for Wolf of Wall Street, very nicely said. It reminds me of when a lot of British film critics savaged Match Point and the BBC critic, in a positive review, opined that the reason his colleagues hated the movie is because it dares to make being rich and living in London look nice.

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Thu Jan 30, 2014 11:54 am
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Post Re: Stupid Movie Protests
Precious: The backlash against it on the grounds that it depicted stereotypes. It didn't say that all black fathers are child molesters or that all darker skinned black people are overweight, steal fried chicken, eat pigs feet etc.

I was discussing this backlash once with a black female friend and she didn't understand it either. I wondered aloud why the people that were up in arms over this weren't screaming bloody murder at Soul Plane, a hideous attempt at a comedy that trafficked in these stereotypes and really was offensive. She agreed and pointed out that she felt the same way about "Don't Be A Menace".

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Thu Jan 30, 2014 12:03 pm
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Post Re: Stupid Movie Protests
Ken wrote:
The antisemitism thing was a big part of the protests, but there was a controversy within the Catholic church about parts of the film that were adapted from non-canon sources. It was a tempest in a teapot to be sure.

I also remember there being some controversy over whether or not the Vatican actually endorsed the movie. The moment it was reported that the Pope had seen it, the press quickly extrapolated that he approved of it. Hellfire didn't rain down, so perhaps they were right to assume.


Pope John Paul II. reportedly said with regard to the movie "It is as it was", although I believe that the Vatican doesn't officially endorse movies, books, etc. I'm not aware of any controversy about the movie within the official Catholic Church.


Thu Jan 30, 2014 12:20 pm
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Post Re: Stupid Movie Protests
Jeff Wilder wrote:
Precious: The backlash against it on the grounds that it depicted stereotypes. It didn't say that all black fathers are child molesters or that all darker skinned black people are overweight, steal fried chicken, eat pigs feet etc.

I was discussing this backlash once with a black female friend and she didn't understand it either. I wondered aloud why the people that were up in arms over this weren't screaming bloody murder at Soul Plane, a hideous attempt at a comedy that trafficked in these stereotypes and really was offensive. She agreed and pointed out that she felt the same way about "Don't Be A Menace".


Yup, the PRECIOUS backlash never made any sense whatsoever to me. People need to remember that when a movie depicts one particular character's life in a certain manner, that doesn't mean it's making sweeping generalizations about an entire race of people.

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Thu Jan 30, 2014 12:26 pm
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Post Re: Stupid Movie Protests
JamesKunz wrote:
First of all, the idea that it is the role of the film critic to protect noble Middle-Americans from the barbs of Hollywood seems far more condescending than Fargo or Nebraska.


I laughed pretty damn hard at this. You're right, of course. Also, let's not forget that the central character and moral center of Fargo is depicted as a wonderful person who's also half of a healthy, loving relationship. Fargo may mock the selfish and greedy characters in the film, but that seems more in-line with their message than it does with the idea that they have some kind of contempt for the people of that area. The rest is just local color.

Ken wrote:
Thought of another one: Zero Dark Thirty, particularly all the handwringing over whether or not it suggests that torture is a useful solution for extracting information from a prisoner. This, I found, was particularly baffling. As near as I can figure, the moral problem with torture does not have anything to do with whether or not it works. The corollary suggestion is frightening--that the only thing it would take for these people to approve of torture is to find out that it's useful. Fortunately, I don't think any of them thought their remarks that far through.


Right. Also, the movie depicts torture as working indirectly, if anything. As Kunz said, the movie has a pretty mature view of the issue. It's used, it can be used many different ways, sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. As you said, all of that is entirely separate from whether or not we should use the tactic.

Jeff Wilder wrote:
Precious: The backlash against it on the grounds that it depicted stereotypes. It didn't say that all black fathers are child molesters or that all darker skinned black people are overweight, steal fried chicken, eat pigs feet etc.

I was discussing this backlash once with a black female friend and she didn't understand it either. I wondered aloud why the people that were up in arms over this weren't screaming bloody murder at Soul Plane, a hideous attempt at a comedy that trafficked in these stereotypes and really was offensive. She agreed and pointed out that she felt the same way about "Don't Be A Menace".


This one I'm completely on board with. The film might not say all black people are this way or that way, but it certainly revels in stereotypes, and uses cliches extensively. It may not be offensive, it's just really, really bad drama. I think it differs from something like Soul Plane in terms of the reaction toward it because Precious was held up as some incisive, modern portrayal of black life in the ghetto and that's pretty laughable once you actually see the movie. Unless, you know, you have met zero black people in your life. Soul Plane, while maybe actually offensive (haven't seen it), was never taken seriously in the first place (critically panned, and a major box office flop), so the backlash was always going to be minimal. People saw Soul Plane for what it was and were fooled by Precious. That's why the backlash was so much greater.


Thu Jan 30, 2014 12:48 pm
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Post Re: Stupid Movie Protests
JamesKunz wrote:
Ken wrote:
Thought of another one: Zero Dark Thirty, particularly all the handwringing over whether or not it suggests that torture is a useful solution for extracting information from a prisoner. This, I found, was particularly baffling. As near as I can figure, the moral problem with torture does not have anything to do with whether or not it works. The corollary suggestion is frightening--that the only thing it would take for these people to approve of torture is to find out that it's useful. Fortunately, I don't think any of them thought their remarks that far through.

Some people also seemed angry with the film for depicting torture at all, which is also bizarre. There is a subgenre of muckraking fiction that I believe Zero Dark Thirty to be a part of--fiction that is not necessarily true to the facts in their every dot and comma, but which uses the facts to create fictionalized scenarios that accurately reflect the real-world circumstances. In this regard, I'd compare Zero Dark Thirty to The Jungle or Uncle Tom's Cabin--not that ZDT stakes out a political position, but in the way it uses the fiction to capture the reality. By this reckoning, it would have been dishonest of Zero Dark Thirty to not include torture, because torture happened. And why shouldn't the movie show it? To make people more comfortable in their ignorance? That people thought the torture was intended as positive propaganda was yet another layer of absurdity.

And similarly with The Wolf Of Wall Street. I won't deny that there is a legitimate argument to be had about what films do or don't do to influence our sympathies. (I myself tried to steer it in a productive direction with my thread about admiring wrong characters). But the gist of some of the complaints seem to be that the movie is wrong for suggesting that the life of a billionaire playboy is in any way appealing, exciting, or fun. Not only is that completely childish and condescending, but the deeper layer of the argument is this: "How dare this movie make me think about things that I feel better not thinking about?"


The Zero Dark Thirty one was particularly galling to me because if you actually watch the movie, you'll see that the filmmakers clearly have a very ambivalent, nuanced view of torture and its use. If you came out of it thinking that the movie wholeheartedly endorsed torture, I think you watched it wrong.

As for Wolf of Wall Street, very nicely said. It reminds me of when a lot of British film critics savaged Match Point and the BBC critic, in a positive review, opined that the reason his colleagues hated the movie is because it dares to make being rich and living in London look nice.

Great points regarding both films. Not only did ZDT not endorse torture, it also clearly showed that the information obtained through such means were of little use. Maya repeatedly finds the torture to be futile and takes matters into her own hands and resorts to old-fashioned information digging. One of the reasons I find ZDT to be a masterpiece is its depiction that what ultimately lead to figuring out Osama's hideout was not torture but traditional espionage.

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Thu Jan 30, 2014 12:58 pm
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Post Re: Stupid Movie Protests
Much of the revenue for The Passion of the Christ came from church groups reserving showings and sending people in bus loads. I think some Protestants may have stirred some anxiety prior to release due to worries about how a Catholic Hollywood actor might somehow distort the gospel. I don't think there was much backlash from Christians at all once the film was released. Most of the religious protest came from Jewish people who worried (with some historical legitimacy) that the movie would stir up hatred by Christians toward Jews. I'm not aware that any occurred in this instance.

Although I don't protest free speech, I personally have abstained from watching The Last Temptation of Christ because I believe if will make me angry to see the portrayal of Jesus as described. It doesn't bother me that the movie exists or prevent me from watching other movies by Scorsese, I'm just pretty sure I won't be happy watching it.

I definitely share the sentiment that movie protests aren't worthwhile. If I think something will offend me I avoid it.


Thu Jan 30, 2014 1:02 pm
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Post Re: Stupid Movie Protests
Balaji Sivaraman wrote:
Not only did ZDT not endorse torture, it also clearly showed that the information obtained through such means were of little use. Maya repeatedly finds the torture to be futile and takes matters into her own hands and resorts to old-fashioned information digging. One of the reasons I find ZDT to be a masterpiece is its depiction that what ultimately lead to figuring out Osama's hideout was not torture but traditional espionage.


That's not entirely true. Later in the film they get key information based on the fact that they previously tortured someone. It's an indirect benefit of torture, but it's still a benefit. They got information they needed because torture took place.


Thu Jan 30, 2014 1:35 pm
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Post Re: Stupid Movie Protests
The 1984 slasher film Silent Night Deadly Night got protests from parents over the killer being dressed as Santa Claus and it got pulled from theaters after 3 weeks, that didn't stop the film from being succesful enough to get four more sequels though, and a remake.

Honestly I kind of understand why people are uncomfortable with "Precious" as it does seem a bit stereotypical at times, black comedian Paul Mooney said he felt very uncomfortable watching the film for that reason. I can't really say I found Soul Plane offensive though, as there it seemed like the actors were all "in" on the joke, same with "Don't Be A Menace", but with Precious the stereotypes were played completely straight with zero hint of irony.

I also don't think the protests against Cloud Atlas were totally unjustified, yellowface is a horribly outdated practice and was just not a good idea IMO Most people in general would not be offended by a jewish person being played by a gentile, but blackface and yellowface is completely different.

Passion Of The Christ was a shitty movie anyways, so I really didn't care about the protests.


Last edited by Vexer on Thu Jan 30, 2014 2:39 pm, edited 4 times in total.



Thu Jan 30, 2014 2:24 pm
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Post Re: Stupid Movie Protests
To me, the most asinine controversy surrounding The Passion of the Christ was for it's extreme, graphic violence. I can understand if the movie is too intense and too much for some people, but to criticize the movie for it is missing the point. The movie is brutal and unflinching in it's portrait of the torture that Jesus went through. The movie wouldn't be any near as powerful if it were less graphic in it's depiction. It's the ultimate movie about Jesus, which is why I think this upcoming movie, Son of God, is simply going to pale in comparison.

I also never got from Zero Dark Thirty that it was pro-torture.

Also, the controversy surrounding the casting of Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher, I get it and I yet I never cared personally myself. Probably because I'm a huge Cruise fan. Besides, the author of the novels gave the Cruise casting his blessing.


Thu Jan 30, 2014 2:27 pm
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Post Re: Stupid Movie Protests
The Da Vinci Code/Angels and Demons
Not because the films arguably didn't deserve it, (not that I'm saying they did either) but because they gave the movies and books a higher profile then the crappy source material warranted. Actually I never saw the movies, but that was because I had the misfortune of reading the novels first.

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The film got pushback from both conservatives and pro-lgbtq folks over it's depiction of the gay characters. Not actual marching in the street protests, but unnecessary criticism I would say. The film is actually, I would argue, much more progressive than many films and tv shows with gay characters that are being released now.

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Silly because Howard Hughes deliberately ginned up the controversy level in order to get people to see it.

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