Rightwing Film Geek

Nun-Sense

Several at St. Blogs are noting the obvious irony double standard in a cartoon by Pat Oliphant in which, in the specific context of Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic drunken rant, he engages in what can only be called a really crude anti-Catholic rant. Without the “excuse” of drunkenness.

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As should be obvious, I don’t have a thin skin for “offensive” subject matter. Or even jokes about the Church. I took the title for this post from a musical-revue play that I once saw performed by a college or community theater. It was no Mel Brooks,¹ but I mostly enjoyed myself IIRC. I think it beehoves all groups, even religious ones, to have a sense of humor; it’s a sign of a balanced disposition.²

Nevertheless, this is just offensive calumny. Even if you don’t take the words literally and ask yourself “what is the overall point of the cartoon” (which, as a SOUTH PARK fan, I obviously believe is what one should do in engaging an artistic text) — “the point” could not more obviously be that “nuns beat anti-Semitism into Gibson and/or Catholic children generally.” Which is an absurd and tasteless lie.

But what I find particularly curious is that Oliphant once drew a virtually identical cartoon about Mel Gibson and a nun, back during the MSM’s hatefest over THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST.

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The current cartoon would be plagiarism if Oliphant weren’t “plagiarizing” from himself (which is obviously OK). The compositions of the images are virtually identical. The order of nuns has the same title (“Little Sisters of the Holy Agony”). The scrawny child in both cases is one-tenth the size of the bullying nun,³ who in both cases is cocking a ruler in the right hand and is near-identically drawn, even down to the pupil-less glasses-hidden eyes and the crucifix leaning toward the right. The only difference I tell is that in the earlier cartoon the POV doesn’t “look up” quite as much (a very small difference, obviously).

What was the reaction to the earlier cartoon? Well, it prompted the ombudsman of the Boston Globe, not exactly the newspaper with the deepest readership base of [or sympathy for] orthodox Catholics, to issue an apology (adequate or otherwise). Now, I understand that Oliphant is syndicated, not on the Globe staff, but, the ombudsman said, there was similar reaction at several other papers that ran the cartoon. Nevertheless, it’s Management 101 that if you rebuke someone for doing X (even if it’s a contractor whom you cannot formally sanction per se, as one could an employee), and then he does X again, the earthly reaction has to be harsher. The person has been granted fair notice that “this is not good,” thus making his second X a demonstration of his contempt for you. That’s why the virtual identicalness of the two cartoons matters. If ever “X equaled X” in the world of artistic representation, those two cartoons are it.⁴ And as the Boston blogger Politica Obscura noted, in re the earlier of these virtually identical cartoons, Oliphant is engaging in the equivalent of “In his early years little Steven Spielberg gets Jewed-down by Rabbi Bankem Goldman of the Zion Temple of the Sacred Money Grubbers.”

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¹ … speaking of religious humor. Maybe Gibson should have said that Jews control the world of comedy, and so are responsible for all the lousy sitcoms.
² I treasured reading reports on Cardinal Bertone, the new Vatican Secretary of State, about how once, in the context of denouncing human cloning, he said that “an exception might be made in the case of Sophia Loren.”
³ … which is just stupid. The remarkable thing about “old-school” ethnic nuns, as Camille Paglia has pointed out, is that a little old five-foot lady could control a class full of big jocks by her sheer force of personality and conviction.
⁴ Not that there aren’t plenty of other precedents of Oliphant engaging in ugly anti-Catholic caricature (the boy plainly, as they say, has issues. Or in less therapeutic talk, he’s an anti-Catholic bigot).

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August 5, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Lance vs. France

My friend David Morrison (welcome back bud) is a bicyclist and a big fan of Lance Armstrong. He is also guilty of suspicious Francophilia, so these developments should concern him deeply.

While accepting the ESPY last week, Armstrong said of the French soccer team that “all their players tested positive for being assholes.” Prompting the French media to respond in kind. I wonder why Armstrong might have used the particular phrase “tested positive.” Hmmm

Armstrong has been hounded by charges of doping, and there is an element of French chauvinism-cum-wishful-thinking in trying to deny that the greatest cycler in modern times was … (sniff) … “un americain.” In the Washington Diarist in the latest New Republic (not available online best I can tell), Robert Messenger wrote:

Armstrong’s retirement hasn’t slowed the French press’s relentless effort to prove that his seven victories were tainted by doping. The murky evidence and legal intricacies of the investigations are all but incomprehensible, but L’Equipe, the French sporting daily, runs each vague allegation under a screaming headline like “the Armstrong lie.”

Of course, what is funny (or nauseasting) is that there actually have been “doping convictions” associated with the Tour de France. And guess what … with the exception of one Australian, all the riders were European. And not an American among them.

I think head-shrinkers call this “projection.” Moralists call it “double standards.” I just call it “French.” Nor is it something unknown in the French attitude towards Americans in other fields. Several examples come to my head — the vocal criticism by the French government and the French populace generally of tough US action against Saddam Hussein or Iraqi insurgents in Fallujah (and the Jews against their Arab enemies as well). But how does France act when theirs are threatened — as in, say, the Ivory Coast? Restraint?

July 18, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Through a Glass … Drugged

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A SCANNER DARKLY (Richard Linklater, USA, 2006, 5)

I didn’t much care for Linklater’s previous film made in this “rotoscoping” style of animation — an undisciplined (if interesting to look at) mess from 2001 called WAKING LIFE, chalking it up to the content. The particulars are very different here, but basically, I have the same complaint. The script holds neither water nor my interest.

But that animation style. THAT is style. You root for SCANNER to be good because you want this “rotoscoping” technique to succeed, as it doesn’t look like anything you’ve ever seen. From my memory of interviewing Linklater for WAKING LIFE, it involves shooting the scenes live-action quick-and-dirty, then using computer animation to “trace” around the images to create digital shapes that can be reworked freely and recombined as whole entities into an all-animated framework. It produces images that look kinda real but sketchy, like a painter’s pencil drafts of his work (with the painting taken as the real-life master text). But it can be used much more impressionistically than real live-action. Here’s a page of images that gives you a general sense of the results. It also reminded me some of the more “realistic” non-cartoony boys comics I had as a wee lad — Hotspur and Warlord and Hornet rather than the Beano and Beezer; or, within the Dandy, Black Bob rather than Desperate Dan. But here the computer images are liberated from all space and perspective, and so can float, fade in and out, and otherwise be endlessly manipulated.

Now this is put to an appropriate thematic use in SCANNER — in fact the film resembles nothing so much as one of those Doonesbury strips where Duke (the Hunter S. Thompson character) is all messed up on he-doesn’t-remember-what-all. Told from Duke’s POV though. SCANNER takes place in a world where much of the populace (I think 20 percent) is hooked on this mythical drug Substance D, which produces an addiction that can’t be kicked. There’s a problem, though. However effectively this state is portrayed in SCANNER, being all drugged out is not a state that I particularly enjoy being in or a state that I dislike for a reason I find interesting or insightful — just say no if you don’t like your mind being all mashed-up. I didn’t much care for REQUIEM FOR A DREAM either, which also tried to get inside your head a bit too much; I tend to like my drug movies from a more-detached perspective, even that of someone onscreen — LESS THAN ZERO or JESUS SON say. Like WAKING LIFE, I “got” what the film was trying to do; I just didn’t like either existential state — a college dorm bull-session OR strung-out on mescaline, shrooms or Substance D.

Maybe part of it also is my coldness to most sci-fi — SCANNER being based on a Philip K. Dick dystopia of universal surveillance, set seven years in the future. SCANNER starts out like a meditation on identity, with Keanu Reeves muttering “this is terrible” inside a “scramble” suit while the suit is being boosted at a fraternal lodge-like meeting. The suit makes him anonymous for his anti-drug undercover work by having his appearance perpetually morph in and out of milions of permutations — think the Godley & Creme video of “Cry” only over the whole body rather than just the face. Except wouldn’t this actually BLOW your cover cuz you’d be the one morphing perpetually, rather than having one stable identity? But it isn’t sustained or followed through, unless your “work self” being made to spy on your “nonwork self” counts, which is what the greater part of the plot in the film’s body follows — Keanu-in-the-suit-so-nobody-knows-who-he-is gets assigned to surveil his circle of junkie friends, as part of an investigation of who is producing Substance D. (There are two twists at the end that are pretty jejune IMHO.) We also get a short sequence of bourgeois discontent, that also is dropped, until we get an equally short shard of discontent with the slacker-hippie lifestyle. There’s also a bit of lumpy metaphor in a speech about warring hemispheres of the brain. Obviously rotoscoping allows this state of fragmentation to be represented. But too well, if anything — the potential themes and threads fade in and out like the identities on the scramble suit.

There is quite a bit to like in SCANNER, though, even apart from the bravura style. Woody Harrelson and Robert Downey Jr. play the “character” roles — Downey as a superficially-brilliant-sounding paranoiac, Harrelson as “recent” Woody (not the “Cheers” bartender) — and they’re both brilliant. They figure in most of the scenes I found entertaining, playing humorously drugged-out clowns. They play like adult versions of Beavis and Butt-head — one short sequence played like a riff off the B&B “Choke” episode. Downey also goes through the most elaborately convoluted suicide plan ever. It’s like a TRISTRAM SHANDY game of perpetual procrastination and aside-dropping before getting “a fine wine — a Merlot” (cue chuckles from everyone who saw SIDEWAYS) and he winds up tied to his bed having a thousand-eyed beast spend eternity reading him his sins (another riff off a classic Beavis & Butthead short, “The Final Judgment of Beavis,” right down to the “and then you discovered masturbation” joke). One scene reminded me of Stephen Wright’s joke that burglars had broken in, stolen everything in his apartment and replaced it with an exact duplicate. Downey and Harrelson come back from a short trip, fear that the place has been burgled and convince themselves into total paralysis. It’s the fun side of the drug lifestyle, I guess, but at least it IS kinda fun. Those two are great stuff, unfortunately, SCANNER leaves them behind for it’s last half-hour without apparent explanation — imagine a hypothetical “King Lear” in which The Fool was the most-interesting character.

July 17, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Ignoble savages

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THE PROPOSITION (John Hillcoat, Australia, 2006) — 3

Maybe seeing this right after such a (mostly) melancholy “late” film as PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION made this 19th-century-set Australian revenge “western” seem more like an continuous act of adolescent brutalism than it really was. But I doubt it. Any movie that starts with a title card apologizing for historical depictions of Aborigines will get my back up, even if I’d just seen THE SEARCHERS.

The plot is simple — one of two arrested Irish outlaw brothers (Guy Pearce) is given his freedom, on condition that he hunt down and kill a third brother (Danny Huston) while the other arrested brother (Richard Wilson) is held hostage. But the point is simpler. What this is is, O my brothers, is a self-hating pretentious pile of revisionist twaddle — I hereby coin the term “hatriotism” to describe this sort of Western obsession with rubbing our face in the bad shit in our history. We are the savages, it turns out.

Guaranteed, everything you ever saw in a Roy Rogers western will be demystified to show how ugly it “really” was. Every man will sweat like a pig and have a four-day growth (imagine Sergio Leone without the directorial chops); all the clothes will be filthy and rumpled; meat will be cut in an open-air butcher’s; the hostage brother will be a small and frail; the killings of people will be really gory; somebody will piss or shit in nature very early on; when “Rule Britannia” is sung, it’ll be sung by bloodstained drunks (in case we miss the point, when we get to the line “Britons never will be slaves,” the director thoughtfully cuts to a pile of dead bodies); the homestead must have a white-picket fence, of course. And a character will be beaten up while having the Union Jack wrapped over his head in (there’s symbolism there, I think). John Hurt gives the second-worst supporting “character” performance by an actor named “Hurt” in the past year — an overacted chunk of menacing giggling and mugging so hammy that kosher Jews probably shouldn’t watch this movie.

Yes, THE PROPOSITION really is this one-dimensional and relentless — the equivalent of a little boy shoving a rat in your face. No, it’s a (chronologically) older boy doing the same with pride and expecting you to consider him a deep critical thinker for it. This is all supposed to stand for how mean the honkies were to the Indigenous People, and how our civilization is built on genocide and conquest and brutality … blah, blah, blah. And it wouldn’t be a hatriotic film without a foppish civil servant who … surprise … turns out the most cruel of all (Victor slaps forehead). Or without a perfumed woman (Emily Watson) who keeps a tea set, a grandfather clock and a Christmas tree with snow (importing England to the Colonies, you understand; and it’s summer too, in December … snicker). The rich colonial bitch, of course, must pay for it by being raped, with the attacker entering right at the moment of the Christmas dinner prayer; and if she’s going to be rescued it has to be while the rapist is on top of her (characters in hatriotic tracts have great dramatic flair and timing, you understand). There’s even a portrait of Queen Victoria’s coronation, for the symbol-dense.

In a movie that’s nothing but lumpy moments, the last is the piece de resistance — someone who’s been shot going outside to sit in the lotus position so he can die while watching the sunset with the man who killed him (rhyming with an earlier scene of watching the sunset; easy parallellism matters more than even life itself to a hatriotism character). Pointedly the last line is “what are you gonna do now.” No answer is forthcoming. I guess that’s deep.

But G-Money dissents.

July 3, 2006 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

New film has Old Testament feel

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USHPIZIN, Giddi Dar, Israel, 2005, 8

“Blessed are all they that fear the Lord: that walk in his ways … it shall be well with thee. Thy wife as a fruitful vine, on the sides of thy house. Thy children as olive plants, round about thy table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord.”
– Psalm 127

To the hero of the Israeli film “Ushpizin,” those are hollow words. His wife is not a fruitful vine. Yet God has made his promises, so, in the classic Deuteronomical view of God’s providence, the fault must be with him. God grants us everything we need and everything for which we pray sufficiently well.

shuliin.jpgMoshe (Shuli Rand) is a member of an Orthodox Jewish group, the Breslau Hasidics, living with his wife Malli (Michal Bat-Sheva Rand) in the group’s own open-courtyard block, somewhat apart from Jerusalem society (e.g., the Israeli police seek explanations and get reassurances from religious elders upon entering the courtyard to answer a call). It’s the harvest festival of Succot, and, in accord with Jewish tradition, each family must build a hut outside their home and offer hospitality to all strangers. But Moshe and Malli are so poor that they can barely even feed themselves.

Then a miracle happens, and they can now build their hut. Thanks be to God. Then two strangers (Shaul Mizrahi and Ilan Ganani) show up, escapees from an Israeli jail and acquaintances from Moshe’s pre-conversion hell-raising life as Bad Bad Leroy Brownstein. Moshe thinks they’re up to no good; Malli says they’re the “ushpizin” (guests) that God has blessed them with and that he’s failing to trust Him, something that would especially sting a man who recently abandoned a dissolute life. A rabbi (Daniel Dayan) warns Moshe that every time you pass a test, God sends a harder one. And while doing his godly duties, he has to leave the two convicts alone with his wife, who knows neither Moshe’s past nor their ties to him.

Taking the form of a comic fable or fairy tale, “Ushpizin” is as clean and simply plotted as Aesop, while being both as gentle in tone and as tough in its subtext as any fairy tale. “Ushpizin” also offers a rare look into a closed and reclusive subculture, but from an insider’s point-of-view. Combined with the setting and the constant invocations of a providential God, the film has the feel of Old Testament wisdom literature. If David or Solomon had been film-makers they might have produced something like this. There are obvious elements of Job, parallels to several Psalms, the basic plot situation of Abraham and Sarah (no Hagar here though), the familiar plot point of the unwelcome guest, the line “we need a miracle” is repeated with variations several times. And if you’re one of those Biblical scholars who has problems with the ending of Job …

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One of the most remarkable things about “Ushpizin” is how “present” God is. There are constant invocations of Him, the movie’s most-memorable sequence is of prayer being simultaneously asked and answered, the dramatic conflict concerns His providence and centers on the role white lies, bets, evil and threats therein play in it. Warm-hearted and austere at the same time, it commands a response to God’s love without sugar-coating its difficulties (what religious man – Jew, Christian or Zoroastrian – can’t associate with that). In sum, HaShem is actually the most important Character in the movie, which fades off into the closing credits with a celebratory psalm being sung … “there is nothing but God.”

In the 90 years since D.W. Griffith had the Klan race against time to save the honor of Lillian Gish, movies have intercut parallel action to build suspense or to unite events separated in time and space. It’s now so cliche, you can even play against it (think of the climax of “Silence of the Lambs”). But “Ushpizin” is the only film I can think of to intercut two characters praying. And a third character doing something unwitting to answer their prayers. And, marvelously, to the same classical effect, of uniting the divided under God’s Providence. Director Giddi Dar cinematically portrays marriage as one soul in two bodies, and prayer to God as what unites. There’s even (I hate to say this so bluntly) an erotic charge to the simultaneous depiction of each spouse’s devotion.

couplecitron.jpgThere’s also a key casting reason for this easy chemistry – Moshe and Malli are portrayed by a real-life husband and wife team of Hasidic Jews (a key requirement to get cooperation from the relevant rabbis). Shuli Rand, an Israeli stage actor before his religious conversion, and Michal Bat-Sheva Rand, a former theater director, are probably the only husband-and-wife Hasidim in the world with significant acting experience. Shuli Rand also wrote the script for Dar, a secularized Israeli Jew.

The great Italian neorealist director Vittorio De Sica once said that everybody can play one character – himself – better than anyone else possibly could. The Rands are not exactly playing themselves in terms of plot events, but in terms of the psychological territory of recent Hasidic converts testing the limits of God’s love and providence, these are roles only they could play. They have an easy familiar love and “screen chemistry” that can neither be faked or nor created by scenes of hot flesh grinding away. Michal Bat-Sheva Rand may cover her hair and wear traditional modest robes, but women in traditional societies are not patsies, something she knows and portrays far better than an outsider.

In presenting a romantic depiction of what a holy, religious marriage looks like, “Ushpizin” joins two other recent Israeli films – “Late Marriage” and “Trembling Before G-d” – in offering some of the cinema’s few serious portrayals of the traditional religious teachings on marriage, family and sex. Perhaps the constraint of avoiding anti-Semitism prevents the kind of vicious caricature of Christians that is par for the course in Hollywood and Indiewood. In the tart dramedy “Late Marriage,” a modern liberated son is shown to be a shmuck when his parents try to arrange a marriage. “Trembling” is a documentary about Hasidic Jews struggling (or not) with homosexuality and the only film I know of about religion and homosexuality that isn’t overdetermined gay propaganda.
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First published at The Fact Is.

November 22, 2005 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

A shaggy letter to the DNC

A friend leaked to me this important letter, an example of the sort of support worthy of the Democratic National Committee and (most of) the party’s White House hopefuls:

Dear DNC:
Thank you for giving the opportunity to speak my mind.
I lost my job this past year. When Clinton was president, I worked in a prosperous enterprise. But in the last year, we had to close our operations. We simply could not compete with foreign labor. This foreign labor worked for low pay under very bad conditions. They worked very long shifts, and many even died on the job. This competition could hardly be called “fair.” I was forced out of the place where I had worked for 34 years. Not a single government program was there to help me. How can Bush call himself “compassionate?”
Far worse, I lost two of my sons in Bush’s evil war in Iraq. They gave their lives for their country, and for what? So that Bush’s oil buddies can get rich. My pain of losing my sons is indescribable. While it is trivial next to the loss of my sons, I regret to say that I also lost my home. I simply had nothing left. How can Bush call himself a Christian when he neglects people like me?
I am a senior citizen with various medical problems. I’m not in a position where I can begin a new career. I was reduced to the point where I was basically homeless, all because of President Bush.
Mr. Bush, I dare you to look me in the face and tell me you are a compassionate man! I dare you to look me in the face and tell me you are a Christian!
If I had any money left, I would donate it to the Democratic party. If Al Gore had been elected in 2000, I guarantee I would still have a job, a home, and most importantly, my dear sons!

Regards,
Saddam Hussein

January 29, 2004 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Ataaaaaaaaack of the Papistrightwingers

I was gonna say something about a truly vile article in Sunday’s Boston Globe magazine, but really, I can’t do better than this by Catholic blogger Dale Price.

November 4, 2003 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

And now Weekend Update …

Breaking news on several fronts over the last few days (when I was away for a film festival) and on which I have posted here before:

First, Mel Gibson landed a distributor, Newmarket Films, and confirmed the planned release date for the newly titled THE PASSION OF CHRIST as Ash Wednesday. I’ve already made my predictions — a firestorm of anti-Semitism charges (the Lent opening will give another excuse … er … news peg to accuse the Church of anti-Semitism and assorted other bestialities), and a negative critical reception since some critics already have their leads written, and I refuse to believe this is an isolated attitude. Box office, we’ll have to wait and see, but subtitled films just don’t do well in the United States. I think only two, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL and CROUCHING TIGER, have ever even broken $50 million. (And if it’s not two, it’s no more than three.) Any good? I’ll get back to you.

Second, the screener issue was “solved,” with the MPAA agreeing to lift the ban, but only for Academy members. This solves some of the problems, but leaves critics groups, primarily those for critics working in smaller markets, out in the cold.

Third, Michael “Killer” Schiavo is starting his Public Redemption Tour facing the tough, incisive questioning of Larry King. “My girlfriend supports my stance on Terri because the kind of care I want to give her will remove Terri as an obstacle and we’ll be free to marry.” Or something like that. And of course, the Atheist Press is spinning this story as a “right-to-die” case, when curiously, the person who will die never herself asserted that right.

Finally, on the Canadian tolerance beat, theological liberals in the Episcopal Church prove their open-mindedness, Celebrate Diversity and fight the forces of inquisitorial reaction by threatening heresy trials for those who repudiate the One Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Be Intolerant Of Mine Approved Groups.

October 28, 2003 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Culture vs. religion

Mark Shea has a bee in his bonnet about an article in the City Journal. I suppose I might agree with him if the article he was responding to ever claimed that American conservatism *is* eternal. But the article is entirely about the culture we live in, not theology or soteriology, so necessarily it’s about temporal things, the things of the age, Augustine’s city of man, where virtues (albeit imperfect ones) can be found even from the Romans. We judge temporal things primarily by temporal standards, under prudence — not eternal ones, under judgment.

So considered *as cultural-political criticism,* Mr. Shea doesn’t lay a glove on the article. When he says “Try, seriously, to square the worldview of contempt which informs South Park with Catholic teaching,” he’s missing the point. The article makes it clear that South Park’s virtues are negative ones — it’s the enemy of the enemy. This is not exactly a friend, but in the world of politics, that’s close enough. In addition, you can only engage a culture (either politically or religiously) where it is, otherwise it tunes you out. Nostalgia-based condemnation of the age is not a serious stance, certainly culturally-speaking. In this ironic day and age, THE BELLS OF ST. MARY’S ain’t gonna cut it. I remember as a boy hating Mickey Mouse because I thought it was too much like education and moral uplift, and there was something about Bugs Bunny’s insouciant poise that was more attractive. Mickey could have had imprimaturs out the wazoo, but it wouldn’t have mattered to me because I didn’t like him. Flannery O’Connor talked about saving your work first. One of John Paul’s greatest virtues is being the first mass-media pope, understanding that you engage people where they are, and if the world has a comic-book culture, then make a comic book out of your biography.

I’ve already written some of my own thoughts about South Park, and wish only to add that a new season of 8 episodes began last week and that there has to be good in any show where all the Gay Guys Who Dress Up The Breeder, or whatever it’s called, get killed. It’d be impossible to deny that the show has a tone of contempt, but there’s a gleeful quality to it that is equally impossible to miss and which makes the show a valuable satirical weapon for these times. I’d compare South Park to Camille Paglia — not orthodox, but friendly because it has all the right enemies to have in this day and age. I frankly wonder whether Mr. Shea, who repeatedly rails against TV as such, has seen very much of the show, of which he does not cite a single moment.

I’m also massively unconvinced by Mr. Shea’s implicit “a pox on both your houses” moral-equivalence stance toward politics. It strikes me as imprudent and makes the perfect the enemy of the good. American conservatism is definitely imperfect sub specie aeternitis, but Catholics and Christians can find much common ground and get a serious hearing without contempt for our very existence and the belief that we are the enemy as such — the “keep your rosaries off my ovaries” attitude. With conservatism, the spirit is willing, even if the flesh is sometimes weak; with liberalism, the spirit is in total league with the Enemy. *That* is what the culture war (on which Mr. Shea does brilliant service on the side of the angels) is all about; whether Christianity can inhabit the public space or whether progress is measured by how thoroughly it can be repudiated. There is an absolute difference here between the two dominant ideologies and parties, and Christians should not kid themselves about who their friends and enemies are.

If Tolkien really, truly intends “The Lord of the Rings” as some sort of global indictment of “Power,” then I feel vindicated in my aesthetic resistance to him — I was pretty tepid on the two movies and cannot comment on them as novels because I found them unreadable. It’d be good therefore to know, if that account is accurate, that they’re also pretty silly. A serious politics cannot begin with the notion that power is some evil Ring. It is all fine and good to say render unto Caesar, and that the regime doesn’t matter because the gates of hell shall not prevail, etc. But the Catholic Church has never taught political quietism, and frankly I’d rather see the Body in a friendly culture and polity than an unfriendly one, if I can affect the matter at all (and again, *that I can* is the unstated assumption of all political and cultural engagement). But maybe that’s just me. The question is not whether there shall be worldly power, but who shall wield it and for what ends — relatively good ones or relatively bad ones. Ones hostile to Christ or friendly to Him.

October 28, 2003 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment