Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Politics of Movies

"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross".
                                                                      - Sinclair Lewis, author

Being Canadian, I normally avoid discussions on U.S. p0litics, after 2o years I realized I'm not going to change anyone's mind, nor they mine. But then, half my family, on my mom's side is from Michigan and I did work for Bobby Kennedy in 1968, registering voters in the poor side of Indianapolis. So I do have half a say on this.

There's a new animated movie coming out this week, The Lorax, based on Dr. Seuss' children's book. It's about a furry creature (Lorax) that attempts to stop a bad guy from cutting down a certain type of tree. 

Immediately it got slammed, before it's even out, by right wing Republican organizations who are saying this:

"Hollywood is once again trying to indoctrinate our children and plainly demonizing the so-called 1% and espousing the virtue of green energy policies."  Lou Dobson.

"The Lorax is teaching our kids that the biggest threat to Mother Earth is mankind and it's a ludicrous premise" Media Research Center 

"I don't want the moron writers of The Lorax trying to indoctrinate children and turn them into eco-warriors"  Dan Gainer who also said the Muppets movie was anti-capitalist because the villain is an oilman and rich. 

The U.S. had always been divided. During the Revolutionary War there were actually 3 sides, the rebels, those who supported the British and those who didn't care either way.

Your basic Republican, Democrat and Independent.

I get asked often by the few conservative friends I have, including my ex-wife, why there aren't right wing movies being made. My answer is simple. Nobody wants to make them. And nobody wants to make them because they don't make money.

Remember this; the film industry for the most part is about one thing; money.

Take David Zucker, famous for the Airplane comedies of the 1980's as well as the spoof horror film Scream. After 9/11 he become conservative and decided to make a spoof of Michael Moore. The film was so bad that nobody saw it, even conservatives.

And that's because Zucker, of all people, forgot the golden rule.

I was told that rule by a 92-year old screenwriter a long time ago and I don't think it gets repeated often enough. It's simply this;

Be mad as hell about something but don't ever let the audience know it.

Does that sound contradictory?

My screenplay, Emperor of Mars, which you've seen mentioned a lot in this blog is about a lot of things; a boy growing up, lost love, loneliness, bitterness... and discrimination. But discrimination is buried deep within the texture of the screenplay and... best of all, not all readers recognize it.

Ukrainians and Jews (many from the Ukraine) were discriminated in Canada from the time they arrived around 1895 to the late 50's. In fact a Ukrainian often had to change his name to get a job in the west. My uncle did that.

But yet, it's not the main element of the story, it's put in the background for those who will probably find it and the majority probably won't.

 "Don't let the audience know it". 

There are, however, exceptions.

When Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath was made by John Ford in 1939, the conservatives went crazy. The book was publicly banned in some states (guess which) and the book was burned as well. Ford didn't give a damn and made a great film and Warner's had pressure to not release it.

Steinbeck was accused of being a Communist to portray poor families from Oklahoma looking for work against the big business machine. The movie won 3 Oscars.

I got a lot of my values from movies, as did some friends of mine,  the movie theater was where I saw the world, living in a village of 500 people far from any city. I saw Paris and London and New York and Hollywood, where I hoped to be someday.

And I learned of values, be a good person (at least as much as you're able to), don't lie, don't cheat, respect yourself and others and give rather than take. That and parents who had hard-working values.

If it wasn't for greedy ranchers, we'd never have great westerns like Shane and hundreds of other westerns where conservatives were the bad guys.

As my dad used to say; "you don't get rich by being honest".

With the exception of movie stars who win the lottery, that's still my basic rule in life.

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