I now completely understand God's whole "I think I'll wipe out humanity with a flood" line of thinking.
There's a movie coming to a cineplex near you in a few weeks, an independent film that is based on an acclaimed novel and that received all kinds of accolades at the Sundance Film Festival. So will it be a interesting and involving documentary like March of the Penguins? An intelligent and twisty detective story like Brick? An offbeat but funny character comedy like Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang? A sweet, unconventional love story like Once?
Not so much.
Nothing in the world of Hollywood is quite so thrilling as "exploring complex themes" and "crossing boundaries" and "breaking taboos". For instance, Philadelphia and Brokeback Mountain "explored" the "complex theme" of living a homosexual lifestyle in a heterosexual society, and the resistance encountered by those who "cross societal boundaries" and "break the taboo" against it. Or, despite the fact that most middle-class Americans find living in the suburbs attractive (for safety for their family, access to better schools, and having more space), Hollywood loves to repeatedly "explore the complex theme" of how the suburbanites are all living repressed, depressing, hypocritical, and vacuous lives, and need deliverance in the form of "crossing boundaries" and "breaking the taboos" of their awful society.
Apparently tired of telling the movie-going public about how soul-crushing suburbia is or about the oppression of homosexuals, writer/director Alan Ball's new film Towelhead aims to break another taboo and explore the complex issue of......
Yes, you read that right.
In a Question & Answer session following a screening of his upcoming release, Ball said of child rape, “Society wants us to believe that’s a soul destroying event, I don’t believe that.” In Towelhead, to quote Ball, the “experience makes [the victim] stronger.”
Yes, you read that right, too.
Here's a synopsis from one of the attendees of the screening:
Set somewhere in Texas at the height of the first Gulf War, Towelhead has no real story. It’s a two-hour series of quick scenes obsessing over Jasira’s sexual, physical, emotional, and racial abuse at the hands of everyone but the two thoughtful hippies who live next door. When not being abused, Jasira, in a series of provocative scenes focusing on her bare, mini-skirted legs, enjoys a sexual awakening giving herself orgasms while looking at pictures of naked women in porn magazines.
The film opens on Jasira wearing only a bra and panties. Shaving cream’s smeared on her thighs so mom’s boyfriend can shave her pubic area. Jasira understands what’s happening, and as with all the sexual abuse she’ll face, there’s a part of her that obviously enjoys it. Later, another character will shave her … without her wearing panties.
Upon discovering what happened, Mom, a crucifix wearing Christian, doesn’t toss the boyfriend, she blames Jasira and ships her off to Texas to live with her father Rifat, a Lebanese born American who works for NASA and hates Saddam. It’s made clear to us immediately that Rifat is not a Muslim, but also a Christian. It’s made clear just before he smacks Jasira harshly across the face for dressing provocatively.
At school none of the Texas “rubes” can pronounce Jasira’s name correctly, not even her teachers. Instead, the students call her “sand nigger” and “diaper head.”
After school Jasira babysits for Zack Vuosos, the ten year old boy next door who calls her “towelhead” and introduces her to the sex magazines. Mr. Vuoso ritually flies the American flag by day, takes it down and folds it by night, and with little effort seduces a willing Jasira.
The first sexual encounter between Vuosa and Jasira occurs in the foyer of her home...later, he’ll full-on rape her, but not until after we’re treated to a striptease presented and photographed like something right out of late night Cinemax.
As the film progresses, moves on from Vuosa to a boy only a few years older than she is (still, she's 13 and the boy is 16-17). She’s empowered sexually (at 13) and the film ends on what’s meant to be a triumphant note when she decides on a relationship with him. When it’s all over, not only is her soul intact but she suffered no emotional or psychological damage whatsoever. In the end, after all she’s been through, she seems completely unchanged. Again, to quote Ball, her experiences "made her stronger."
I really don't know of any better way to convey my reaction to reading the above, other than "Holy F---ing S--t. That is the most morally reprehensible thing I have read in....ever."
So statuatory rape and/or forced rape is not only NOT a “soul-destroying event”, but it actually makes the victim stronger? I guess all those Catholic priests are off the hook then, huh?
Chritianity: Hate the sin (pedophilia), love the sinner (priests).
Hollywood: Love the sin (pedophilia), hate the sinner (priests).
(And yes, I am aware that less than 1% of Catholic priests were involved in these cases. I just don’t think Hollywood will show the victims of their abuse as “stronger” for it, do you?)
So let’s see how the movie did on the “Hollywood point-of-view” checklist:
Mom blames daughter for sex with Mom’s boyfriend
Christians as wrong-headed: Check
Texas “rubes”…call her “sand nigger” and “diaper head.”
Red-staters as racists: Check
It’s made clear [that her father is a Christian] just before he smacks Jasira harshly across the face...
Christians as abusive: Check
....for dressing provocatively
Male Christians unable to deal with daughter's sexuality: Check
Mr. Vuoso (Eckhart) ritually flies the American flag by day, takes it down and folds it by night, and with little effort seduces a willing Jasira.
Patriotic person is really a pervert: Check
…sexual, physical, emotional, and racial abuse at the hands of everyone but the two thoughtful hippies who live next door
Hippies good, red-staters and/or Christians bad: Check
Later, he’ll full on rape her, but not until after we’re treated to a striptease...
Sexualization of teenager presented as “empowering”: Check
In the end, after all she’s been through, she seems completely unchanged...
Sex, especially involving minors, has no consequences: Check
Throw in a couple of secular humanist European lesbians and some commentary on how George Bush has ruined the world, and this movie would have been Hollywood nirvana. Somewhere in Hollywood, someone is asking "Where are the secular humanist European lesbians when we need them?"
Now to answer a couple of questions I'm sure you're having:Q: Who in the world was this movie made for?
A: Other than guys who go to the movies wearing trench coats and not wearing any pants, I have no idea.
Q: Why on earth would a director and studio make this film?
A: That one's easy: to set in motion the following sequence of events:
1. Director and studio release a film with a vile, offensive, and morally repugnant message.
2. Anyone with even an ounce of common sense and a smidgen of ability to tell right from wrong is aghast.
3. Director and studio smugly pat themselves on back for being “daring” and “being able to explore a complex issue”, unlike the “simple” people described in #2.
4. Culturally conservative pundits and religious pundits (and, to make matters worse, Catholic Defense League’s Bill Donohue*) go ballistic. Some call for boycott and/or protest against director and studio.
5. Director and studio cry “Censorship!” and “First Amendment” and “Free Speech!”**. They claim the exalted status of victimhood.
6. Director and studio are featured on the covers of Time, Newsweek, and Entertainment Weekly, all of which stress the director and studio’s “daring to explore a complex issue”.
7. Director can now can claim the coveted “controversial” tag for himself, as in “Controversial director Alan Ball…”. Studio has every director on the planet wanting to work for them, since there is apparently no topic off-limits in regards to their decisions on which films to green-light.
Result: Director wins. Studio wins.
* - Mr. Donohue is often correct in his statements, but he a) plays directly into the hands of those he opposes by publicly making a stink, and b) can be so abrasive that he alienates even those who agree with him.
** - Of course, neither private citizens boycotting a product nor privately owned theaters refusing to show a film are a violation of First Amendment rights. Hollywood is filled with a lot of “intellectuals” who “believe in the Constitution”, but whom have apparently never actually read it.
The only question I'm left with is "Which is a clearer indication of the depravity of Mr. Ball and the studio releasing this movie: the movie itself or their attempts at justification of it?"
UPDATE: So how did the critics respond? Horror? Disgust? Outrage? No, no, silly religious/uptight person....they LOVED it!!! As of now, it has received 80% positive reviews. Here are some highlights:
Hollywood Reporter: "Alternately disturbing, laceratingly satirical and affectingly poignant, the film...is very much a companion piece to the Ball-penned "American Beauty" in its unwavering examination of the dirty little secrets and raging hypocrisies lurking just beyond all those manicured suburban lawns."
Remember what I said about Hollywood vs. Suburbia?
Reel.com: "Ball is to be commended for taking the risk and this film is well worth seeking out for those who can get past their squeamishness."
So if I just get past my hang-up about adults having sex with children, it's an enjoyable evening at the movies?
Film Threat: "Being a teen sucks. Being a teen that is of another race can suck even more in a land as narrow-minded as this one. Yet this film does a good job of putting it all into perspective with a lot of heart."
Oh, and a lot of child rape.
If anyone needs me, I'll be outside building an ark.