Way, way, WAY worse. If you read my previous comments on her take on Taken, it should come as no surprise that her "film criticism" is merely a superficial shell encapsulating her right-wing worldview. Her most recent writing to have caught my attention--unfortunately highlighted on the Big Hollywood blog--is a "review" and a follow-up article about Watchmen.
What's wrong with it? First, Debbie Schlussel wants you to die:
The e-mails they [Watchmen defenders] send me and the comments they make about how "deep," "edgy" and "profound" this vile piece of trash (which is none of these) is, reminds me of the blind statements of followers of Jim Jones. And we all know what happened after they drank he purple Kool-Aid. If only this movie could achieve that result, it would be the most fantastic exercise in natural selection ever conducted in America.
She calls it "a movie based on a comic book promoting rape, torture, and brutal killing." But the book does no such thing. These vile acts are committed to show us how despicable these characters are. The point is that superheroes are glamorized in comic books but if we had "real" masked vigilantes, they would be pretty awful people. It is not so much to make a point about superheroes as it is about who rules our society and how heroes are conjured to ideologically defend it. In short, saying that the graphic novel condones rape is like saying that Doubt balks at making "a clear condemnation of child molestation."
But that appears to be a standard right-wing tactic--if something is shown in less than your starkly black-and-white misinformed view of the world, say that it condones the evil thing being discussed. You think that not all Muslims are terrorists and that we should understand why some Muslims hate America? You condone terrorism! This line of attack makes very poor politics and even worse film criticism.
It is also hypocritical. For all her railing against condoning "torture and brutal killing," she enthusiastically praised the movie Taken, a movie whose hero both "tortures" and "brutally kills" people. This can easily be seen as an argument in defense of these tactics, and Schlussel's article cheering on the movie can be seen as a defense of them as well. But for Schlussel it is OK, because in Taken the victims are Muslims.
Among the other horrible things Schlussel objects to in Watchmen:
* Superhero "The Comedian" (a bad Robert Downey, Jr. look-alike) brutally beating and raping another superhero--this movie concludes that the rape was a good thing b/c the slutty superhero had a slutty superhero daughter from him;
* Superhero "The Comedian" shooting and killing a Vietnamese woman because she's pregnant with his kid;
* Superhero "The Comedian" being thrown off a roof of a tall building--we see his body hit the ground and the blood flow out;
Having not seen the movie but only read the book, all of this sounds very familiar. And while I can't comment on whether the film pulls this material off, it seems unlikely that the "movie concludes that the rape was a good thing." The whole point of all of this in the book was that these vigilantes would be very nasty people, nothing like the boyscout-like Superman who fought for "truth, justice, and the American way."
Maybe if the Comedian had been an Arab or a Muslim rather than a white American mercenary working for the US government, then Debbie Schlussel would have found much more to like in the portrayal of his disgusting acts and his ultimate demise.
Finally, Schlussel comes up with this brilliant comment:
It's 1985 and Nixon is President. We've won in Vietnam . . . Wow, isn't that cool that they got it wrong on purpose? I'm so amazed at this "high-brow art" of deliberately getting dates and timelines wrong, you know, just to be "artistic," and get the drooling of the critics. That is sooooo genius. Like way totally cool.
It was pretty clear in the book (although I don't think it was ever spelled out) that Dr. Manhattan's powers guaranteed the dominance of US imperialism and helped Nixon stay in power for decades. That is actually kind of interesting when you think about it for a second.
But that is apparently more than Schlussel was willing to do.