Friday, March 6, 2009

Worse than Ben Lyons - Debbie Schlussel

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.


Anonymous said...

To be entirely fair to Debbie, other critics have given the movie bad reviews somewhat along the same lines. Richard Roeper also gave it a lackluster review and pointed out the crazy violence.

Scott said...

My problem is not that she does not like the movie, but that her approach is hypocritical and ignorant. She even says "If you see it yourself, you're also probably a moron and a vapid, indecent human being." Count me in!

Anonymous said...

So she has a viewpoint. You don't agree with her viewpoint. Oh well.

She's not as bad as Ben Lyons.

BigFatLittlePiggy said...

Having a viewpoint is one thing, but brutally insulting people for having different opinions than you is another thing entirely.

I say she's WORSE than Ben Lyons. At least he doesn't rag about the people who went to see the movie.

Wes said...

Those types of critics are the worse. They are incapable of seeing anything except through the prism of their politics. Films are lauded in proportion to how well it advances their political causes. They're the folks who saw an endorsement of George W. Bush in he Dark Knight, or cast Juno as a pro-life movie (to take something from recent memory).

They actually make it harder to discuss political themes in the films that do warrant it, as others may suspect you to be a party apparatchik.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you've proven to have no life other than to bash on movies that are actually good.

You deserve a Darwin Award.

-your favorite devil girl

Anonymous said...

Hey Scott, have you ever read any of Scott Holleran's reviews? I'm currently reading Schlussel's shit right now, and she makes that Objectivist bastard look sane in comparison.

For the record, Holleran said pretty much the same things about Watchmen, going so far as to call it one of the worst movies of all time.

Scott said...

"your favorite devil girl"

Like that's going to help me figure out who you are! I have so many favorite devil girls . . .

By the way, I am once again stumped as to whether this commenter is talking about me or the subject of the post (Debbie Schlussel). So maybe I deserve the Darwin Award either way.

Anonymous said...

Debs is not even a film critic. Shouldn't she be calling somebody out as a jihadist right now?

I am a fan of the comic and it totally does not promote any of these things. The Comedian was a murdering creep given full military honors while Dr. Manhattan gets taken advantage of, both by the Government and Veidt International. I know liberals and conservatives who both like the film likewise who hated it. Rorschach is a homophobic, disturbed man in pain who Alan Moore even deems of having insane politics and yet my liberal self cannot help but make him my favorite character.

Watchmen makes you think about human nature, the role of people in government and vice versa, and the Cold War impact that while in the parallel universe of 1985 in the GN and film, you can definitely make connections to our world right now despite what AO Scott and Owner Gleibermann think about it.

I know people who thought The Dark Knight thought it supported US-NSA wiretappings and others who believed Lucius Fox differing opinion was a sign the film did not.

I find it fascinating what films can bring different emotions, particularly political ideology, out of people.

Anonymous said...


Owen Gleiberman

Anonymous said...

Oh wow Scott a person with a viewpoint other than yours! Get over it, the Watchmen isn't a masterpiece of cinems anyway.

Anonymous said...

Check out Colin Covert of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

He's not a political movie "Critic", he just sucks big time.

David Ferrell said...

Also, to be fair, while I agree with you, unless you've seen Watchmen, don't go bashing someone else's review of it.

Scott said...

I agree with you, and if you read the article closely you will notice that I was very careful to comment only on things that I legitimately know something about and hedged on things I did not. So I didn't write about how she was wrong to give the movie a negative review (how could I?) but why her criticisms were off-base and hypocritical. Especially her pseudo-opposition to torture and her hatred of people (like me) who even wanted to see the movie. Also, I critiqued her take on the book, which she had not read and I had.

Realizing that my enthusiasm for the movie might wane after seeing it, I wrote the article this way on purpose. Having seen the movie since writing the article, I don't think I would change anything that I wrote.