Hollywood, offensive speech and why ‘The Interview’ actually matters

TheIntSome neocons like to argue that the protections afforded by the First Amendment really only apply to political speech — that artistic speech of a non-political nature simply isn’t subject to the same rigorous scrutiny. (Even political speech to them doesn’t include, apparently, blocking traffic or wearing T-shirts on the field at sporting events) And while no one has probably ever referred to what Seth Rogen does as art, the free expression issues raised in the controversy over his new film, The Interview, reach the level of serious discussion.

If you haven’t heard, the comedy — which was supposed to screen for local critics tonight and open in Dallas on Christmas Day — is a about the comical attempts of a talk show host and his producer to assassinate Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s dictator. Last month, pro-North Korean factions hacked the private servers of Sony (the parent company of Columbia Pictures, which is releasing the film), and disclosed all sorts of embarrassing details about the company, and threatened to blow up movie theaters who dared screen the film which dares parody the leader of the most oppressive regime in the world. In other words, to these guys, there is no such this as protection for free expression of ideas, even stupid ones. (I suppose they have that in common with a lot of folks at FoxNews — ironic, since FoxNews specializes in stupid ideas.)

Yesterday, Sony caved to pressure, and yanked the film from distribution, not even planning  for a video-on-demand or DVD release at a later date. The ironic thing was, many hours after the decision had been announced, commercials for The Interview we’re still appearing on cable TV shows, promising a movie viewers would never see.

Without defending the specifics of The Interview (which I have not seen), keep in mind what this says about society: The Interview is a fantastical comedy, albeit about one real person (highly fictionalized). Comedy is key to this. But what other films actually opening on Christmas Day? A story about another real person, only it’s a true story: Louis Zamperini was brutally tortured by the Japanese during World War II (Unbroken); astonishingly, Japan has not required that the film be censored, nor have Japanese-American groups threatened terrorism for portraying their people in a negative light. Another true story is about a gay man, who also happens to be the greatest mathematician of the 20th century, who was unjustly treated by the horrific homophobia of the British system in the 1950s (The Imitation Game). To date, Queen Elizabeth has not demanded an apology. And in the Dec. 25 release American Sniper, real marksman Chris Kyle methodically uses a long-range rifle to kill a prepubescent boy in Afghanistan, then immediately turns his site on the boy’s mother and takes her out as well. (They were wielding grenades at U.S. troops.) The Islamic community so far has not declared a jihad on the studio.

Then there’s a movie in which a key plot point is a young African-American orphan is kidnapped (Annie) … a movie where a witch practicing dark arts casts spells to keep a couple barren, and people die as a result of their bad behavior — no happy endings in Into the Woods … even in The Gambler, African-Americans and Koreans are portrayed as thuggish gangsters (I guess impugning South Koreans is OK)  All in all, this season at the movies is rife with controversy, downbeat themes, violence, injustice, and brutality — often at the hands of people who might otherwise be offended at the characterization. But only the comedy about a country that doesn’t even know the Internet exists is being pulled from theater.

To be fair, Sony didn’t have many options. Major theater chains had refused to show the film, citing safety concerns. But think about what this statement says on the same day the U.S. announced efforts to normalize relations with another oppressive dictatorship, Cuba. It’s a message that tyranny wins, and self-expression isn’t an absolute. The loudest voices can drown out the sensible ones. It’s sad that all this time, we were worried about North Korea having nuclear capabilities, when all they really needed was wifi.

It would appear that the neocons have been proven right: Freedom of expression may very well be dead … and not just in North Korea.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Frank Rich Bashes The Smithsonian Over Censorship

In a piece titled "Gay Bashing at the Smithsonian," Frank Rich writes about the institution's censorship of David Wojnarowicz' piece "A Fire in My Belly," which was quickly (and baffingly) yanked from an exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery a few weeks ago:

Like many of its antecedents, the war over Wojnarowicz is a completely manufactured piece of theater. What triggered the abrupt uproar was an incendiary Nov. 29 post on a conservative Web site. The post was immediately and opportunistically seized upon by William Donohue, of the so-called Catholic League, a right-wing publicity mill with no official or financial connection to the Catholic Church.

W Donohue is best known for defending Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitism by declaring that “Hollywood is controlled by Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular.” A perennial critic of all news media except Fox, he has also accused The Times of anti-Catholicism because it investigated the church pedophilia scandal. Donohue maintains the church doesn’t have a “pedophilia crisis” but a “homosexual crisis.” Such is the bully that the Smithsonian surrendered to without a fight.

Donohue’s tactic was to label the 11-second ants-and-crucifix sequence as “anti-Christian” hate speech. “The irony,” wrote the Washington Post art critic, Blake Gopnik, is that the video is merely a tepid variation on the centuries-old tradition of artists using images of Christ, many of them “hideously grisly,” to speak of mankind’s suffering. Those images are staples of all museums — even in Washington, where gory 17th-century sculptures of Christ were featured in a recent show of Spanish sacred art at the National Gallery.

But of course Donohue was just using his “religious” objections as a perfunctory cover for the homophobia actually driving his complaint. The truth popped out of the closet as Donohue expanded his indictment to “pornographic images of gay men.” His Republican Congressional allies got into the act. Eric Cantor called for the entire exhibit to be shut down and threatened to maim the Smithsonian’s taxpayer funding come January. (The exhibit was entirely funded by private donors, but such facts don’t matter in culture wars.) Jack Kingston, of the House Appropriations Committee, rattled off his own list of exaggerated gay outrages in “Hide/Seek,” from “Ellen DeGeneres grabbing her breasts” to “naked brothers kissing.”

It took only hours after Donohue’s initial battle cry for the video to be yanked. “The decision wasn’t caving in,” the museum’s director, Martin E. Sullivan, told reporters. Of course it was. The Smithsonian, in its own official statement, rationalized its censorship by saying that Wojnarowicz’s video “generated a strong response from the public.” That’s nonsense. There wasn’t a strong response from the public — there was no response. As the museum’s own publicist told the press, the National Portrait Gallery hadn’t received a single complaint about “A Fire in the Belly” from the exhibit’s opening day, Oct. 30, until a full month later, when a “public” that hadn’t seen the exhibit was mobilized by Donohue to blast the museum by phone and e-mail.

In response to th Smithsonian's outrageous censhorship, several museums and galleries across the United States have decided to showcase Wojnarowicz' video, including as the New Museum in NYC and CB1 Gallery in Los Angeles.


Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

Are these the ancient nude statue pics that prompted the Plano ISD to remove a textbook?



Perhaps you’ve heard about how the Plano Independent School District recently decided to remove a humanities textbook because it contains photos of ancient nude sculptures. Earlier today, the district reversed itself, in the wake of an online campaign accusing it of censorship.

Anyhow, as far as we can tell, none of the media outlets covering this story have provided examples of the ancient nude statue photos in question. So, in an effort to fulfill our role as the gay paper, we went looking for them ourselves.

While we can’t seem to find the exact edition of the book online, here’s what we came up with from another edition that’s posted on the Google Books site.

—  John Wright

Censorship on Google Instant

GOOGLE INSTANT X390 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COMThe Web is buzzing about Google’s latest advancement, Google Instant, which doesn’t even wait for the user to click the search button after typing a query. It simply goes straight to the page by predicting what you will type, as you type it.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  John Wright

My, how times have changed

There’s a lot of talk these days about censorship: Who’s censoring who and what’s censorship and what’s not.

In the midst of all that talk, I found this video on Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish at The Atlantic.com. As the filmmaker described it:

“This short was made for the 2007 72 Hour Film Festival in Frederick, Maryland.
All of the clips used in this film came from a reel of 35mm nitrate found in an old theater somewhere in Pennsylvania. The projectionist clipped these scenes to meet local moral standards of the time.
Will our current forms of censorship look just as ridiculous to future generations?”

Just something to think about.

—  admin

Tribeca responds

MovieLine.com has apparently been following the controversy over Dallas filmmaker Israel Luna’s latest flick, “Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives,” and Thursday posted this story about Tribeca Film Festival’s response to GLAAD’s call to action for the festival to remove Luna’s film from its 2010 line-up.

This is the statement from Tribeca:

“The filmmakers provided a copy of this film to GLAAD in February, and for weeks the organization had been supportive to the filmmakers. In fact, GLAAD representatives advised the film’s producer, director and cast on how to describe the film to its core constituency. Tribeca is proud of its ongoing commitment to bring diverse voices and stories to its audiences, and looks forward to the film’s premiere at our Festival next month.”

—  admin