While we have often noted the left-wing politics embedded in many Hollywood films, it is also true in many film reviews. In some cases, it provides more evidence that President George W. Bush has driven the Left to madness. Take, for example, David Edelstein, the film critic for the online publication, Slate. He also reviews films for CBS News Sunday Morning, where last month he reviewed a new film called “V for Vendetta,” which was written by the Wachowski brothers, of “Matrix” fame.
The film is a rather stylish piece about England in the year 2020, having become a police state. The masked character called “V” is, as Edelstein describes him, “a violent revolutionary, a cross between Zorro and the Phantom of the Opera, who takes vengeance on a repressive totalitarian state.”
Edelstein said this “comic book thriller feels so politically subversive,” because now “violent revolution seems vaguely anti-American. It’s what the commies do. Not especially good for the market. Know what I mean?”
And here’s where Edelstein goes off the deep end: “‘V for Vendetta’ is set in a Soviet style England inspired by Orwell’s ‘1984.’ Although the hallmarks of old Soviet culture are everywhere, it’s obvious the Wachowski’s are blowing raspberries at our administration too. The government in the film abolished civil liberties, following an alleged terrorist attack. The media peddles state propaganda. The culture of dissent is forbidden. And gays and lesbians are locked up in interrogation cells. What’s a revolutionary to do?”
There you have it. The obvious parallel that Edelstein sees is that President Bush, after 9/11, “an alleged terrorist attack,” has abolished civil liberties, locked up gays and lesbians in interrogation cells, and created an atmosphere in which media (like the New York Times and CBS News, for example?) peddle state propaganda, and offer little or no dissent or criticism of the government.
Edelstein says that “the film is delirious and a little nutty, and it’s going to drive political conservatives crazy.” I don’t think so. But it seems like it’s having that effect on at least one self-described liberal?namely Edelstein.
Clearly the filmmakers intended to make this a parable of the Bush administration. A character in the film says that “America’s war” came to their country. A flag kept in a secret room of forbidden images and icons has a swastika written across it, and the words “Coalition of the Willing,” along with a copy of the Koran. Another character says we’ve gained new meanings for certain words, like “rendition” and “collateral.”
Nevertheless I found myself reluctantly pulling for V, though there is much to dislike about him, since the fictional government that he was attempting to topple was a Soviet-style regime that had done the very things that Edelstein obviously sees in today’s America. But the comparison is absurd. Besides, V isn’t targeting innocent civilians, though clearly there would be collateral damage when he blows up the Old Bailey (England’s centuries-old criminal court) and other important buildings.
At least Edelstein is being consistent in his view of Bush. Back when he reviewed Michael Moore’s “documentary,” “Fahrenheit 911,” Edelstein gave a somewhat balanced view of the film. In the review, titled “Proper Propaganda,” he said that he was “disgusted” as well as “delighted” by Moore’s propagandistic techniques. He made it quite clear that while frowning on Moore’s lack of concern for accuracy and his manipulative editing, he relished in Moore’s point of view. He acknowledged that it is easy to make anyone look bad through unflattering and out-of-context shots and clever editing, and added that when it came to Bush, “?it is so very easy to make George W. Bush?with his near-demonic blend of smugness and vacuity?look bad.”
Time magazine calls the film “the most bizarre Hollywood production you will see (or refuse to see) this year.” It asks, “Is it possible for a major Hollywood studio to make a $50 million movie in which the hero is a terrorist? A terrorist who appears wearing the dynamite waistcoat of a suicide bomber, and who utters the line? ‘Blowing up a building can change the world?'”
It answers that by pointing to the fact that “The Matrix” series had earned Warner Bros. (Time’s sister company) $600 million domestically, thus giving the Wachowski brothers the right to indulge. Time then added this intriguing bit of information: “The Wachowskis no longer talk to the press, and their personal lives are the subject of considerable speculation. Larry, the older of the two, is a transvestite in a relationship with a Los Angeles dominatrix.”
Newsweek confirms the heroic nature of V, saying, “The movie grants him absolute moral superiority from beginning to end.” And it also found parallels with the Bush administration, saying, “It references ‘America’s war,’ uses imagery direct from Abu Ghraib and contains dialogue likely to offend anyone who’s not, say, a suicide bomber.”
This past year, as we have commented several times, Hollywood seems to have had a difficult time distinguishing terrorists from those trying to defeat them. But in this case, the distinction it fails to make is between free democratic nations like the U.S. and England on the one hand, and totalitarian regimes like the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany on the other.
Consider this film another example of Hollywood being AWOL?or even on the other side?in the war on terror. Film critics should highlight, rather than celebrate, this fact.