Wednesday, March 11, 2009

who watches the watchmen?

Of course, that is the question we should all contemplate.

I went to see the iconic comic book movie Watchmen last week with a couple of friends, and I have some mixed feelings about it. I ran across a blog that rates the general morality of films, and ended up responding to the post. While I agree with the general sentiment - this film is definitely not for kids - I had to disagree with some of the points in the article. You can see it here

I liked my response to his article, so I truncated part of it and post it here. I would love to get some response from people on this subject. Also, let's get this out of the way - I do consider myself a person of faith and I take that faith seriously. That is the prism through which my response to the blog (and this posting) is filtered through. I find it difficult to discuss things that involve morality outside of the context of an established moral fabric. That is to say, if you are not a person of faith in any way, then these discussions have no merit or value to you because you have nothing to base your morality on besides what 'society as a whole' agrees with. If that is your viewpoint, then this will be a fruitless read.

First, let me lay out the situation - The Watchmen is a comic book series done in the mid to late 80's by a guy named Alan Moore. He has not approved of the movie version, despite the fact that the movie is incredibly faithful to the comic. As for me, I liked the animated version of the film better (the acting is actually better believe it or not)and it covers the comic's story a lot better. In case you've been hiding under a rock, the movie version was just released. It contains some of the most realistic on screen violence I have ever seen, and it also has a gratuitous amount of general nudity and sex. It is rated R. (in the business what we call a "hard R") the film also takes the Lord's name in vain like a million times. (the word g-d damn) While I am not a stuck up moralist, I have to admit that these things ground into me a bit and I had to think hard about the subject. Just how far is too far in Hollywood? Having worked and lived in Hollywood (and quoting from a band I once knew) "too much is not enough", apparently.

I also need to tell you an unintended consequence. As a present, I bought tickets for my friends. They both happen to deal very directly with sexual addiction issues in their lives. I heard tell afterward that there was fallout from seeing the imagery in the film. I can believe it. It was extremely graphic. I have apologized for not doing more research to my friends, and I meant it. I take their sobriety in this area seriously.

I will always defend the folks in Hollywood - I am one of them. I genuinely understand the pathos, the drive and the desire to do something big. I will not, however, defend their consistent and flagrant misuse of the power to influence they wield. You can be sure that behind locked doors, there were conversations about what to include in the film and what not to include. I can virtually guarantee that there was conversation about the possibility of putting the R rated stuff into a DVD version of the film and releasing a strong PG-13 version to the theaters. You can clearly see what happened. I can tell you exactly why filmmakers in this position make the decisions they do:

1. money
2. publicity for the film
3. demographic studies (how many 40 year old church ladies do you know that read comics?)
4. to piss off people that they feel are oppressive moralists (generally speaking, Christians)

That's the truth folks. It has nothing to do with what is it right and wrong. It has everything to do with the bottom line. When you spend upwards (and over) $100 million making a film and marketing it, you want to make damn sure you're making the studios money back or you won't be working next year. When you remove morality from the situation, then it is easy to see why these things happen. The directors cut wasn't good enough for these guys - they wanted the publicity it would create. Did it create waves? Ironically, not as much as you would think. I believe we are entering a different phase of our society here in America, but that's a different article. What's telling is that the film did just fine without the pissed off Christians - who I think have finally generally figured out not to boycott things. If you boycott it, you'll make it three times larger than it would have been without the boycott. It's a fact.

On the subject of the film itself (and it's content) I can say these things: Having read the comic, I can say that the source material also included the nudity and the abbreviated rape scene. I would disagree with people who would say that these two are unnecessary to tell the story. While rape is bloody, uncomfortable and a purely evil act, it happens all too frequently in our world and too often we would turn a blind eye to that fact. Perhaps we might (very uncomfortably) find something of ourselves in the characters involved and that forces us to ponder not only the evil at hand, but our own morality. Remember that Christ said "even if you look on a woman to lust after, you have committed adultery in your heart" (my paraphrase) As for Dr. Manhattans nudity, it made me uncomfortable for sure, but then I realized why - do you recall how God called out for Adam in the garden and Adam said "I Hid and was ashamed because I was naked" and what was God's response? He said: "who told you you were naked?" Think about this. The character in the movie is supposed to be basically omniscient. Why would he care if he wore anything? that is not his natural state. Remember - we are talking about people telling a story here - filmmakers and producers who are not Christians and probably have very little moral fabric in general but they do posses a tremendous sense of how to tell a story and present it artistically.

I will, however, agree with one point than many have been making. The three minute sex scene in the middle of the film was in the comic but completely unnecessary for the film. They could have easily shoehorned this unabashedly soft porn material into a directors cut. Which brings me to my point - They could have easily done the film as a PG 13 and gained a much wider audience. Although they were faithful to the comic book, they could have saved all the sexual grittiness for an expanded directors cut and given general movie going fans (among them the tens of thousands of kids and teenagers who will obviously end up seeing this) a chance to enjoy the story such as it is without having to worry about getting bombarded by messages they don't want to/need to/shouldn't see. Of course, these are gray lines and maybe one of these producers would argue that I am censoring art. On the contrary I would say - I am allowing art to be seen by a great many more people. Although who am I kidding? sex sells. We all know this. It's just a shame. It would be nice if a few more people in Hollywood had a moral bone in their body.

My take: its an amazing movie in some ways. I love the character Rorschach. He is the one most Christians would ultimately relate to. He cares about morality at all costs. Unfortunately, life is not that simple.

At least not since the garden.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"sexual grittiness". Interesting concept. The only theater movie I have seen in years was the penguins cartoon. Long ago I deveolped the philosophy that if it was not fit for children it was not fit for adults. Since I have become unemployed I have seen a lot of old movies on TCM. I am amazed how much they were promoting cigarette smoking. In a lot of scenes the two main characters and several supporting characters are all lighting up and puffing away. There may be a metaphor here. One is the encouragment to destruction of the physical health. the other is the destruction of the mental health. Cancer to incarceration. I started watching a movie recently where "Jesus Christ" was used by two characters twice in the first five minutes. I ended that experience. What disturbs me the most is a movie where there is a "surprise" explicit sex scene that pounces on an otherwise good story that was engendering a feeling of enjoyment. What I see in theses movies is the producer and director saying "we live a life without standards and want the world to sink to our level". A version of misery loves company. Its not new but old. An early christian writer, Teturlion wrote on or about the year "160" how one was advised to avoit "shows" which contained "effiniate men" and denigration of what was uplifting to mankind. The king of england's opinion in the 16 hundreds was that tobacco was and evil foul smelling weed. At 57 I still struggle with the carnal but over the years have come to see as in a panoramic view the destruction that is wrought by those who refuse to embrace the strugle. Thank you for intersting information. unk gerald

11:48 AM  

Post a Comment


thanks for commenting. Please be advised that I moderate comments for appropriateness. Thanks for your understanding and please be patient. Your comments will appear soon.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

<< Home