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June 05, 2011


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James R

I wonder what Barbara makes of the "human-killing bandwagon" called war. Rather more people die for real because of that than in these films she has such problems with.

Jason M.

But, James, they don't die in a merciful way. That seems to be the flaw in your logic right there.

Kent Jones

Crisis Magazine, it should be known, is a monthly conservative Catholic journal started by Michael Novak and published until recently by one Deal W. Hudson, a regular visitor to George Bush's White House with a prominent position on the RNC, until the publication of an investigative piece in the liberal Catholic journal The National Catholic Reporter which prompted his resignation. Apart from the bullying tactics you would associate with such a powerhouse in the Catholic and Republican hierarchies, he is also a world class hypocrite who took advantage of one of his more vulnerable Fordham students in the 90s but, of course, got on the morality bandwagon during the Lewinsky affair. "No one regrets my past mistakes more than I do," he wrote in the National Review, in an attempt to get the jump on the NCR story. "[The Fordham incident] was now being dug up, I believe, for political reasons — in an attempt to undermine the causes I have fought for: the defense of Church teachings on life, the priesthood, the authority of the pope, and the need for faithful Catholic participation in politics." Quite a piece of work, this guy.


Wow, great find. Hard to choose, but, here it goes, my favourite line:

"We make short films for the highly influential festival circuit about the infinite blessings that come through suffering."

Chris O.

Gah. I'm fond of "parapledgic hero played by handsome star." It's like an Onion headline.

Has anyone steered you to this gem yet?


"Five films, and that HBO Kevorkian thing. 'The weight' of Hollywood and the cultural left's talent and creativity. Yeah."

As long as your readers don't go back and read Nicolosi's piece, and see that she also cites comparatively recent episodes of "House," "ER," "Law & Order," "Nurse Jackie" and "Weeds," as well as a "comic take" in "The Simpsons." I haven't seen the episodes so I have no idea how euthanasia is depicted, but it seems rank dishonesty to leave out more than half of Nicolosi's references and then mock the paucity of the references you choose to cite. And gee, I don't suppose her examples could be illustrative, not exhaustive, could they?

Oh, and your cutting introduction of Nicolosi ... the height of gracelessness. Any stick to beat a dog, hm? Yeah.

David Ehrenstein

Being the astute observer that he is Nick Toches may be onto something re Mamet. Think of Christopher Hitchens going in reverse.

Glenn Kenny

Oooh, "rank," I'm terribly ashamed. Hey, I linked to the piece and said "read the whole thing;" I don't know what else you want, except for me to completely agree with it and offer all praise to Barbara Nicolosi. So now we're up to five movies and a bunch of TV episodes, holy crap, you're right, you really turned it around. As for my characterization of Ms. Nicolosi, given the sloppiness of her work, she's lucky to be referred to as ANY sort of writer.


Glenn, I don't "completely agree" with Nicolosi's piece and I'm certainly not going to offer her "all praise." I understand it's pointless to expect civility from every yob on the Internet in his parents' basement, but I don't think professionals should find it necessary to stoop to below the belt shots to toss off a strong critique.

"Five movies and a bunch of TV shows" can certainly be evidence of a significant pattern, one that may meaningfully affect the zeitgeist. I wouldn't phrase it the way Nicolosi did, but it would be silly to say "Bah, five movies and a bunch of TV shows, nothing to see here."

brian p

she must mean 'exposing euthanasia IN the arts'. otherwise the title sounds like it's a community college seminar

Glenn Kenny

Oh, there's something to "see there." And the fact is is that when a film such as "Million Dollar Baby" comes out and gains some traction, its ostensible message and/or political perspective is debated vigorously (some might say ad nauseum) in various forums, and a lot of points of view get aired out. And that's fine. And that's also hardly the same state of affairs as the monolithic edifice of right-think Nicolosi would like to create the impression that the mythic entity of Hollywood is putting up, the better to kill grandma. And while I understand that "she did it first" is hardly a defense for incivility, the passage Edroso has the most fun with, "We need slogans like, 'Make your insurance adjuster’s day; let him kill you.' Or, 'Everything we know about euthanasia we learned from the Nazis.'" hardly invites a response along the lines of "au contraire, Barbara."

Kent Jones

Look, this "piece" was written for an on-line magazine that is basically the Catholic arm of the right-wing propaganda machine, and "euthanasia in the movies" is just another item that was checked off - it's not like it's a carefully rendered essay in which the author felt compelled to build an actual argument. It doesn't really deserve your respect. Here are the titles of a few other stories on the website: "Obama and Business: Irreconcilable Differences" (a red-hot issue for all American Catholics), "International Criminal Court: Justice or Menace?," and "As the Family Goes, So Goes the Economy."

Victor Morton

"And that's also hardly the same state of affairs as the monolithic edifice of right-think Nicolosi would like to create the impression that the mythic entity of Hollywood is putting up, the better to kill grandma."

I certainly think Barbara can be faulted on citing the timing of Terri Schiavo as salient -- whether causally or as co-inciding but related phenomena (all her movie examples are 2004 or earlier)."

But citing five films and six TV episodes (and there are several she didn't cite, as this pro-euthanasia group notes -- http://www.finalexit.org/assisted_suicide_in_the_movies.html) is at least evidence of something in the zeitgeist and whether it is "monolithic groupthink" that is not rebutted by the obvious fact there are hundreds of movies and TV episodes that are not about euthanasia. (Do we really want to apply that hermeneutic to every perceived moral issue of which one might approve or disapprove its representation in popular art?) What WOULD rebut it is a number of movies or TV episodes that are as explicitly anti-euthanasia as the one she cites are "pro." Can only think of any? I can't.

Nor will it do as a rebuttal to cite the fact that the thematics of, say, MILLION-DOLLAR BABY get debated when the movie comes out. That is true, but that is a fact about the outside world's response to Hollywood. It tells one NOTHING about Hollywood itself and whether it is or isn't pushing one side of that issue.


Fundies vs 'The Simpsons' redux... because Dan Quayle's attempt worked out so well for him, LOL.

Glenn Kenny

And so, Mr. Morton turns up to steer the discussion into the corner of "Hollywood" its own self and whether it is or isn't "pushing" one side of the issue. Note the formulation there, the again-accepted notion of Hollywood as this (monstrous, of course) discrete entity with a very particular agenda. My preferred formulation would be to say that, well, yes, there's a preponderance of films that arguably do come down on the side of, oh, not-being-anti-euthanasia. And what of it? This is "communists peeping out of my wife's blouse" victim-card-pulling puling yet again, and there's only one answer to it, which even poor poor pitiful Roger L. Simon knows is the only way, and that is, go out and make your own goddamn anti-euthanasia movie and try hard to make sure that it doesn't suck. See, Ben Shapiro's problem (well, one of his many problems) is that he's not talented enough to do that. And Bill Whittle's problem is that he's too much of an, um, eccentric to pull off any such thing. And Barbara Nicolosi's problem is pretty evident in her piece. It's poor sport to make fun of such people, I know. I'll try to do better next time.

Honestly, the thing that really caught my attention was the whole sending-the-teenagers-to-the-movies remark. If you're that poorly informed about how things work, you're never going to be able to storm the barricades of Hollywood. This is like arguing with libertarians; it can go on forever, because the things they are talking about are actually NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN. And it ain't because the other side is being oppressed.

Victor Morton

Barbara Nicolosi and Crisis magazine (and Dan Quayle for that matter) are not "fundies."

Glenn Kenny

Glad we cleared THAT up. Okay, play nice for a while, kids, I gotta go to the gym and take some steps to stave off my future potential euthanization, be back in a coupla hours.


"My preferred formulation would be to say that, well, yes, there's a preponderance of films that arguably do come down on the side of, oh, not-being-anti-euthanasia."

To the extent that (a) "preponderance" can be construed to mean "essentially all the relevant content,"* and (b) "arguably" can be construe to mean "obvious to all remotely rational observers, though of course there's NOTHING that SOMEONE won't controvert," and (c) "not-being-anti-euthanasia" can be construed to mean "anywhere from neutrality to all-out pro-euthanasia activism" ... your "preferred formulation" seems about as cautious and tepid an acknowledgment of the reality as can be imagined.

*Unless you want to rise to Mr. Morton's challenge and offer some counter-evidence.

Kent Jones

"A great example is the gay culture. Homosexuality made an absolute intentional movement forward to get on the media and in peoples’ faces. They were going to change the way America thinks about gays by using the media. This actually happened. They had a meeting in LA with some very influential homosexuals and they sat down and they made a list of things they were going to do—a gay character in every television show, a gay character in every movie. They were going to read the scripts from the studios and give notes and screen them for anything that was 'homophobic.' The book THE HOMOSEXUALIZATION OF AMERICA by Dennis Altman documents this moment and the strategy.

"Fifteen years later would you ever have believed that we’d have five states with same-sex civil unions and one with gay marriage and last year 11 referendums on same-sex marriage? I was in Washington, DC, a couple years ago, and some conservative staffers on the Hill said to me about this issue, 'Where did all this come from?' And I said, 'Are you kidding me? This was decided 12 years ago with Roseanne kissing her girlfriend, and then Ellen coming out, and then ER having a lesbian doctor!' We are too late now because for too many years we made no response in the culture." - from an interview with Barbara Nicolosi, "American screenwriter, script consultant and founder of a Christian screenwriter’s program" and "renowned expert in cinematic excellence and visual storytelling" (from her Wikipedia entry)

How, one might wonder, did a "renowned expert in cinematic excellence and visual storytelling" find herself shooting the breeze with "some conservative staffers on the hill?"


"The new thing is to care passionately, and be right-wing."

Victor Morton

I don't think I "steered" the discussion anywhere, simply provided a rebuttal on subjects that already had been brought up. And besides, Glenn, you surely would be disappointed in me if I weren't to comment on this topic.

Anyhoo, despite my use of "Hollywood" as a singular noun, I assure Our Genial Host that I do not believe it is either a conspiracy or a discrete entity (see here: http://vjmorton.wordpress.com/2003/08/20/liberalism-as-product-placement ) that "wakes up in the morning and asks itself over its first latte 'what can we put into movies to help the left'." Rather, it's a self-selected (and thus self-perpetuating) culture of consensus that "writes what it knows" and reflects its worldviews. Which is one factor (among others) in explaining why self-consciously conservative "counter-movies" have been not very good or worse. (You would actually find agreement with Barbara on that point, BTW. I believe it was she who first used the term "Junk for Jesus" in my presence. And you know my opinion of Ben Shapiro as a critic.)

But I'm glad you can see that the preponderance of films about euthanasia arguably do not oppose it. ("Unanimity" I'd say, bar a counter-example; but why quibble.)

Victor Morton

Other than the direction of the terms that indicate approval or disapproval of the phenomena, how is what Barbara said in 2004 any different from what pro-gay folks routinely say about "how far we've come" and "impacting the culture and making ourselves seen and known," etc. That's the whole logic of Coming Out Days.

Kent Jones

Well Victor, on one level there's no difference whatsoever - on said level, everything is reduced to warring rhetorical gestures. On another level, there's a very big difference between those who believe that gay rights is a terrific example of moral progress and those who believe that it's a threat to the institution of marriage, to the family, and perhaps to western civilization as we know it.

Glenn Kenny

Oh, ok, duh. See, I thought the "whole logic" of Coming Out Days was to establish some sort of strength in numbers that might have the effect of fewer fairies getting the shit stomped out of them with no consequences for the stompers, or something. Whereas in reality it's a giant insidious plot to TURN THE WORLD HOMO.

More seriously, though, wouldn't you (Victor) say that a film like "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" is, at least, anti-euthanasia by implication? And aren't there at least a few genre films in which a protagonist's consciousness is shut down for some reason, and he or she has to communicate this before being unjustifiably put to death? Where ought one stand on Dallas's "Kill me" plea in one of the cuts of "Alien?" I admit that the imaginative resources necessary to make a programmatically anti-euthanasia picture are formidable; you've got to create a scenario in which moral/ethical/theological dictums can engagingly trump that old bugaboo, "quality of life."

Okay, now I really AM going to the gym, and maybe I'll troll for some anonymous gay sex in the sauna while I'm there, 'cuz I'm all about wallowing in moral depravity.


"More seriously, though, wouldn't you (Victor) say that a film like 'The Diving Bell and the Butterfly' is, at least, anti-euthanasia by implication?"

Good point. And now that you mention it, so was Mark Waters' JUST LIKE HEAVEN.


(Which, like SANCTUM, didn't make back its production budget, so take that FWIW.)


Behold the IMDB page of a "renowned expert in cinematic excellence and visual storytelling":


Victor Morton


Fair enough about DIVING BELL AND BUTTERFLY (which, irony of ironies, Barbara disliked) -- and which I should have thought of since (Victor digs out his notes to confirm) the Terri Schiavo thought even occurred to me while I was watching and rather-liking it. And while I honestly can't think of a film that employs the trope you describe (I'm not the genre-hound you are), it's intuitive enough that it probably has been used.

And I acknowledge that since cinema tends toward realism, or to the depiction of the physical and concrete, that it's easier and more surface-persuasive to draw sympathy for someone in pain and ill health than moral issues that can feel like abstractions, especially to the unconvinced.

But at the same time, does one really HAVE to make a hero out of Jack Kevorkian? Is it not a fair point that he could just as easily be portrayed as a villain within existing conventions, yet wasn't (Hollywood films about serial killers are not in short supply). Therefore it is reasonable to infer that YOU DON'T KNOW JACK and all its awards-garlanding were (at least in part) ideologically motivated. I think that this HBO film — which was probably seen by more people than five of the other six feature-film titles we've mentioned combined — was really the catalyst for Barbara's article.

Victor Morton


"on said level, everything is reduced to warring rhetorical gestures."

... a critique of which gestures from one side seemed to be rather the point of your Wikipedia cut-and-paste. It looked to me like a bid to show what a conspiratorial fool Barbara is.

But hey, if your actual argument really is the substantive one -- "she opposes gay rights, therefore everything she says related to the subject (and probably others) is the foolishness of Jesusite toast-gazers" (and please clarify if that isn't) -- well, is there really much more for you and I to say?


I won't speak for Kent, but this little gem -

"she opposes gay rights, therefore everything she says related to the subject (and probably others) is the foolishness of Jesusite toast-gazers"

-sounds about right to me. I mean, it's a bit oversimplified, and I would argue why anti-gay rights is nothing more than bigotry, but I'll let Lewis Black make the point:


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