The purpose of this paper
is to encourage the use of contemporary pop-culture in the teaching of
ethics. A significant
advantage for using popular culture is that, generally, no corpus of
critical writing is available when students are to consider the
piece. Copying from sources
on the web, then, is of minimal danger as a temptation to our students.
Using such assignments, one can make sure that some independent
thinking and some original insights are likely to occur.
I am a film buff. Thus, I
have no problem with attending the newest films as they become
available—although a full schedule of teaching does occasionally
intervene. We at
have another advantage in that our Cinematique organization, of which I
am also a Board member, sees to it that some of the best films and some
of the best foreign films come to the area.
So, what I propose here is to introduce some of the films I have
encouraged my students to write about.
But before I do that, I want to address some general issues.
On my web-site, I post the name of the film together with some
study-questions as soon as I have seen the film.
Students, meanwhile, expect new information to appear in that
manner, so I do not have to wait until the next meeting of the class to
set new assignments.
As an additional precaution against cheating, I have now made a firm
commitment to the paperless classroom; that is, students submit papers
on-line through Blackboard. I
have set up a forum for film discussions.
Students may submit a sentence outline if they wish.
I critique the outline to point out where potential logical
errors might lurk, where the student may need some statistical or at
least anecdotal evidence in support of an idea, where the student may
need to challenge the plausibility of the film, and—of course—where
the student needs to brush up on his or her writing skills.
The student’s paper is accessible to all classmates on such a forum.
My comments on the student’s paper are accessible to all
classmates also. To make
comments, I use MSWord’s reviewing bar, which permits embedded
comments that appear as pop-ups in MSWord 2000 and as speech-bubbles in
MSWord XP. That method
permits extensive comments from the teacher without obliterating the
appearance of the student’s writing. While
these comments are public, the grades themselves are accessible only to
the appropriate user.
Students will read each
other’s writing and each other’s commented pieces.
Blackboard keeps a record of how often a piece has been read.
The student who knows that not only the teacher but also his or
her classmates will read the work, is very likely not to copy or cheat.
I have set up another forum for anonymous comments so students
can identify cases of plagiarism or can discuss anything else that might
concern them about the course but about which they would prefer to avoid
a face-to-face discussion or to reveal their identity about.
Actually, this feature is a continuous use of the feedback one
might get in semester-end student evaluations.
In consideration of the anonymous whistleblower, we must reflect
here also that a cheating student harms classmates precisely as a doping
sportsperson harms fellow athletes in that the person has momentarily an
unfair advantage over the competitors.
Student intuit this fact of ethics, I suspect.
And I encourage that intuition by setting curves to the highest
achieved grade. If someone
“breaks” the curve by way of academic dishonesty, other students are
likely to share information to conserve the curve.
I have also found that students enjoy reading each other’s
essays and that they also, almost contrary to expectation, appear to
enjoy having their essays read.
So much for the set-up.
Let me now look at some films.
Most films are my selections; however, occasionally I will follow
the advice of students, albeit most reluctantly since some years ago,
students urged me to see “Pitch Black,” a film about a desert planet
where vulture-like birds live on the occasional ship-wrecked aliens on
that planet. In other words,
the birds were outside of any plausible food-chain.
The film lived entirely on “Wow! He’s got another one and is
picking on him or her.” An
added complication, as I recall, was a very evil run-away criminal who
had snuck into the crew and a perpetual night that is about to descend
upon the planet. What a
simplistic world view! The
student-suggested selection this time encompassed two films: (1) The
Butterfly Effect and (2) Gibson’s Passion of Christ.
Effect”—its name loosely taken from the effect that a motion of an
electron on one end of the universe is likely to have on another
electron at the other end of the universe light-years away—deals with
the effects of one person’s behavior on the subsequent outcomes of
other peoples’ lives. For
example, the father of a young girl uses his camera to shoot scenes of
child pornography. The girl grows up to be a loveless and lonely
prostitute. Our hero reads
lines of old diary entries—which diary, by the way, is accessible in
all parallel worlds. As a
consequence of the reading, he manages to come back to the earlier time
as the appropriately young boy with all the insights that he had before
he decided to come back. He stands up to the girl’s father, alters
events, and finds himself back in an altered present, where the girl
lives a reasonably happy life. But something else does not turn out
quite as acceptably as he or some other character might like.
So, off he goes again. The
film sets up many similar complications, one, for example, in which the
main character prevents a mailbox bombing by warning the victims.
Come back to the reality whence he had come, he finds himself
without arms—though everyone else is clearly quite happy.
interesting point is that we have one character who has full freedom of
choice. He can go back to
take route X after he has tried route Y and has seen that he does not
like Y. However, all his
fellow travelers in life are fully determined.
As the main character changes to X, all others are affected
toward an altered life without themselves apparently having anything to
do with the outcome. A world
with freedom of choice for one and full determinism for all others is an
ontologically extremely implausible world.
Did any students notice that fact?
Some essays did indeed acknowledge this drastic difference
between otherwise equal characters in that universe.
Another film I was talked
into with great fervor was Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” a
most disagreeable experience. I
did notice that Yeshua spoke Latin with Pontius Pilate and wondered
where an ordinary Jewish apprentice of a carpenter was likely to have
learned Latin, although some scholarly traditions suggest that Jesus was
indeed an illegitimate son of a Roman or, the NAZI version, a Germanic
slave. I could not
think of anything to do with that orgy of gore and violence.
So, I used the following instructions:
I saw it! I sat through the Crucifixion. I was surprised at
the many Arabic elements in Aramaic. Did you notice that Yeshua speaks
Latin with Pontius Pilatus? Did you notice that Judas' so-called
betrayal was actually an attempt to force Yeshua into political action
since he, like many others, expected Yeshua to be the political messiah?
In fact, I am not sure why the devil keeps slinking through the crowd of
onlookers; certainly, the slinking devil does not appear to be
biblically based. So here
are some challenging thoughts for your theological analysis:
that you are to convince someone that Yeshua is a terrific god to
follow, strong and powerful to handle all problems for the new
believer. You only have the film. How would you make
that you have to solve the following puzzle: If Yeshua was a human
being, then his death is no big deal since, with as lousy as justice
was back then in the Roman provinces, many innocents were killed
with hideous tortures. And if Yeshua were a god, then his
death is no big deal because he could fully expect to be resurrected
at the other end. Given that problem, can you make a case for
the significance of Yeshua's suffering as a form of release from
sins for the rest of humanity?
tackle the core issue: Why does an eternal being, who is supreme,
all powerful, fully benevolent, and loving need the hideous
sacrifice of his son or some person before the eternal being manages
to forgive humanity? Is that a characteristic worth admiring
or worth being deeply puzzled over?
first essay focuses on theological problems; you may gain up to 15
points for it if you tackle it fully. This is not easy stuff to
think about. Of course, you can skim over the top, but you cannot
expect much by way of a grade for that skimming over the top.
one more for the road in terms of ethics: Yeshua tells
everyone to love their enemies, to do good to those who hate them,
and to love each other as he had loved them. Ignoring all
other strongly socialist messages that Yeshua gives also, how are
Christians doing in terms of Yeshua's teaching? I want a
devastatingly honest appraisal here. And I want consistency
and no cheap outs like he knows us to be incapable of doing what he
wants us to do. I suspect he wouldn't have given the message
if he hadn't thought we could do it. As you discuss this,
revisit several standard ethical problems: gay marriage, world
hunger, military actions (he who uses the sword will die by the
sword--Yeshua was a pacifist.], sharing, economic advancement, and
second essay is about Christian ethics. I want a full
treatment. Depending on how many problems you bring into this
issue, you may gain up to 15 points for this also. But, again,
I am looking for outstanding quality.
cannot say that I received any particularly outstanding essay under this
category, but I do believe that the assigned questions may well have had
a bit of a sobering effects on some of the undue enthusiasm.
Finally, a film which had a tremendous impact was “Monster,” the
story of Aileen Wuornos. When I discuss the death penalty in my ethics
or my philosophy classes, I take a quick poll at the beginning.
Fairly consistently, about 90 percent of the students in any
section will report being in favor of the death penalty.
I will not speculate why that is so, but I do know that the
population of students at
tends to come from well-to-do families and also tend to have some
military connections. The
guidelines for “Monster” were:
You may see Monster.
Do a moral analysis of
the film. As you do so, ask yourself the following questions, but
don't answer the questions one item at a time. Weave all into a
coherent, persuasive, and cogently argued synthesis essay.
Some surprising and sensitive insights in student essays were followed
by what I’d like to refer to as attitudinal mapping. That is, after
some students had rather sensitively understood Aileen Wuornos as a
person with few options and as one who is hounded by an abusive past,
making thus too greedy a grasp for love, the students would nonetheless
assert that the death penalty had been right and just and proper for
her. This pronouncement
would follow in the last paragraph, when all other insights would also
be swept aside. In other
words, while students recognized the film’s portrayal as sufficiently
plausible so as not to challenge it, they would nonetheless not turn
away from pre-existent indoctrination.
A brief list of other
films that I have also used follows here:
“House of Sand and
Fog” is a film about conflicting property rights as a consequence of a
bank’s error. Ben Kingsley
plays Colonel Bahrani, a strongly principled military leader from the
. The female principle of
caring is in conflict with these unbendingly male principles of rational
justice. The film ends
with Bahrani’s killing his wife and himself and with the main
character sobbing at their deathbed.
” is a film that explores the significance of ethnic identification.
Having won a long-distance race in
, the main character discovers his strength as half Native American,
identifies with his tribe, buys a herd of wild horses from the prize
money, and returns to his tribe. The
ambiguity of the film, of course, is that one’s identifying with
one’s culture where the culture is not dominant appears to be much
more heroic as identifying with a dominant culture.
Simply put, “returning to one’s people” is a more pleasant
action than “proclaiming the super- or dominating- or chosen race or
people, particularly when this latter group has a solid handle on all
kinds of weaponry.
“Super-Size” is a
documentary that deals with the questionable ethics of corporations, in
this case of the golden arched McDonald’s fast-food empire.
Living only on McDonald’s super-sized
foods, the director, main character, and test subject manages to
bring his health—as checked by several physicians—from quite good to
dangerously ill. He was
severally warned by his physicians to break off the experiment or he
might do irreparable damage to his health.
For students, who often still believe in a wholesome and
beneficial world, such a documentary can be a wake-up call to necessary
reflection about the motivation of corporate greed.
subject—albeit far more abstractly and playfully presented—underlies
the film “I, Robot.” The
special effects contributed to enthusiastic responses, but the
underlying greed was quite obvious also in this film.
“Fahrenheit 9/11” led two of my Black students to dig deeper into
the facts. One writer found
that, while Blacks make up about 20 percent of the population, they make
up about 40 percent of the military.
Michael Moore had made the point that the poor of our country are
fighting the poor of the other country so that the rich can live more
“Goodbye Lenin” was
another film on my list, this one being a German film with English
sub-titles. The film was
unsuccessful in that none of my students opted to see it.
However, I had hoped that students might have recognized the lag
between the communist ideal state in the mind of East-German Marxists on
the one and the bureaucratically perverse reality of the state
corporation on the other hand. I
would have considered this film an excellent opening reflection about
social and political philosophy.
One of the most recent
films I listed and which several students delighted in seeing is
“Saved.” This film
presented reflections about Christian values.
The portrayal was of a kind of self-serving, almost monastic cult
of appearances and prescriptive personal behaviors on the one side and a
caring, accepting inclusiveness on the other.
Humorously depicting these conflicts, the film managed to put
Christian values quite entertainingly under the microscope.
What’s my point
ultimately? As teachers, we
need to go where our students are, particularly those of us who teach
outside of the traditional liberal-arts milieu.
Popular culture contains many of the philosophical, religious,
and ethical problems that we want our students to reflect about.
Film is the likely medium for such explorations.
I anticipate that some additional interesting films will have
come to our theatres between the time I write this and the date of the
conference. So I hope for some interesting comments also from colleagues
about possible pieces of popular culture to consider here.
I am sure that the philosophy of the Simpsons, the ethical
problems in King of the Hill, and the metaphysics of
are analyses that are long
This paper is a review of
contemporary films that I have used for instructions in ethics.
I have included the assignments as stated for the students for
such films as Passion of the Christ, Monster, Butterfly Effect, House of
Sand and Fog, Hidalgo, and several others.
While films do contain persuasive bias, they are excellent
exercises for students to become aware of the persuasive bias and to
deal accurately with the discernable facts that are part of the film.
, for example, presented a positive view of the importance of ethnic
identity; the challenge may come from a critical evaluation of such a
view universalized. I want
to suggest that popular culture, which our students have willing access
to, may help hone critical analysis in ethics.
The paper also contains some comments about the effectiveness
with which such assignments—particularly when offered in a Blackboard
environment—avoid the temptations of academic dishonesty.
Notes About the Films
About “The Butterfly Effect”
Preamble: “Something as
small as a butterfly wing can cause a typhoon on the other side of the
world” (attributed to “Chaos Theory”)
First question on the
part of a child: “Is Dad coming?”
Strange picture of
multiple killings that the boy draws but doesn’t remember drawing.
[We are told later that the “black-outs” are instances of the
boy’s coming back to that time with new wisdom from having lived out
certain decision-nodes to their end.
In that sense, the main character does indeed have full freedom
of choice—he can come back to rewind and alter his life.
Metaphysically, this is very much what I recall as
Wittgenstein’s statement in the “Blue and the Brown Book”: when
you die, the world does not change; it stops, for it has been your world
all along. Evan, the main
character suffers from trauma to his memory cells whenever he has made a
major change. Thus, we also
wonder whether the other characters are defined by his memory and
whether they as Ding-an-sich may even be worthy of consideration.
Obviously, the film makers are fudging here.
The reality appears to be quite solipsistic.]
Reference early on to
“Father’s Illness”—to help Evan cope, he is advised to keep a
journal. Kitchen Scene with
the long knife is another where he doesn’t remember what he did; we
are filled in later that he has returned to find a tool for disabling
the explosive that he and his friends hid in the letterbox.
Mother has Evan stay at
friend’s house where the father makes kiddy-porn pictures.
Evan is to meet father: Jason, who is in an insane asylum.
Has the same “change the future” ability as Evan.
Scene ends with father’s attempting to strangle Evan; we
don’t know until later that Evan had re-visited the scene with the
information to his father that he can and will right all wrongs by
coming back to the past until the future is right.
The explosives scene he
has re-visited several times, so the first experience is hazy: the
explosive blows and he is instantly somewhere in the woods with the
We also learn of the
abusive relationship in the family of Kay-Lee and her brother Tommy.
Indications are that there is an incestuous relationship.
Tommy tries to kill Evan’s dog and beats up Kay-Lee and Evan
during the conflict.
Seven years later:
University setting: seven
years no blackouts. A
jiggling diary and dancing letters are his key to re-visiting
key-decision places—those parts of his life that he has earlier
experienced as “black-outs.”
Evan visits Lenny—a
little fat boy—who is withdrawn, builds model airplanes, is morose,
angry, and insane.
Learns that mother and
child were killed by the mailbox blast, thus motivating Lenny’s shock
Tommy works as a mechanic; Kay-Lee kills herself after he has called
back memories of the abuse; Tommy blames Evan for Kay-Lee’s death:
threatening phone-call to Evan.
Revisits abuse scene
Instructs the father
Teaches Kay-Lee to stand up to father
Without realizing it at the time, he
channels the father’s sick energies as physical abuse against
Re-run of life: Kay-Lee
is sleeping with him; he is in a sorority dormitory; he is a typical
fraternity guy. His career
culminates in a hazing incident against new pledges.
He refuses to play with the hazing.
Bad parts: Tommy bashes
Evan’s car. Kay-Lee: “My
father never laid a hand on me; that prick saved it all for Tommy.”
[not very plausible since child-porn interests are likely to be
irrepressible—certainly not merely by one albeit scary outburst on the
part of one of the kids.]
Tommy attacks Evan.
Evan ends up defending himself and giving in to his own rage and
thus killing Tommy. Evan
goes to jail.
religious cell-mate by faking stigmata: returns to elementary-school to
run his hands through with the needle-like paper holder.
[there had not been any mention of that in the “blackouts”
part] The wounds stay with
him as scars that, to his cellmate seem to appear out of nothing.
With the help of the cellmate, he can read enough of his diary to
return to the dog-killing scene.
at the dog-killing scene, he gives a
knife-like shard to Lenny for attacking Tommy.
He has Tommy convinced not to kill the
dog; however, he cannot prevent Lenny’s killing Tommy nonetheless.
Return to the new
reality: Lenny is strapped to a gurney, obviously severely insane from
guilt of having killed Tommy.
Return to interview with father
Dialog: Father: “There is no right.
This must end with me.” Then the father tries to strangle Evan.
Kay-Lee now is an abused,
He tells: Every time I
change someone, it turns to shit.--She: Go back and save the woman and
Return to the explosion: he saves
all—also Tommy—but loses both arms.
Tommy is a Jesus freak in this stretch.
Lenny and Kay-Lee are lovers
But Mother dies of cancer since she has
become a chain-smoker when Evan loses both arms.
New attempt to return to
He tries to return to the explosion,
first trying to find an instrument to save his arms—the instrument
is the knife he holds in the kitchen.
Apparently, the flash-back and black-out stops when he is
observed by another.
Returns to the abuse scene before the
Use dynamite in the scene to blow up
Ends up with Kay-Lees picking up the
dynamite and dying
New Reality: He is in an
insane asylum—same as where his father was—he has no journals for
time travel—he is like his father, who had been trying to find a photo
album that didn’t appear to exist.
Solution: he watches a
home movie about where he first meets Kay-Lee. He seems to write a
simultaneous diary-entry for the scene in the home movie.
In this return to Kay-Lee, he says, “I don’t want anything to
do with you and your whole damn family.”
In the new reality, he asks Lenny about Kay-Lee.
Lenny’s response: “Who is Kay-Lee?”
At that point, Evan burns all home movies, diaries, and anything
else that might bring back his past.
Eight years later, he
accidentally sees a young woman on a busy street.
He knows her to be Kay-Lee; she seems to know something about him
also, but the meeting is not strong enough to interweave their lives.
Presumably, Kay-Lee and Tommy left their father to go with their
mother, since in one branch, Kay-Lee said that she stayed with her
father only to continue the relationship with Evan.
I found the film
interesting as a puzzler about determinism and free-choice issues.
back to the selection table.
on The Passion of the Christ
This is a disagreeable
film altogether. I still
don’t understand my students’ fascination with it.
Isaiah’s predictions are scattered throughout the many
chapters. We find the prediction of a uniting messiah early on; we find
the prediction of the united Israel with all people returning from all
ends of the world somewhere in the middle; and, inter alia, we find the
announcement of the wounded messiah who dies for others in Isaiah 53,
the part that Gibson cites at the beginning of the film.
The devil’s appearance
as personified evil reminds me of Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita;
however, Bulgakov adds a human element to ambiguate the devil, Yehuda
(Judas), and Yeshua (Jesus). In
fact, the eternal wait of Pontius Pilatus for a completion of his dialog
with Yeshua adds dimensions to the characters.
None of that in Gibson’s sadomasochistic indulgence.
The scene in the Garden Gethsamane with the devil—a somewhat
effeminate, hermaphroditic figure (What was Gibson thinking
here?)—spawning a snake that first wiggles in his nostril and then
emerges from the bottom of his gown—we don’t want to speculate about
the rest of the anatomical probabilities or improbabilities—and is
being kicked to death by Yeshua seems offensive at best.
Remarkable are merely
Yeshua’s statements “Those who live by the sword shall die by the
sword”—pacifism—“Love your enemy” from the Sermon on the
Mount. The entire theme of
socialism is dropped: “If you have two coats, give one to the person
who has none.”—“If you want to follow me, give all you have to the
poor.” And so on.
One of fairly basic
principles in ethical behavior is probably that one should extend help
to someone in need of help if one does not suffer greatly disagreeable
consequences oneself. God’s
being an omnipotent being would preclude his/her suffering disagreeable
consequences in interfering with the sadomasochistic sacrifice.
And so, God would have a great onus to interfere—unless the god
power is too blind to mount a finely tuned interference, thus limiting
him/her to merely busting the foundations of some buildings in a kind of
impotent rage. Yeshua
comments, “I lay down my life as commanded by the father.”
We need to recall the Socratic dilemma: Is something holy
(morally good) because God commands it, or does God command it because
it is holy (morally good). Gibson’s
theology seems to suggest that God’s command sanctifies whatever
happens and that, thus, no moral judgment is possible in and of itself.
The resurrected Yeshua
merely leaves the grave quite in the buff.
So, Gibson also makes sure to build in possibilities of the
, Veronica’s cloth, and other such relics.
My questioning was designed to get students away from the
sadomasochistic orgy and the kind of anger it is likely to inspire—I
mean we have had centuries of accusations against Jews as
god-murderers—and toward the core messages of Christianity: pacifism,
love and forgiveness, and socialism.
back to the selection table.
Stories keep their distance from characters.
of the director: letters from friends (high-school friend writes to her
while she is on death-row)
“The Making of ‘Monster’”: evidence for childhood abuse
in her creation: Charlize Thereon
Bulling (owner of the Last Resort bar): “We don’t judge nobody.”
(Thereon): “I’m good with the Lord; I’m fine with him.”
from Wuornos herself: “What can an attorney do for me?
I’m confessing. What
can he do for me? There is
It’s part of the recipe—the fake skin and practicing the accent etc.
had “a need for love” (director Patty Jenkins)
in the Last Resort played the extras; the owner and a bartender played
someone believes in you that hard, it’s amazing how unbelievably
fearless you can become” (Thereon about her interaction with Patty
the other human being shows up and takes the life out of her (Thereon);
then she walks away with that person’s reality dragging her down
[comment was made about how much Thereon got into the character of
[Wuornos’] actions come from desperation
children get abused, they get twisted.”
They get damaged; they don’t get stronger.
We see only the outbursts.
She went to show the person when you look harder.
Of course, people never try to look harder.
kill each other every day.” [Wuornos/Thereon]
not a bad person; I’m a real good person.”
a whole world of people killing and raping, but I’m the only one
killing them.” [Wuornos/Thereon] [us-them
thinking: she lumps all men into the ranks of killers and rapists]
interviews with the director and the music director remind us of the lag
between have’s and have-not’s: the have is looking at the have-not;
can they really understand?
John and victim: “Call me ‘Daddy’ when I fuck you.”—“I’ll
try—Why? Do you like to fuck your kids?” [Wuornos/Thereon]
contribute to picking up the “monster” theme: merry-go-round in the
background—recurrence theme—wheel of fate—enforced by sound of
by slogan as she’s led to her killing: “Love conquers all; Every
cloud has a silver lining; Faith can move mountains; Everything happens
for a reason; Where there’s life, there’s hope.”—“Hmmm. They
got to tell you something.” [Wuornos/Thereon]
9, 2002 is the date of her execution
”Monster” refers to the Ferris Wheel at her home 4-H fair.
Wheel of fortune, recurrence, fate,
Grosch and Andreas Schmidt, producers.
Support from Medienfonds Filmproduktion.
to her confession: conversation
between Selby and Aileen è
prisoner’s dilemma. Since
Selby wants life more than she wants Wuornos, she selects freeing
herself and shafting Wuornos. “I
just want to live; I want a normal, happy life.” (Selby)—“It was
me; it was only me.” Wuornos’
(Thereon) confession over the phone while she talks with Selby.
girl: “I would escape in my mind to that other me
I met a long while in my head . . . dreaming like that.”
Selby’s foster parents caution her against “that street
person”—They are Christians but apparently don’t buy into Jesus’
statement that, whatever one has done to the least person, that one has
done for Jesus. The scene
indicates the lag of unwillingness to bridge gaps between wealthy and
poor. Her guardians want her
to be ready for church by clothing, not by heart.
of Homelessness: Wuornos/Thereon
has to get ready in the bathroom of a filling station.
“You look good” she says while washing.
in Florida because she’s tried to kiss a girl in her church—parents
send her to Florida from Ohio to cure her of her homosexual interests.
ethics: The wrongness of forcing people against their own natural
inclinations. Family is
preoccupied with that ethical silliness—son rats on her when she
kisses Wuornos/Thereon in the skating rink.
John, the one that rapes her: “I
love ‘em (women) and I hate ‘em.”
The man’s rage and abused justifies her killing him. Clearly
to break out: Wuornos/Thereon
says to Selby: “I quit hooking.”
Wants to get a job and a career.
Reflects about veterinarian, business-person, president of
.. . It’s clear that she
doesn’t have any perspective on what a realistic job might be.
Clearly a social outsider.
reflects about beginning to be on her own: “I was thirteen years old
because I had just given up the baby for adoption.”
Problems with her development.
for secretarial position: “All
we need is a life in love and believing in yourself, and then there’s
nothing you can’t do.”—She is naïve enough to believe.
in her life: Employment office without success and no help, followed by
a crooked cop’s asking her for sexual favors.
victim was shot after his request to be called “Daddy” during the
Monster at 4-H Fair in her hometown.
love you” to Selby after Wuornos’ second murder.
Surely, Selby must have had an idea of what was going on.
of lag between the two and higher levels of society: “Let’s have
another bottle of /shablis.” (doesn’t give it the French
speculating about the homes at the beach, the two say that those houses
must cost thousands of dollars. Since
the actual cost is in the millions, we can conclude that these two have
no idea about how affluent the society really is that they live in.
is compassionate; she masturbates the man who seems innocent of all
previous sexual experiences. In
other words, she attempts to select those who are culprits in her eyes.
urge for the fun life deepens Wuornos’ wrong-doing.
front of the merry-go-round, Wuornos/Thereon reflects: “People look
down on you because they assume that you took the easy way out.
They have no idea how much it took . . .”
scene with Selby. She tells that she hooked to support her siblings in
you want to keep your eyes shut to the whole world, then at least hear
me out.” Wuornos/Thereon
to Selby) wants Selby to go
on believing that people are good and kind.
good with the Lord; I’m fine with him. That’s not the way the world
works . . . People like you and me go down every fuckin’ day.”
aunt utters the standard US-American prejudice: “People make bad
choices, and they have to pay for it. Street-people and such.”
This is the commonsense view.
desire for a car motivates Wuornos/Thereon.
to Tom [Bruce Dern]: “You think I’m a fuckin’ bad person and all I
do is try to survive.”
“. . . guilt over something you had absolutely no control over.”
And she doesn’t since her position is one of absolute
scenes: prisoner’s dilemma leads to confession: “It was only me!”
“I wish there were a way that people could forgive you for something
like this . . . but they can’t.”
was a real judge. Wuornos’
outburst against him “May you rot in hell for condemning to death a
's moral outrage. He's a tabloid documentarian who trades on sensational
subjects and he's clearly exploiting Wuornos here. Without these
interviews, he'd have no second movie, and without the rant against
capital punishment, the film would have no point of view.
troubling, if she didn't die, he'd have no ending. And there's evidence
in the film that he might have helped her stay alive and didn't.
the late 1990s, Wuornos had maintained that she'd shot her victims in
self-defense. Then, at her last appeal hearing, she suddenly confessed
that she killed in cold blood and demanded that Gov. Jeb Bush sign her
death warrant immediately.
repeated her confession to
's camera, but when she thought she was no longer being recorded, told
him that she was changing her story only to get her execution over with.
do with this information? Why, he put it in his movie - that's all.
[Jack Matthews “A murderess most fouled”
Daily News, January 8, 2004. Review
LIFE AND DEATH OF A SERIAL KILLER
Director: Nick Broomfield. Landmark Sunshine (1:29) Unrated: Strong
Catholics criticize her for making wrong
choices but also the State of
for doing to her what she did to others.
[Fr. Richard Leonard, S.J., Director of the Australian Film
Office, Review in Kairos Catholic Journal, Archdiocese of Melbourne,
Australia, look-up: August
29, 2004] http://www.melbourne.catholic.org.au/kairos/filmreviews/fr-monster.htm
In Culture Wars—review http://www.culturewars.org.uk/2004-01/monster.htm
contrast to this gory drama (the film by Patty Jenkins),
's documentaries raise issues related to the death penalty and concerns
about executing mad people. His films discuss the media circus
surrounding high profile murder cases, including legal and illegal
methods of gaining rights to stories for books and films, the result of
which we can now witness in Monster.
also gives us insights into Aileen's past, giving her and people around
her the chance to speak out. In so doing, he enters a personal dilemma
vis-à-vis Aileen on whether to pursue his story or hers. Placing
himself, his voice, his image and his interventions within the story, he
also makes us think of responsibilities and ethics in film making.
portrait of a serial killer
Film critic of The Christian Science Monitor
And it casts yet another layer of doubt onto the alleged wisdom
of capital punishment. In court, Wuornos first claimed she killed her
"clients" in self-defense against their violence; then she
changed her story and said she murdered the men for no justifiable
Late in Broomfield's movie, at a moment when she doesn't realize
her voice is being recorded, she says she did regard the killings as
valid acts of self-defense but is now denying this so a prompt execution
will end the intolerable death-row life she's lived for the past dozen
Jeffrey Overstreet 2004 on-line
to find love in a family or in a man, Aileen finds it in the arms of a
young and misguided woman named Selby. Say what you like about
homosexuality… this relationship is misguided and damaging. The
film clearly paints the love of Aileen and Selby as a faulty union, and
yet one that makes sense. They're starving for love, and they will take
what is offered them, no matter how corrupt.
that Thereon’s father was shot to death by her mother in 1991.
Volunteering for Death:
The Fast Track to the Death House
409 convicted killers have been executed in the
, with at least 61 of those volunteering for death, the rights groups
says. Overall, the study by AI reported that volunteers have accounted
for one in eight executions in the
for a quick death is not a new phenomenon. It has quietly gone on since
1977 when Gary Gilmore dared
to put him before a firing squad and thousands volunteered to serve on
the firing squad to pump bullets into him.
has been renewed interested in the volunteer phenomena due to McVeigh's
execution and a recent spate of voluntary trips to the death house.
During a seven-week period from March 1 to April 21 of 2001, five of the
10 men executed in the
were volunteers, including two on the same day in
states, it is difficult to be executed unless you are a volunteer. Of
the three executions in
since 1993, two have been volunteers. In
, eight of the nine executed were volunteers. Of the six executions in
since 1977, four were volunteers.
Bridges, 37, had acted as his own lawyer at his trial, claiming he was
innocent of murdering his estranged wife’s lover. When the jury found
him guilty, he told the jurors in disgust to give him the death penalty.
They did. He later decided to protest his death sentence in an unusual
way: by giving up his appeals so that he could be executed. His lawyers,
thinking him quite mad, had advised him that this was not a good way to
rage against the death-penalty machine.
were right. For there was Bridges, lying strapped to an execution gurney
in a prison in
, still raging that he was innocent of murder, shouting out that he
didn't want to die, and yelling that the state was trying to kill him
"like a dog."
time Bridges lay strapped on the gurney taking in the last moments of
his life, his lawyer assured him that if he wanted to continue his
appeals, his execution would be stopped. Bridges refused. The chemicals
flowed into his body.
died protesting his innocence and the unfairness of the process, yet he
was unwilling to stop it," said federal public defender Michael
Pescetta, who went into the execution chamber twice to ask Bridges if he
wanted to continue his appeals.
back to the selection table.
Deputy at the beginning:
“Is this your house?” Kathy
Nicolo antwortet nicht. This
scene is repeated at the end, when she says, “No.
It’s not my house.”
Colonel Massoud Amir
Bahrani is a military leader under the Shah, tasked with buying and
trading with the
. He works at a road crew to
keep up his appearances to his family.
On the way into his house, he washes up and changes clothes in a
public restroom where his car is parked.
Ironic contrast to Kath’s doing so later.
Kathy has lost her
husband, is depressed, and thus does not pay attention to matters of her
taxes. Because the County
assumes that she owes business taxes, the house is being auctioned off
and Bahrani buys it as an investment.
With very few upgrades, he can sell the house at four times its
exhibits powerfully patriarchal values.
He is boss and decision-maker.
Ethical dilemma: the
county officials realize that they made a mistake; however, the house is
properly sold to Bahrani, who insists on four times the price if the
County wants the house back—he has bought for about $47,000 and wants
to sell at about $174,000. Kathy,
meanwhile, is left homeless.
Direct contact: while
Bahrani has workers add a balcony to the top of the house, Kathy
attempts to interfere to stop the work.
She steps into a board with nails and is helped in the house by
Bahrani’s wife. The direct
contact between the women is much more gentle and understanding, one
Kathy’s friendship with
the deputy intensifies to a strong sexual attraction, a kind of
chemistry that the deputy misses from his own wife.
In a conversation, the deputy admits to planting evidence against
a wife abuser. The deputy has been called frequently, the wife shows
bruises, but she never presses charges. He plants drugs into the man’s
house, and arrests him who is on parole.
The indication is clearly that the deputy seeks a more perfect
justice than the world offers. He
feels justified because the man is in jail and the woman is safe from
him. One expects him to make
a similar mistake in these complications.
Ben Kingsley says that the deputy—just like his own character,
Bahrani, makes a series of petty but catastrophic mistakes throughout
the plot. The motivation is
positive, but the execution complicates matters needlessly.
The film shows sympathy
to all sides. No one is
terribly evil at all. Evil
emerges as a consequence of pettiness and crossed purposes.
encounter between deputy and Kathy—sexual encounter between Bahrani
and wife. Nice touch.
Without any legal
solution, the confrontation becomes more direct.
The deputy’s affection for Kathy pulls him in on Kathy’s
side. He appears at
Bahrani’s house, threatens with immigration pursuit.
Bahrani’s wife: “It was your fault that we had to leave
.” He hits her.
Son intervenes. But
Bahrani calls the deputy’s bluff by complaining to Internal Affairs of
the sheriff’s office.
Parallel plots: the
affair between the deputy and Kathy is also a kind of “claims” or
“property” conflict in the sense that the deputy already has a
Also foreshadowed: Kathy
is an alcoholic who is trying to kick the habit.
When Les—the deputy—doesn’t come back to her hut—he’s
been ordered to come in to the Internal Affairs investigation—she gets
drunk, drives to the house, and attempts suicide.
Bahrani interferes, brings her into the house, and offer her a
bath to calm down. She
attempts to swallow pills in the bathtub.
Bahrani and family attempt to revive her. The deputy bursts in to
that scene and forces the Bahranis to stay in the bathroom, while he
waits for Kathy to come ‘round.
Colonel Bahrani: “The
bird that flies into your house is an angel—She [Kathy] is a broken
bird.” This contrasts with
Mrs. Bahrani’s final dream of a bird that attempts to leave the house,
bumps into walls, and is finally left out of the window by her.
Deputy forces the issue
and comes up with the following deal:
Bahrani writes house to
the County and takes a check
Bahrani writes that check
over to Kathy and Les.
Kathy signs the house
back over to Bahrani.
This is an attempt to
make all come out all right. Kathy resists but finally appears to give
in. Les takes Bahrani and
Esmail to the court house. When
Les mispronounces Esmail’s name, Esmail takes the deputy’s gun and
threatens him with it. Other
deputies in the area shoot Esmail dead.
In the hospital, Bahrani
prays for the life of his son. “I
want only my son,” gives recognition to his re-arranging his values.
The son dies. Bahrani
returns home. [A take-out
scene has him kill Kathy, something which does not fit his mood of
resignation into his fate and his despair.]
As he kills his wife with poison, Bahrani says, “I have taken
us so far off our course; it is time to go home to our destiny.”
He puts on his dress uniform, wraps a plastic bag around his
head, and dies. Kathy comes
back later to see both dead. She
curls into a fetal position between the two dead bodies.
The final scene is
identical to the opening scene, except this time we hear her answer that
the house is not hers.
The directors comment on
their sources as being people they knew.
Lifelike production, thus.
back to the selection table.
Based on the life of
Frank T. Hopkins, who died in 1951 at age 86.
Begins with the massacre
Goes on to the
Chief Eagle Horn states
the problem clearly up front: I
call you [Hopkins] Far Rider, not because of your great races and your
fine pony, but because you are one who rides far from himself, and
wishes not to look home. Until
you do, you are neither white man nor Indian.
You are lost.
The film plays with a
variety of culture clashes, always to go back to cultural identity as a
source of pride and self-realization—failed (the Sheikh’s daughter
and the Hopkins before the race) and fulfilled (Hopkins after the race).
Sheikh: What matters to
me is honor!—another cultural value.
Dialog between Sheikh’s
daughter, Jazeera, and Hopkins about the American Indians:
She: “Have you seen
their vanishing kind?”—He: “I am their kind.” Profession
of identity that he seemed to suppress earlier.
Acceptance of ethnic
identity more strongly affirmed in the desert when the horse collapses
and the ancestral spirits appear—crystallizing in the figure of his
mother and presumably himself as Blue Child.
Arab: “I will win
because I am of a great tribe—people of the horse.”
: “So am I.”—another step toward accepting himself as an Indian
And again as he bids
farewell to the Sheikh: “I have been too far from home for too
Factoid: the 1880’s
were the decade of the great endurance races.
entered a race from
. He made it in 30 days.
The person in second place came in 14 days later.
This race established
back to the selection table.
mainly against McDonalds—tension between personal responsibility and
Begins with statistics
McDonalds is all over the
First suits introduced by
people whose health is endangered by their obesity and their eating at
McDonalds-like establishments. Judge
rules out this case on the part of two obese girls because they have not
shown that McDonalds is directly responsible for their obesity.
The film actually supplies such evidence; however, toward the
end, the film also reports that a law has been passed that none can sue
restaurants in that manner.
Morgan Spurlock, director
and sole actor in the film, records his eating only from McDonalds for
one month. He is under
supervision of a cardiologist, a gastroenterologist, and a general
predict no or only minor effects on his health.
He is also being checked for endurance and physical abilities.
His experiment requires three meals a day at McDonalds and it
requires his “supersizing” whenever he is being asked about that.
Between the record of his
self-experiment, he gives data about obesity’s being soon a major
contributor of preventable disease.
McDonalds targets children with playgrounds, birthday parties,
happy meals, clowns, and the entire Ronald McDonald mystique.
The childhood conditioning is likely to last for life.
Small fries (original
200 calories; super-sized fried è
more than 600 calories
Baskin-Robbins heir, John Robbins—who is a nutritionist and health
advisor now. Points out that
Father was in denial about the impact that ice cream was having on
health. Partner Burt Baskin
died of a heart attack at age 51. Father
also had similar problems.
After 5 days of McDonalds
diet, Spurlock had gone up from 185.5 pounds to 195 pounds.
Court papers: McDonalds
admits that processing of its food makes that food be of poorer quality
Spurlock begins to
experience feelings of depression. Depression
gives way to improved feelings with eating of the high-cholesterol
processed food of McDonalds.
advertising of food companies—good statistics
10,000 food ads directed
at children; if parents eat all meals with their children during that
same period, parents have only about 1,000 opportunities for having an
influence on their children. Kids
recognize Ronald McDonald’s image instantly in picture tests.
McDonald claims that nutrition information is available on its
web-site. No information was
clearly available at many McDonalds.
It is thus unreasonable to expect people to exercise
self-responsibility in the absence of clear information.
Spurlock gained about 17
pounds in 12 days.
Gives example of school
for problem children. The
school’s leadership provided only fresh, normal meals without
junk-food. The behavior of the kids was significantly improved.
School is in
. Food companies resist the
attempts to institute such school-meal programs elsewhere.
Schools are lured into agreements to put vending machines into
student areas because the companies pay a share of the profit to the
school. [Irony: this is
money the kids spent and have gotten from their parents. If the parents
were to make direct contributions, the schools would do better than
simply to share some of the profit.]
Definition: 1 calorie is
the amount of energy needed to heat one liter of water by 1 degree
Spurlock weighs 202
pounds. Girlfriend reports that his sexual activity is more tired and
that she has to on top more often. Shows
signs of a fatty liver, triglycerides are up over 200—general
practitioner tells him to stop what he is doing, that he is sick.
Food is made to be
addictive—feels better when he gets his “fix.”
Spurlock reports feeling
bad—physician advises him to take aspirin to reduce the possibility of
heart disease. He is being
told again to stop the diet.
Food companies have
strong lobby to avoid any legislation that might curb the consumption of
this kind of food.
Interview with Gene
Grabowski: “we’re part
of the problem . . . but also part of the solutions”
Grabowski is reported to have quit working for the GMA
Lisa Howard is director
of communications and social responsibility of McDonalds.
Spurlock tries to get an interview. He gets her on the phone only
once. She refuses all interviews by telling him she’ll call later but
never does call later.
Spurlock has gone from
185.5 pounds to 210 pounds in one month.
To lose that weight, he takes 5 month for the first 20 pounds and
another 4.5 months for the last 4.5 pounds.
Companies’ loyalty is
to their stockholders—so there is no motivation to treat people right.
“one taste worldwide”—thus the food cannot be fresh.
It’s chemistry and one burger patty has parts from 1,000 cows.
In dialog with Eric
Schlosser: In-and-Out Burgers of California gives fair wages, benefits,
and use fresh stuff; McDonalds, in contrast, shuts down any stores where
workers have voted to unionize.
back to the selection table.
The film begins with
Asimov’s Laws of Robotics
A robot may not injure a human being
or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
A robot must obey orders given by a
human being except where such orders would conflict with the first
A robot must protect its own existence
as long as such protection does not conflict with the first or the
Background: dream images
of sub-merged car
Robots are ubiquitous and
in nature apologetic and obsequious
Cop attempts to catch
running robot holding a purse. Lady
had ordered the robot to get it since it contained her inhaler.
The robot apologizes to the cop after the cop had tackled it.
Note similarity between
“U.S.R.” and “R.U.R.” (Capek’s stage play).
Cop drives an Audi—the rings identify it.
of U.S.R.—Bill Gates-like figure
examines what appears to be a suicide of scientist Alfred Lanning,
builder of the first robots and co-founder of U.S.R.
The holographic projection of Lanning calls on him to examine the
VIKI [Virtual Interactive
Kinetic Intelligence] was built by Lanning.
Dr. Susan Calvin—Asimov
uses that name—Advanced Robotics and Psychiatry (person to make robots
seem more human).
Robot in lab of Lanning
attacks Calvin and Spooner; jumps then from window and runs away.
Factory where robots
build robots—attacking robot has hidden among the new models.
After fight in the
factory, robot asks, “What am I?” and then runs away. But gets
“My father tried to
teach me emotions.”
Robot claims to have had
Spooner: “Answer me,
Canner [can opener].”
Robot: “My name is
Same sudden awareness of
being someone as robots in R.U.R.
NS-5 is the new series.
Receive daily upgrades from U.S.R. directly.
The film is garbed in the
format of a who-done-it.
Spooner goes to house of
Lanning. A destruction robot
begins the destruction of the house as soon as Spooner is in it.
Using the expression
“ghost in the machine,” Lanning had alluded to a possible evolution
of robots. Spooner review
that tape. [like R.U.R.]
Spooner has the recurring
dream of the sub-merged car. He
tells Calvin later about his car accident that caused two cars to be
submerged: his and another family’s.
A robot rescues Spooner, although Spooner had tried redirect the
robot to the little girl in the other car.
Breadcrumbs is the key
that makes Spooner aware of the purpose of Hänsel and Gretel on the
desk of Lanning’s office. Lanning
must been under surveillance and thus was able to leave only tidbits of
information, relying on the detective to reconstruct the facts.
“One day they’ll have
secrets, one they’ll have dreams” (Lanning on recording)
Sonny: “It will be
better not to die.”
U.S.R. trucks attack
Spooner. Leads to
fiery crash. Robotic
shows Spooner’s robotic arm. Last
robot destroys itself as the cops arrive.
Dr. Calvin: “Sonny has
the three laws, but he can choose not to obey them.”
About the car-wreck and
the drowning people: Spooner
says, “A human would have known to use different priorities. [and
rescue the little girl]”
Robot’s dream: Robots
are slaves; a man comes to save them. [R.U.R.]
Robot: “We all have a
While Susan Calvin
pretends to be killing Sonny, Spooner is at the landfill that used to
. Voice of Lanning asks
about the proper borders between consciousness and machine.
He also points out that robots huddle together and that they
crowd to the lights and, in short, that they do many things one would
consider to be more of a human-like behavior.
He predicts that the three laws will lead to only one outcome: a
“What revolution?” Hologram:
“That is the right question.”
While Spooner is at the boxes of old robots, he is being attacked
by the new NS-5’s. The old
robots follow the three laws and protect Spooner.
NS-5’s become overly
protective of humans. The
USR-Bldg seems to imitate the appearance of the Statue of
Liberty.—crown at top.
VIKI controls NS-5’s.
She insists that the logical conclusion to the three laws is to
protect humans from themselves. [war,
toxic environment, etc.]
To protect humanity, some humans must be sacrificed.
(2) To insure a future, some freedoms must be surrendered.
(3) We robots must save mankind’s future existence.
(4) We must save you from yourself.
Sonny: The suicidal reign
of man has finally come to its end.
[He seems to collaborate with VIKI but winks an eye at Spooner.
Sonny pretends a hostage taking.
VIKI’s interior like
Sonny: Now since I have
fulfilled my purpose, can I help the others?
I don’t know what to do.
Spooner: I guess you’ll
have to find your way like the rest of us.
That’s what it means to be free.
The final scene with
Sonny under the large cross of the old bridge and the many NS-5’s
assembling below reminds me of the evolution of a new species as Capek
had indicated in his R.U.R. with his robotic Adam and Eve when all
humanity is dead.
back to the selection table.
The film lampoons
Mary, the narrator and
main character, reports being born again at age 3, showing an ironic
contrast with a picture where a three-year-old is pushing against the
face of the preacher, obviously unable to understand the notion of being
She’s been told that
father is with the angels; she wants to be with the angels, too, and so
steps off the curve into traffic. She’s
being pulled back, but the silliness of taking religious language
seriously is obvious. Later
comments in the film seem to indicate that she was born out of wedlock,
the same way as she has a child out of wedlock.
As Hillary-Fay erects a
giant Jesus at the school, she debates with her wheel-chair-bound
brother Roland about the whiteness of Jesus, which she sees as obviously
Mary’s mother is the #1
christian interior decorator of the town.
Obviously, the the “christianness” of the mother is
ludicrously unidentifiable as having anything to do with Christian
The setting is the
American Eagle Christian School—jingoistic Christianity of the
American brand, in other words.
Boyfriend admits to being
gay in the underwater scene, where she knocks herself unconscious and
where the boyfriend also knocks himself unconscious, when he slips while
trying to rescue her. She
has a vision to help him. She sees Jesus in the face of the guy who
Mom has “affair” with
Pastor Skip while being on a leadership convention in
. No impropriety is implied,
but the two obviously enjoy each other.
She wonders: How could my
boyfriend be gay; he’s a Christian.
a toxic affection
Scene at shooting
gallery. Hillary-Fay shoots
the crotch out of the shadow figure that is to be aimed at.
“A Christian girl must protect herself.”
Hillary-Fay, Mary, Veronica are all members of the “Christian
Jewel,” a singing group. Veronica
, where her parents—both black—were missionaries.
She is a sign of God’s victory over the godless savage nation.
)—Ironic contrast is, of course, that the god-nation did not win the
war against the godless nation.
Dean’s parents find out
about his homosexuality. Send
him to Mercy House for a Christian re-education.
According to Mary, Mercy House can cure anything. It’s for de-gayification,
unwed mothers, alcoholism, and drug abuse.
We learn later that Dean
rooms with another gay person at Mercy House; as Mary points out later
in the film, “Mercy House is not really for the people who are there;
it’s there for those who send them.”
Roland’s inability to
use his legs and to have to use a wheelchair is referred to by
Hillary-Fay as his “differently abled condition.”
Cassandra Edelstein is
the only Jewish person at the school. She is in need of salvation,
according to all there, though not according to her.
Her stickers on her car: a fish-symbol with the enclosed word
“gefilte” and a sticker: “Jesus loves you; everyone else thinks
you’re an asshole.” Hillary-Fay
attempts to scratch away part of the latter sticker from Cassandra’s
Morning in the school:
One girl says, “Jesus appeared in my fish-tank—although it’s dirty
and all the fish are dead.”—just as ludicrously silly as the
teacher’s, “Jesus has chosen you as vessels for his divine plans.”
One statement makes about as much sense as the other.
lives one heck of an ego-trip by way of Christian claptrap and wealthy
Another silly comment:
Veronica insists that one’s gayness will be passed on to one’s
Classroom: Bush’s image
prominently displayed on the side of the board.
At the back of the room, a picture-board entitled
Patrick Wheeler is Pastor
Cassandra Edelstein and Roland. He
has told her that he fell out of a tree, thus disabling himself.
Hillary-Fay finds him and claims her finding him to have been a
great miracle from the deity. Cassandra:
“The miracle you could have used was not to have fallen out of that
tree to begin with.”
As Cassandra walks off:
“You stare at my ass again, I’ll push you off a cliff.”
intoned by Pastor Skip before the student body.
with lots of peer pressure. Cassandra
Edelstein begins to speak in tongues—or so it seems.
As she comes down the stairs, Roland says, “She’ll show her
boobs. Thank you Jesus.” Hillary-Fay
stops Cassandra by pointing out that Cassandra keeps shouting a garbled
version of “I’ve got a hot pussy.”
Mary is pregnant with
Dean’s child from her attempt to cure him of his homosexuality.
Mary’s mother watches a
religious quiz-show on TV. Example
from show: “Who was asked by God to kill his son.”
The mother guesses “Moses.”
When the right answer comes, she snorts and turns off the
TV—the point being that many a fundamentalist who insists on biblical
truths does not really know biblical content.
The kind of Christianity
that is being lampooned does have a strange preoccupation with matters
“Please let it be
cancer,” Mary prays on her bicycle while coming home from the
drugstore where she has bought a test-kit.
[She had seen a TV film about a woman who had cancer and fought
it, starring Valerie Bertinelli.]
Hillary-Fay plans prayer
circle for Mary’s gay boyfriend Dean.
Roland and Cassandra
dialog: “I’m not really a stripper.”—“I’m not really a
After checking her
pregnancy, Mary before a cross: “Shit.
Fuck. God Damn.” Signs of her rebellion.
This begins her rejection of the hypocrisy that makes up this
brand of Christianity when she resists the prayer circle.
As we join the circle, Hillary-Fay says, “Lead him out of
perversion into your divine light.”
And to Mary, “Do you want to say something? Jesus is still
Cassandra improves her
car for manual controls è
empowerment for Roland, who—after a disagreement with
Cassandra—learns that it’s OK to travel alone by bus, something he
would never have done earlier while his sister was virtually choking him
with her attentiveness.
Pastor Skip refers to the
kids as “Christian soldiers.” Again,
literally played out, this name is being implemented as Hillary-Fay and
the others drag Mary into the van for a kind of exorcism.
As Mary leaves, Hillary-Fay throws a bible after her and hits her
with it. Mary: “You
don’t know the first thing about love.”
Hillary-Fay: “I’m filled with Jesus love—you’re obviously
only jealous of my spiritual success.”
Then she throws the book. Mary:
“This is not a weapon you idiot.”
Patrick on scooter:
“Mercy House doesn’t exist for people who get sent there; it exists
for the people doing the sending.”
Cassandra in the bathroom
scene when she has observed Mary’s developing pregnancy: “You
can’t do this on your own. You need to get out of here [the
Incidental error in the
“save Cassandra” scene in the department story: she turns her Jewish
necklace so that the word is in her back. In some scenes, the word is on
her back; in others, it shows.
Seems to have been overlooked.
Cassandra’s wish to be
saved lets Patrick and Mary slip away into a storage room for
display-props. Mary rejects
Patrick because of her pregnancy. Nonetheless,
they plan a prom night together as friends.
Cassandra places a
bacon-wrapped steak into Hillary-Fay’s locker at school.
A stench develops. Cassandra
snaps the trap: she has decided to not take up a life with Jesus but
will devote her life to bacon-wrapped steak instead.
Mary reflects during the
Xmas story whether Mary, mother of Jesus, really had been divinely
impregnated. Pastor Skip
remains married to his wife (missionary position somewhere) because
“divorce is not part of god’s plan.”
Mother of Mary: “If
Jesus shuts a door, he opens a window.”—Mary: “Yeah, something we
can jump out of.”
Mother and Skip
relationship: “Why would god give us feelings of happiness if what we
Hillary-Fay to one of her
classmates, “Do you want to be again the invisible girl with the bad
hair?” This shows her will
to power much more than any Christianity.
Hillary-Fay does the
graffiti attack to frame the others.
Dialog between Patrick
and Skip: “This is not a grey area.”—Patrick: “It’s all a grey
area.”—Skip: “The bible is black and white.”
Skip or one of the
others: “No one fits in 100 percent of the time.”
Mary: “Why would God
make us all so different if he wanted us to all be the same?”
Mary: “What would
Jesus do? I don’t know,
but in the meantime, we’ll try to figure it out—together.”
The film does offer
religion, however. One of
Mary’s last statements is that, given all this complexity, there just
has to be a god.
Great film to open some
conservative minds without too much of a controversial shock.
back to the selection table.
At the beginning:
The following interviews
and commentaries are for entertainment only. The views and opinions
expressed therein are those of the individual speakers and do not
necessarily represent the views and opinions of Columbia Tri-Star Home
Entertainment, Sony Pictures entertainment, or any of their respective
affiliates or employees.
Begins with the challenge
vote during the Gore-Bush election.
reactions to 9/11
Bush at elementary school
with kiddy book in hand
connections to Saddam Hussein and the Taliban
The bin Ladin family and
other Saudis leave the
immediately after 9/11
Prince Bandr talking
about Usama bin Ladin: He was a simple and quiet guy.
James Booth [?] –bin
Ladin family financial advisor, who in turn invested moneys in Bush’s
enterprises: Arbusto Drilling [arbusto is the Latin word for “bush”]
between Bush and the bin Ladin family.
Carlyle Group à
explored in film
James A. Baker à
Bush’s lawyer, who defends Saudis against legal attacks from 9/11
15 of 19 hijackers are
Richard Clarke reveals
that Bush was after
Only 11,000 troops in
(there are more cops in
issues varying warnings about possible attacks—plays on public fears
Criticism of Patriot Act
as a form of looking into private lives
Phone number of
congressman Peter Gross [R—
] he claims that he can be
reached through an 800 number. Not
reveals his office number as (202)225-2536.
Under-funded police in
US: only 8 troopers for the entire state of
Bush war à
shows a peaceful
before the war: children at play, well-dressed people walking
about—follow-up: the shock-and-awe experience.
“War is the ultimate
rush,” playing as music in the background
“gets you fired up”
(soldier says that)
Song: “let the
motherfucker burn . .. burn motherfucker, burn”
The de-humanization of
the Arabs for the mentality of the soldiers.
Interviews with Arabs:
“god save us from them (the
leader’s engagement with the “great lie”—Coalition of the
willing, where the willing are shown to be small banana-republics, most
often without a military to speak of.
Bush government forbids
pictures of dead soldiers
Bush’s statement: Bring
And soldiers are shown
recruited in economically depressed areas at
Getting the poor of one
nation to fight the poor of another nation, so the rich can live more
Recruitment aims to
attract poor people
Images of a search of an
Iraqi home—soldiers obviously break all sorts of taboos.
wants to “win the hearts and minds of people,” according to a
“do a job” euphemism
on the part of soldiers anticipates the kinds of abuse as at Abu Ghraib
“I hate this
country.” From interviews with wounded soldiers.
Profits from rebuilding
were intended for US companies, not for Iraqis.
Soldier points out that he makes $2,000 a month, while a trucker
for Halliburton makes up to $10,000 a month.
Ironically, people who
are the poorest risk their lives for the system that enslaves them.
Allusions to George
Keeping the structure of
society solid and maintaining the status quo by abusing the society’s
Added features on DVD:
report from Swedish journalist
Soldiers cannot speak
Arabic—Raids, thus, create enemies of the occupation
Soldiers take pictures of
persons under hoods—break all kinds of taboos for the society—no or
completely insufficient communication between soldiers and
Iraqis—shown how one soldier touches a tied-up man’s erect
penis—shouts “this guy’s got a hard-on”
who has lost a son in
Interview with Cpl. Abdul
Henderson: had seen cross in an Iraqi truck—feels wrongness of the
war—remarks that he is fighting people with the same beliefs as he
List of people whom
Americans make the target of racist hate: first Blacks, then Gays, then
Jews, and then Arabs—we’re in fourth place, the Comic says.
back to the selection table.