[CONTAINS SPOILERS TO THE FILM THE EAST.]
A cute new Ford commercial (echoing a cute old Coke commercial) promotes the superiority of AND over OR. Good horsepower AND good mileage is better than horsepower OR good mileage, just as hide AND seek is better than hide OR seek. And so on.
This is largely the way I feel about the arts. I have no desire to silence the cultural voices of people I sometimes disagree with. I only want to ensure that other voices aren’t gray listed, demonized, or stifled out of existence.
When I saw the film Prisoners the other day, it had moved from the mainstream theaters to one of the local art houses. As I waited for the show to begin, I wandered the lobby looking at the posters for upcoming shows. There were four: a movie about a gay Catholic priest who falls in love with a man; a movie about a lesbian love affair; a movie about a little Muslim girl who has to learn the Koran in order to win a bicycle; and a Yiddish film about a love affair during the Holocaust.
Now truly, I have no problem whatsoever with any of these films being made or distributed. A gay priest choosing between his religion and love is an inherently dramatic situation, as is a Jewish love affair during the Holocaust. The film about the little girl is by Saudi Arabia’s first female director and so should have some real insights into a world we rarely see. And when the lesbian film comes out on DVD, you’ll be able to skip ahead to the ten minute sex scenes. (Oh, all right, I’m joking…)
My problem, as always, is with the films that aren’t getting made. Like, say, the one about the not-gay Catholic priest who heroically tries to help sex slaves in Turkey until he’s assassinated by a man shouting “Allahu Akbar!” Or the one about Norman Borlaug, who led the green revolution credited with saving over one billion people from starvation, despite the attempts made to stop him… by environmentalists.
Speaking of environmentalists, the other day my wife and I sat down to watch an obscure thriller called The East, which I’d heard was good. It began with a terrorist attack on an oil executive by radical environmentalists. ”Don’t tell me the environmentalists are the bad guys,” said my wife, surprised. “No,” I said wearily. “The female agent will go undercover to stop the terrorists but will fall in love with their leader and discover that they’re actually the good guys and the oil companies she works for are evil.” To which my wife replied, “You know, it’s not always that much fun to watch movies with you.”
But it’s not me, really it’s not. When only one point of view is being told, the arts will by necessity become boring, predictable and solipsistic. It’s the sound of one hand patting itself on the back.