Ed Driscoll

Boundaries Remain Barricaded


Past performance is no guarantee of future results:

ROGER EBERT: There has to be some reporting in every review. I mean, first of all, here’s what I think a movie review should do. The first thing it should do, it should give some notion to the reader of what the movie is about, and what it is like. If you play fair with your reader you can give a movie a bad review and know that they would like to go see that movie. You shouldn’t just blast in such a way that the reader would think that no reasonable portion would ever want to go to this film. You have to give the movie its day in court too. There has to be something in there that conveys what the experience is like.

GENE SISKEL: You have to summon up the courage to say what you honestly feel. And it’s not easy. There’s a whole new world called political correctness that’s going on, and that is death to a critic to participate in that.

EBERT: Political correctness is the fascism of the ‘90s. It’s kind of this rigid feeling that you have to keep your ideas and your ways of looking at things within very narrow boundaries, or you’ll offend someone. Certainly one of the purposes of journalism is to challenge just that kind of thinking. And certainly one of the purposes of criticism is to break boundaries; it’s also one of the purposes of art. So that if a young journalist, 18, 19, 20, 21, an undergraduate tries to write politically correctly, what they’re really doing is ventriloquism.

SISKEL: I think the other thing is that when someone does stand apart from all of these dangers that we’re talking about, and they do shoot their best shot, they’re going to be empowered by it. They’ll see that they’re not destroyed. They’ll see that they’re not revealed as a phony, as wrong, as stupid – things that writers battle all the time. Do it one time – it’s going to be nervous, [but] you won’t be destroyed; you’ll be encouraged to do it again. And you’ll start raising the stakes for yourself.


— Comments from a PBS episode that Ebert and the late Gene Siskel shot in the early 1990s for budding journalism students.

Sounds like exceptional advice; and spot on connecting the dots between PC with fascism. (Say, somebody should write a book on that topic.)

So what’s preventing the Ebert of 2012 from reviewing the number two-grossing political documentary of all time?

Related: On the flip-side of the equation, “An elderly American repeatedly declines to indicate his approval of Barack Obama. Hostility results.”

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