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“It must be hard to love political correctness…”

There’s nothing like a little bit of political correctness gone crazy to get the blood flowing. I’m amazed it’s taken me this long to find a story that piqued my interest enough that I would cover it. Ask and you shall receive and all that. Last week’s hubbub over the trailer for Warner Brothers’ film Orphan is exactly what irritates me about our current PC-focused state of mind. For those who don’t know, Orphan sees an adopted little girl proceeding to wreak havoc on a small suburban family. The trailer was released last week and prompted a huge outcry from various interest groups for including the line, “It must be hard to love an adopted child as much as your own.” Because apparently every line spoken in movies must be the unadulterated truth, right? No characters would ever make a subjective statement about their own incorrect world view, would they?

Creepy children never go out of fashion...

Creepy children never go out of fashion...

This really ticks me off. Sure, it isn’t the most tasteful concept in the world – you adopt a girl with dead parents and she tears your family apart from the inside – but really? Here are some of the quotes from various advocacy groups from just a single article:

  • “The notion that a movie would deliberately portray an adopted child as evil makes me wince.” And clowns are still shocked at being viciously targeted by the blockbuster The Dark Knight. Burn victims and coin collectors are also upset at being cast in a negative light.
  • “… the potential damage to children is great.” Hmm… if only we had some sort of classification system (possibly based on age) to determine whether or not children should view this film? But I guess I should quit dreaming.
  • “… I think most people will be wise enough to see this type of horror movie as having a ridiculous plot …” That’s actually a legitimate point. Who would have thought that people could recognise that films do not necessarily reflect reality?

I know it’s a storm in a tea cup, but it really grinds my gears. We have age classifications in place to stop kids from seeing this movie. Hell, the trailer for the movie that included the offensive line is rated R and can only be seen in front of films that children shouldn’t be attending. Even if that wasn’t the case, do parents actually believe that using adoption as the basis of a horror movie plot represents some sort of mass popular culture attack on the institution? It would be just as easy to cite as many positive cases of adoption in pop culture (Superman himself springs to mind as the most famous positive adopted image). That aside, horror movies do this sort of thing regularly it’s a staple. I doubt Eastern Europe was too excited about Hostel. Or that the US government would be too happy about its portrayals in films like Quarantine. We could go back even earlier – surely The Omen represents the same primal fear? Or how about Rosemary’s Baby, where the fear comes from a biological child. Is that an attack on the institution of pregnancy?

Hell, if we step outside the confines of horror, what about lawyers? They provide a fairly essential service and keep the world ticking over (I’m a little biased here as the holder of a legal degree), but they’re constantly mocked and ridiculed – so much so it becomes a punchline. Does that represent stereotyping? Yes. Is that wrong and should popular culture apologise? Nope. Because I’m going to assume that most people base their opinions of a particular class of people on more than what they see in a single episode of television or a cheesy horror movie. Maybe I’ve too much faith in humanity, but that’s just me.

It always astounds me how people get worked up about these teeny, tiny things. Do you know what was the largest basis of complaints made to the British Film Classification Office last year? The fact the Joker used a knife during The Dark Knight. Yep. Not the fact that he tried to blow up innocent men, women and children; not the brutality of Batman in breaking a suspect’s legs; not the fact he threw a woman out a window (not that there’s any more reason to complain about these, but there’s certainly no less). The fact that the villain in a blockbuster used a knife rather than just guns or bombs. It wasn’t even that he used the slashing weapons exclusively, just that he used them at all.

A cut above the rest...

A cut above the rest...

Again, this is a complaint rooted in British culture – the fear of knife crime – but part of me just really wants to tell them to cop themselves on. I’m not particularly hard liner on free speech – I can accept that we do need to at least warn people of the content of the films they watch. That is why film classification boards – such as our own excellent IFCO, managed by the wonderful John Kelleher – exist to stick age restrictions on the front of films. If you don’t want to deal with violence or adult themes or political incorrectness or tastelessness, then don’t go to higher rated films. Make an informed choice, because I don’t want to hear you whinge about it afterwards.

I can accept that most films like this – and the more extreme films such as Von Trier’s Antichrist – are probably devoid of artistic merit, but I also accept that’s a subjective definition. Orphan likely won’t be anything special – I’ll be seeing it at home if at all. On the other hand, if we start enforcing this old fashioned puritanical viewpoint on cinema, we do run the risk of actually excluding genuine classics that deal with subject matter in intelligent and thought-provoking ways. Though I resent the PC mindset in theoretical terms for the abstract assault on free speech, it’s this more tangiable loss that really irks me.

How brilliantly symmetrical that The Life of Brian, an earlier victim of these ‘in bad taste’ witch hunts, was finally unbanned in Edinburgh last week as well.

One Response

  1. Thanks for stating things as they are…..I am in a class right now and am the only one in here that doesn’t think this is going to make all adoptive families targets of ridicule and stop people from adopting…..shit!

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