The white-hot debate surrounding the Iraq war coincides with the release for an angry new movie called “V for Vendetta.” A vulgar, ham-fisted attempt at political protest, “V” refers to America as the world’s leper colony, casts a conservative Christian as the film’s 21st century Hitler, blames America’s war for the start of a British police state, and cast a terrorist as its hero. But friends, at least the film has a happy ending. The movie’s hero, though dead, inspires his followers to blow up Parliament. Oh, by the way, the movie pulled in more than $26 million in its opening weekend, becoming the top movie in America. I was one of those who sat through the film with my two boys.
So, the big question is why did this movie strike a chord? Joshua Rothkopf, he’s a film critic with “Time Out New York” magazine and film critic Megan Basham of TownHall.com debate the topic with Joe Scarborough.
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST, "SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY": Josh let me begin with you. “Vendetta” seemed to spew hatred towards this president, this country, Christianity—I mean, you name it. All the sacred cows were blown away. So why was it the top film of the week?
JOSHUA ROTHKOPF, FILM CRITIC, TIME OUT NEW YORK: Well, I think That’s a good question. These are the Wachowski brothers, they are the producers of the “Matrix” trilogy and they’re also behind this film as well. I have a hard time connecting the audience response to the film with a sudden politicization of the audience itself. This is a big budget Hollywood action film, it’s also not competing against other notable films at the moment. It’s the only film out there, really, of any size or interest.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, Megan, let me bring you in here. You saw the film, like I saw the film. I mean, you had again this Hitler character, we were told conservative, he’s obviously a Christian, the Nazi symbol was a cross with two lines across it. America was the evil empire, it started the British police state. I could go on and on and on and on, it spewed anti-American hatred. And yet, it was a big hit this weekend. What does that say about where American’s minds are.
MEGAN BASHAM, FILM CRITIC, TOWNHALL.COM: First of all, I don’t know that I call it a big hit. It made $26 million which, it was No. 1 this weekend, but that’s hardly on par with, you know, some other really big box office movies. Others, you know, recently “Madea’s Family Reunion” made around $30.
SCARBOROUGH: It’s the No. 1 movie this weekend and the happy ending had Parliament being blown up. What does that say?
BASHAM: Well, they’re aiming it at adolescent boys, so that’s what you—I mean, basically you’re getting them saying, yeah, the terrorist is a hero, yes it’s anti-Bush. But primarily, you’re saying we’re blowing things up, we’ve got a pretty girl, it’s by the makers of the “Matrix” and they’re aiming it at an adolescent audience, which unfortunately can’t sift through the propaganda properly, I don’t think, at least according to the boys who were sitting in front of me in the theater. So, I think that’s why—that’s really the only response you’re seeing. They’re targeting it at that demographic because that’s the demographic this still goes to the movies.
SCARBOROUGH: So, you are not concerned by the fact that it was the top movie of the week. You don’t think this says anything about America’s standing, well, not only in the world, but among its own people.
BASHAM: No. I don’t think it says anything about it at all. If anything says that, it’s the people talking about it, reading, you know, about it in the paper, reading articles about it, the fact that we’re talking about it on your shows, those are the adults, and that’s what they are gathering from it. It really—it was a teenage audience, at least when I went to see it, and I understand you saw it with your son or sons. That that’s primarily who’s turning out for these kinds of movies. And they know that, that’s why they market them that way.
SCARBOROUGH: Let’s take another critique at the movie that poses a question, why does Hollywood always pick on western democracies and ignore the real tyrannical governments out there?
Quote, “Beijing sells the organs of executed prisoners. Kim Jong IL deliberately starves his subjects while pursuing nuclear weapons, Iran puts out contras on novelists. When was the last time Hollywood made a big-budget film about the agony of existence in one of these nightmare states?” That’s from FrontPageMagazine.com.
That’s a good question, Josh. But I think the part of the movie that struck me maybe s the most interesting was the fact that while this religious leader was bashed, you actually bashed, you actually had another hero in the film put to death because he had a Quran in his home. A beautiful book that the police state in Britain just couldn’t stand. What was that all about?
ROTHKOPF: Well, I actually—if the film is glorifying terrorism, I don’t think it’s doing such a great job of it. The hero, “V” of the film is actually—he’s kind of deranged in the film and he brainwashes the Natalie Portman character and I don’t really think he’s presented as particularly heroic.
BASHAM: He doesn’t brain wash her, he opens her eyes. That’s the way they portray it to us, as though she really doesn’t see what’s going on. Just like the “Matrix,” she doesn’t see the way she’s being controlled by the government and by the end, she understand and that’s why she’s the one who actually blows up Parliament.
SCARBOROUGH: And again, also, Josh, at the end of the movie, the climax of the movie, you’ve got thousands and thousands and thousands of people coming out emulating this man, wearing his uniform as they march on Parliament to celebrate Parliament being blown to bits. It seems to me again, I mean, if we had had a movie in America that had communists—I mean, it’s the equivalent of Congress being blown up or the White House being blown up and the audience cheering. That’s not troubling at all to you, Josh?
ROTHKOPF: I think she’s correct, the appeal of the film is not seeing our institutions of government blown up. It’s the same appeal as a movie “Independence Day.” It’s seeing stuff blowing up, period. I think that if you take a look at the actual criticism of the movie, and the discussion, most critics do not love this movie. It’s been kind of met with negative reviews, including the “New York Times,” the “Wall Street Journal,” most people agree that it’s very muddled politically and it’s not coherent, it’s more of an anarchist statement. And I actually—I’m surprised that more conservatives haven’t come behind this film because it actually says, look how irresponsible these subversives are.
BASHAM: Even the author acknowledges that.
SCARBOROUGH: The author says “It’s been turned into a Bush era parable by people too timid to set a political satire in their own country. The intent of the film is nothing like the intent of the book as I wrote it.”
And I want to thank both of you for being with us. I appreciate it. I just want to say this in closing, though, conservatives don’t like this film for several reasons. First of all, again, the Nazi symbol is a Christian cross. You’ve got a conservative Christian leader who plays the Hitler role. Again, you have the blowing up of the Parliament as being the great climax in this film. The difference between “Independence Day” and “V for Vendetta” is when the White House blew up, that was a bad thing. The audience didn’t cheer.
In this brave new world that we’re living in now, where movie tickets, whether you’re talking about “Syriana” or whether you’re talking about “Paradise Now” or whether you’re talking about the “Constant Gardener,” you know, this brave new world that Hollywood is taking us to has audiences cheering when Parliament blows up, when anarchists become heroes. I mean, friends, it is a terrible, terrible movie that’s sending a terrible message to our children. I sat through it, fortunately, with my two boys and as we left, I explained what it was all about. How many other people out there, not only children, but teenagers and college-aged students are going to see the movie and believing, again, that terrorism is a positive thing, that evil Christianity is evil.
Is it—again, I’d tell you to go see the movie, but I don’t want the filmmakers to make anymore money than they’ve already made this weekend.