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The Day the "Fun" Became Real
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The Day the "Fun" Became Real


October 19, 2001 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 2
 

After the Second World War, Charlie Chaplin said that if he had realized what was really going on in Germany, he would never have made The Great Dictator. As it was with Fascism then, so it is with terrorism now. We in the entertainment industry can no longer treat terrorism as a generic pretext for a stupid, shallow game or movie. Of course, we never should have in the first place. We felt we had the freedom to do so because terrorism was someone else's problem, something that happened in Belfast or Tel Aviv or Medellín.

Our leaders are calling it a war. The enemy is one that crosses all borders, all races, creeds, colors and ethnicities. The enemy is not a group of people, but an idea: that terrorism is an acceptable means to achieve political ends. The first thing that we have to do in combating that idea is to take it seriously; to treat it not as a minor problem that happens elsewhere, but an insidious threat to all people everywhere.

For a while, we will replace our vapid terrorism movies with desperately earnest and respectful terrorism movies, just as we did with movies about the Second World War. Perhaps later on we'll be able to produce savage satires in the vein of Catch-22 and Slaughterhouse-5. And 50 years from now we'll be distorting history just as U-571 did in claiming that it was the Americans, rather than the British, who salvaged an Enigma machine from a captured German submarine. Maybe somebody will make a movie in which the events of September 11 are depicted as the work of the Khmer Rouge or the Shining Path.

Charlie Chaplin said that if he had realized what was really going on in Germany, he would never have made The Great Dictator.

In the meantime, I have another question. Now that terrorism isn't "just good fun" any more, what other clichés of action games and movies are we blithely accepting today that will seem like extremely bad taste in the future?

Back when Michael Meyers was making Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, he filmed a couple of scenes showing the grieving families and friends of the nameless henchmen that Austin Powers had killed. It was a brilliant idea, questioning our careless acceptance of that old standby of action movies and games, the disposable bad guy. However, Meyers cut the scenes before the film was released. He felt they weren't funny and didn't belong in a lighthearted romp like Austin Powers. He chose to conform to the existing pattern rather than confront it.

Back when Michael Meyers was making Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, he filmed a couple of scenes showing the grieving families and friends of the nameless henchmen that Dr. Evil had killed.

Maybe in a hundred years — and I realize this could be a naïve fantasy — human life will have more value. Perhaps people will look back on those video games in which we mindlessly blow people away in the hundreds, and be as appalled by them as we are by Roman gladiators today....I think Michael Meyers should have left those scenes in.

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Article Start Previous Page 2 of 2

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