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Aborted and excommunicated

“Depressing,” unsentimental or subversive (ie: made for adults) movies don’t win many awards or many fans back here in the USA, as a couple of recent news stories reminded me.

Here, it seems, taboos, conflicts and anxieties are more conspicuous by their absence on screen than by frank and courageous confrontation and analysis.The philosophy seems to be that if the bad word referring to something that no one wants to talk about is removed, so are all our worries about it. Like abortion. As pointed out in articles in the “Guardian”  and the “Philadelphia Inquirer”, except for the documentary “Lake of Fire, not a single film (almost all, curiously, romantic comedies, almost all supposedly cutting edge “independent movies”) about unwanted pregnancy released lately mentions the “a” word.

As Carrie Rickey sums it up  in the “Inquirer:”

“From ‘Knocked Up’ to ‘Waitress’ to ‘Juno,’ opening Dec. 14, abortion is The Great Unmentionable, euphemized as ‘shmashmortion’ (‘Knocked Up”), "we don't perform, uh’ (‘Waitress’), and ‘nipped it in the bud’ (‘Juno’), comedies in which pregnancy is the situation. Abortion is likewise obliquely referenced, if actually considered, in the drama ‘Bella,’ now in theaters.”

Real edgy filmmaking, there, guys.

Was the word "abortion" unmentioned in Juno?" A little voice tells me it might have been. Be that as it may, silence might not always be death, but it’s usually a victory for tyranny. While the “a” word has been aborted in those films, the “C” word has apparently been excommunicated  from Chris Weitz’s adaptation of the first volume in Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” children’s fantasy trilogy, “The Golden Compass.” References to the soul-oppressing, ubiquitous  Magisterium, the established religious bureaucracy in the book's alternative universe which some have compared to the Catholic Church (I find it more akin to the general human tendency to intolerance, repression of the imagination and institutionalized bullshit), have been trimmed from the film. The reason? The usual. Right wing religious watchdog groups didn’t like what they didn’t see, so they pressured the cowardly studios into bowlderizing the film of anything of substance. Says the director, Chris Weitz: "I think it's a shame that people are reacting to a movie they haven't seen by attacking a book they haven't understood."

Well, I read the books, so before I actually get to see the movie (it screens here tonight) and confuse my opinion with facts, here’s my two cents worth. I suspect that like his failed satire about the Bush administration “American Dreamz” this neutered film will continue to offend the wackos (who still won’t see it) and bore and annoy anyone who: a) read the books; b) longs for genuinely independent filmmaking; c) believes that entertainment should at times provoke debate and disturb the complacent and entitled and not just lull the country to sleep. That’s what politicians are for.

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