For six months, long after the film crept into box office
oblivion, a Hindu group has been sending me and I guess everyone else who
writes about movies a manifesto condemning Mike Myers's "The Love Guru," demanding it be banned or
censored, asking for an apology, or all of the above. I don’t know whether they
saw the film, but I didn’t, so I’ll say no more except I think that kind of action
serves only to get publicity, if not for the film itself than for the group
making the complaints.
“Tropic Thunder,” on the other hand, I have seen, and if those
disability groups calling for a boycott of the film because of its depiction of
an actor trying to depict a mentally disabled man have indeed seen the film,
they have totally misinterpreted it. As with the character played by Robert
Downey, Jr., a white actor playing a black character in the film within the film, the
targets of the satire are not mentally disabled people or African Americans but
Hollywood’s crude and often exploitative portrayal of them on the screen. So
these groups calling for the boycott should instead encourage people to see the
movie. Or at least develop a sense of irony. But that’ll be the day.
So this whole brouhaha has gotten me thinking, do Hollywood films, misinterpreted or not, have an impact on
the behavior and attitudes of the audience? The rare nutcake like David
Hinckley aside, could a trend like the increased presence of gays in movies and
TV over the past few years have had
anything to do with gay marriage becoming legal in Massachusetts
Could the frequent portrayal of the President of the United States as an
African-American in movies (often by Morgan Freeman, though his Presidential stature might be diminished — or enhanced — by this )
have helped produce a climate in which an African-American could run for President
for real? And could the recent spate of stoner comedies (of which I have written
at length in a dopey upcoming feature story) have clouded the brains in Washington enough to get
them to legalize the drug?
Maybe so, but I think it actually works the other way. The movies
try to appeal to and reflect the mood of the public; that’s how they sell tickets. Pushing for
social change just doesn’t pay off at the box office. Nor does being too subtle
and ironic, as the “Tropic Thunder” people are finding out.