During the 2008 Presidential election a rumor
started that then GOP VP candidate Sarah Palin had attempted to ban Harry
Potter from the local library when she first got elected as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. As it turned out the rumor was false, - the first Harry Potter book didn't come
Still, some kind of poetic justice seemed to
be in play when the Palin documentary "The Undefeated" came out last weekend,
the same day as "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2," the concluding
episode of the Harry Potter film series.
So how did this grudge match turn out? At
first glance, Palin's film doesn't seem to be faring well.
In terms of critical response, "The
Undefeated" got a 0% rotten rating on the "Rotten Tomatoes" website, with all
eleven reviews of the film to date being negative.
"Harry Potter," on the other hand, got a 97%
fresh rating, with only 8 of the 242 reviews to date being negative.
As for the all important bottom line - box
office - "The Undefeated" took in $65,132 on ten screens. Potter made $187.2
million on 4,375 screens ($542.2 million if you include the foreign grosses).
However, if you look at the per screen
average, "Undefeated" looks more respectable. At $6,513 per screen it pales
before Potter's $38,671 average. But compare it the earnings of the other film released
that week to go up against "Potter," "Winnie the Pooh," which managed only a $3,266
average on 2,405 screens, and it doesn't look so bad.
Which brings us to another measure of a
film's success: the degree of viciousness and hostility expressed by the film's
fans in their anonymous online comments in response to those who don't agree
Surprisingly, the eight naysayers among
the dissenting Tomatoes critics got off relatively easily from the legions of
Potter fanboys and girls. Perpetual Tomatoes punching bag Armond White of the
"New York Press" did get 231 comments on his review, most of them of the "Armond,
you sir are probably the most ignornant [sic] prick of a critic alive" variety,
but the overall vitriol seemed forced and there were even some people who
thought White might have had a point or two.
The "Undefeated" fans, though, don't retreat,
they reload -- as Atlantic Associate Editor Conor Friedersdorf learned to his
astonishment and dismay. Friedersdorf wrote a blog item about an opening day midnight showing of "The
Undefeated" in Orange County, noting how he was the sole person in the
audience for most of the screening (two people came in who couldn't get into
"Harry Potter" and another pair came in and made out. Both parties left before the
Left leaning publications picked up the story, gloating. But
they were quickly overwhelmed by the backlash from the right, which Friedersdorf,
himself no lily-livered liberal, describes with mounting incredulity in a
subsequent "Atlantic" item entitled "How I Became the Subject of a Conspiracy
Theory." He relates how he became the target of vilification on right wing web sites
such as Breitbart. One conspiracist named William Collier spun a theory
insisting that the public screening Friedersdorf attended was in fact a private
one he arranged with the theater. When confronted with an ad printed in LA
Times publicizing the screening, Collier claimed that the Times was in on the
But that fanciful bit of libel was tame compared to some of
the other smears, lies, insults, and threats to come. Friedersdorf writes:
"On the personal blog of Dan Riehl, a contributor to
Breitbart's sites, I came across this lovely headline:
‘Conor "Pee Wee Herman" Friedersdorf Exposes Himself To Female At Palin Film
Showing. ... And Saturday at Breitbart's site, Big Hollywood, writer Larry O'Connor
that I lecherously approached the two young female moviegoers who I quoted in
my original story."
In a seemingly contradictory post on Twitter, however, he notes
that another person declared "I hear that Conor Friedersdorf is dickless." So,
They may need to get their stories straight, but I'd say
that when it comes to ad hominem assaults on critics, the Palin fans' inspired
ugliness beats out the lame epithets of "douchebag" and "did you see the same
movie I did?" that seem the best the Potter people have been able to come up
with. But unfortunately for those pushing "The Undefeated," I don't think such intimidation
and deceit works as well in the real world of movies as it seems to do in fantasy
land of politics.