Distracted no doubt by the Foley sandal and imminent Armageddon, candidates for Congress have not yet taken up their traditional principled stand against Hollywood indecency as a ploy for cheap votes. Fortunately, the cause has found unlikely supporters -- theater owners and exhibitors.
For example, the righteous folk in Hoopeston, Illinois can breathe a sigh of relief now that Greg Boardman, owner of the town’s only two theaters, had them shut down for two weeks rather than show “Jackass Number Two” or other Hollywood “drivel.”
Moving from Jackass 2 to Bush 2, two major theater chains -- Cinemark USA and Regal -- announced that they would not show “The Death of a President” when it is released sometime next month. Regal CEO Mike Campbell explained: “We feel it is inappropriate to portray the assassination of a future president, regardless of political affiliation.”
I can just hear him reminding himself to throw in that “regardless of political consideration” qualification. As readers of this blog and of a recent posting in Jeffrey Wells “Hollywood Elsewhere” know, the Regal Entertainment Group is owned by Philip Anschutz, the reclusive right-wing billionaire and fundamentalist Christian determined to take over the country through its movie theaters. Okay, I exaggerate, but not by much. He is undeniably a huge contributor to the Republicans and to Bush in particular.
Well, what of it? Maybe Mike is being straight with us. Maybe showing this film is not appropriate for the same reason that Greg up there in Hoopeston shut down the old Lorraine Theatre. Maybe it sucks. Maybe it sucks even more than some of the films currently showin in Boston’s Regal cinema, the Fenway 13, such as “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: the Beginning.”
Or perhaps it's inappropriate because it might inspire copycat behavior. My personal opinion is that “the movie made me do it” line doesn’t even work for lawyers desperate to cop a plea in hopeless cases. But let’s assume it has some merit. If so, and that's the Regal’s justification, how come they didn’t, like Greg in Illinois, also pull the plug on “Jackass Number 2,” also playing at the Fenway 13? I seem to recall back when “Jackass: the Movie” came out that a few mentally defective youths got killed trying to duplicate some of the more dangerous stunts.
Or how about Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ?” Many condemned it for perpetuating the “blood libel” that the Jews were responsible for killing Christ. Not so among many Muslims in the Middle East, who flocked to the film and responded to its anti-Semitic implications. Could screening that film have led to the antics of Hamas, Hizbollah and the Iranian nuclear program? Maybe these theater owners should leave the job of screwing around with the First Amendment to those who really know how to exploit it -- the politicians.