Mar. 23rd, 2006

rfmcdonald: (Default)
I boarded the Dufferin Bus outside of the Yorkdale Shopping Centre, several kilometers to the north of my habitual Dufferin stop on the subway, and was surprised to see how crowded the bus was. It's usually mostly empty by the time that it gets to Dufferin, and indeed it did mostly empty at that stop, but only at the Eglinton and St. Clair West stops did the bus start to empty.
rfmcdonald: (Default)
Seeing V for Vendetta tonight was an interesting experience. Alan Moore's name was removed, as we expected. I think that he was quite wrong to disavow this filmic adaptation of his graphic novel on the emancipatory joys of political terrorism. It's somewhat disconcerting to see how well the backstory managed to survive, transplanted from the Cold War environment of Thatcher's Britain to a near-future Britain that disengaged from the United States' War against Terror before it became a self-inflicted war of all against all. For an apparently post-nuclear audience the fear of bioterrorist apocalypse works nicely, while the transformation of Lewis Prothero from a radio announcer into a television shock jock is superb, never mind his war history ("Iraq, Kurdistan, Syria, before and after, Sudan").

Yes, there's an ideological bias. Complaints made by some from a certain portion of the right about how the film paints an unfortunate evolution from "resistance to Islam, [. . .] enforcement of "homeland security," and [. . .] objections to homosexuality" to fascism and mass murder, as Christianity Today's film reviewer noted, are misplaced. What was item #2 in today's Christianity Today weblog? A mournful speculation about Pat Robertson, wondering how, even though that man "call[s] for the assassination of elected world leaders, support[s] and enrich[es] some of the world's worst dictators, proclaim[s] faulty theology about God's wrath, support[s] China's one-child policy, break[s] his promise on selling his race horses, and use[s] his humanitarian ministry's planes for his own personal diamond mining operation," his Christian Broadcasting Network received 21% more in viewer donations for the fiscal year ending in March 2005 than in the previous year, that figure in turn being almost twice as large as 1997's. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be able to fail a Turing test. Ah, well: At least Voltaire's wolves will feed well.

I left the theatre uncertain how I felt about the film. Yes, the modernization of the story was accomplished well. Yes, V for Vendetta retains its relevance. Yes, Hugo Weaving was superb, Natalie Portman emoted quite well despite her apparently South African accent, Stephen Fry was a delight as George, and the Wachowski Brothers shot good film apart from a cheesy slow-motion knife-throwing shot. I'd even say that the film improved on the graphic novel, both by making Evie an actor and partner of V in her own right with her own skills and her own grudges, and by showing that other people existed and cared about what was going on with their country. They even--crucially, for me--managed to do a very good job with Valerie's letter. Why am I still uncertain about the film? It's the central point of both versions of V for Vendetta, the whole thing about the emancipatory joys of political terrorism. Douglas Kern's review at Tech Central Station condemning this film as a recruiting text for fascism is an utter failure, if only because the film establishes that Britain is itself run by a rather nastily fascist government. There's still the central question of whether V for Vendetta's argument is a good one. That's a question I can't begin to tackle adequately tonight, and so, cowardly, I won't through it and the film are both worth contemplating.
rfmcdonald: (Default)
Whenever I've been asked to define fascism, I've always called it a sort of synthetic modernity. Fascism and political movements kindred to fascism developed, in the early 20th century world, in nation-states--often new ones, almost always disadvantaged ones--where economic growth and the collapse of the traditional patriarchal and patrimonial social systems left traditional cultures completely unable to cope. Had things proceeded smoothly and without incident, these problems might have been overcome by the sort of straightforward modernization enjoyed by the Anglo-American world, most of northern Europe, and (I'd say) Third Republic France. As it happened history was full of incidents and traditional culture become something as highly valued as the ability to compete for power in the modern world. Fascism appeared, promising to create modern powerful economies and states even as its leaders announced their exceptionally active support for traditional hierarchies of power based on class, gender, race, and the like. Fascism promised to give traditionalists the most useful elements of the new even as it guaranteed the old, hence its popularity.

Of late I've been inclined to distinguish between fascism and Naziism, if only because Naziism was much more innovative and radical in practice and in theory than fascism. The well-known phenomenon of clerical fascism that touched even Qu├ębec I took as proof. But then, I just had to remember the well-reported fun that the son of Mussolini, anti-Communist bulwark of the bourgeois world, felt on dropping incendiary bombs on fleeing terrified Ethiopians, or indeed the interest felt by some Fascists--as described in R.J.B. Bosworth's recent biography of Mussolini--in finally solving Italy's northeastern frontier problems by dealing decisively with the Slovenes.

[In January 1943, Count] Ciano gained further insight into the mind of this incarnation of the new generation of Fascists. Vidussoni turned up at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss the Balkans and the instability which continued to plague Italy's north-eastern border, where guerrilla opposition to Fascist governance was spreading. His ideas were straightforward. Italy should liquidate all Slovenes. Ciano, in his role as statesman and bourgeois, 'permitted himself to note that there were more than a million of them.' 'No matter,' came the reply. 'We should behave with them as the ascari [Italy's black colonial troops from Eritrea and the Somaliland] do with their enemies, simply exterminate them.' Here, it seemed, was a young man who had indeed imbibed the spirit of the times in the Axis (though his use of black models hinted that he, too, had failed to plumb the meaning of 'scientific racism' (383).

I should never have forgotten that all fascists, Nazis and otherwise, loved the idea of violence directed towards defenseless deserving victims.
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